GVSU under investigations for Title IX violations

Audra Gamble

Originally published Oct. 23, 2014

Grand Valley State University is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in regard to their compliance with Title IX responsibilities.

A complaint was filed against the university on Oct. 6, and will be investigated fully.

According to the official statement from GVSU, “the university believes it is in full compliance with all its Title IX responsibilities, and the Division of Inclusion and Equity works vigilantly to ensure a campus climate free from harassment and discrimination.”

GVSU’s Title IX officer Dwight Hamilton said the university has been unable to identify the individual complaint that the investigation involves. The complaint was filed with the Office for Civil Rights, an office of the federal Department of Education.

“The complaints can be filed by anyone, it doesn’t have to be an affected party,” Hamilton said. “We have responded by providing information that (the Office for Civil Rights) requested. They requested information regarding our practice and procedures regarding sexual violence.”

GVSU now joins over 80 other universities that are currently under investigation for Title IX violations.

Hamilton is not surprised that GVSU has been added to the list.

“I think this is part of a larger environment,” Hamilton said. “The Office for Civil Rights started off with the Ivy Leagues and they’re broadening their scope to include other universities. They’re not even waiting for complaints. It really doesn’t surprise me. They want to know how institutions are dealing with this issue.”

While the university does not currently have access to the particular complaint filed against GVSU, Hamilton said he does not think the complaint is related to the two recent sexual assault reports that have occurred on or around the Allendale Campus.

The first reported sexual assault that involved a breaking and entering at Country Place Townhouses on Sept. 7.

The second reported sexual assault occurred on the Allendale Campus on Oct. 5, but was not reported until Oct. 13, after the Title IX complaint had been filed.

According to Hamilton, the Office for Civil Rights has been investigating a large number of universities in order to assess how those institutions are handling cases of sexual assault and harassment. In the past, there have been universities that did not have the proper protocols in place to deal with situations of sexual assault and harassment.

“(The Office for Civil Rights was) addressing instances at a number of universities where people had not had access to judicial processes or other things. That has never happened here at GVSU. We have continually measured our response to what those requirements have been.”

GVSU now joins Michigan State University and the University of Michigan as the three colleges in the state under investigation for Title IX violations.

However, Hamilton feels that more Michigan universities will probably be investigated in the future.

“Eastern has had a number of investigations as well. Michigan State and U of M have current investigations but Eastern has in the past,” Hamilton said. “We are a pretty large university and we’ve grown rapidly. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Western or Central or Wayne State in the next round.”

Hamilton said that the university is responding to the request and is fully cooperating with the investigation.

The Lanthorn has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Office for Civil Rights for access to the complaint in question, but has not received a reply at the time of publication.