Brandeis is the subject of at least one confirmed Title IX complaint investigation by the Department of Education, with another unconfirmed at the moment by the Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) news website. According to the Brandeis University section of the CHE’s database on Title IX investigations, “[the] Education Department said it had opened two new investigations at this institution” on March 1 of this year. One of the investigations was confirmed to The Justice newspaper as being in progress by Brandeis’ Interim Senior Vice President for Communications Judy Glasser.
Title IX, part of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” In 2011, a “Dear Colleague Letter” from the office of Russlynn Ali, the Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights, sexual assault was included as part of Title IX. “The sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence, interferes with students’ right to receive an education free from discrimination and, in the case of sexual violence, is a crime,” said the letter.
If the other unconfirmed investigation is also confirmed as active, it will be the third Title IX complaint brought against Brandeis in less than five years. The Brandeis Hoot news coverage from the fall of 2014 notes a Title IX complaint brought to Brandeis in the fall of that year, by an unnamed student who claimed they had been found falsely responsible for “unwanted sexual contact” and thus disciplined unfairly. The university had been made aware of the complaint in September of 2014. Since Title IX cases are usually not made public, the 2014 case was only acknowledged publicly by former Brandeis SVP for Communications Bill Schaller after the university was named in the Department of Education’s list of 75 colleges under investigation for Title IX complaints.
The Department of Education sent a letter (posted to the CHE website as well) of closure to then-Brandeis President Frederick M. Lawrence, in which it was stated that the case had been closed because the complainant in the 2014 case “filed a duplicative lawsuit in federal court.”
The current confirmed complaint argues that Brandeis violated Title IX after reversing a “guilty” verdict against a student accused of sexual assault by another student. The accuser brought the charges against the accused last year through Brandeis’ “Special Examiner’s Process.” This process, initiated by filing a Community Standards Report on the Brandeis website, involves a third-party examiner gathering information before making a decision. As occurred in the current case, this decision can be overturned by the accused in a series of appeals.
Title IX complaints can be used in response to such a decision if the accuser believes that the appeal inhibits their ability to receive an education free from discrimination, including sexual harassment and assault. Brandeis administrators did not respond to requests for comment before press time, but The Hoot will continue coverage as more information is made available.