Though Baylor University has made national headlines for mishandling sexual assault complaints and neglecting related laws, it is not one of 195 institutions of higher education under federal Title IX investigation.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights enforces Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and is intended to help victims of sexual assault stay in school.
The office will investigate a college or university that receives federal funds if it receives a relevant complaint alleging a Title IX violation.
Each Wednesday, the DOE releases an updated list of institutions where its investigations are open. There are 246 sexual violence cases under investigation at the 195 institutions. Baylor is not on the list, though a law firm recently found “fundamental failure” by the university to handle sexual assault allegations.
“Any institution that receives federal funding in some way, shape or form has to follow or conform with Title IX for all intents and purposes,” said Christina Mancini, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies sexual victimization and campus sexual assault. “They’re just like a public university.”
ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported June 1 the DOE has received a Title IX complaint related to Baylor’s responses to sexual and physical violence allegations by students, including athletes.
The DOE does not disclose when it receives specific complaints but will announce if an investigation starts. According to the DOE website, the investigation may include “reviewing documentary evidence submitted by both parties, conducting interviews with the complainant, recipient’s personnel, and other witnesses, and/or site visits.”
Holly Snyder, a 2001 Baylor graduate living near Kansas City, Missouri, reportedly filed the complaint “on behalf of all women to make (sure) that Baylor is investigated to the full extent regarding actions it took to create a climate that covered up sexual violence on campus for many years.”
“Whatever system was in place didn’t work,” Snyder told KSHB-TV in Kansas City. “And whatever safeguards were in place didn’t happen. It’s broken and it needs to be fixed. From what I see from the outside, Baylor’s not fixing it.”
Baylor spokeswoman Tonya Lewis said she is unsure whether anyone at Baylor has been contacted by the DOE.
A Title IX complaint may be submitted on behalf of another person or a group of people, and a complaint does not have to be related to one specific incident. The Office for Civil Rights needs a “preponderance of evidence” to conclude a school failed to comply with the law.
Mancini said as a professor she could report to the DOE if she suspects a student or colleague is being sexually harassed.
The Office for Civil Rights receives about 10,000 complaints a year, the majority of which regard discrimination against people with disabilities. According to the office’s website, “a complaint must be filed with OCR within 180 calendar days of the last act that the complainant believes was discriminatory.” Extensions may be granted if the complainant provides reason for the delay.
Investigations are ongoing at eight Texas schools: Cisco College, Paul Quinn College, Southwestern University, Texas A&M University, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, University of Texas-Pan American, Trinity University and University of Houston.
The average investigation lasts 1.3 years, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Of the 195 institutions under investigation, 38 face multiple cases. Five cases are under investigation at Stanford University, the most in the nation.
An institution will be fined if it is found to be in violation of Title IX, Mancini said.
In recent months, women have publicly announced how Baylor mishandled their sexual assault claims. Jasmin Hernandez, who gave the Tribune-Herald permission to use her name, filed a Title IX lawsuit against Baylor in March. Three more women filed a Title IX lawsuit against Baylor on Wednesday, alleging a “deliberately indifferent response” from Baylor regarding their claims of sexual assault.