BYU learned Thursday, August 4, that the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is adding the university to its list of more than 200 postsecondary institutions under investigation. These investigations relate to the federal government’s requirements for responding to reports of sexual assault.
Sexual assault is of serious concern to colleges and universities across the nation. In 2011, the Department of Education announced that the federal-equity law known as Title IX applies to cases of sexual assault.
A July 27, 2016, report from the Department of Education listed 260 open sexual assault investigations involving 202 institutions, including two other Utah universities.
The BYU investigation stems from a complaint filed on April 18, 2016. BYU cannot comment on the specific details of the complaint due to federal privacy restrictions.
In mid-May BYU launched a website to obtain feedback on matters related to sexual assault. The website was part of a comprehensive effort initiated by President Kevin J Worthen to study and improve the university’s sexual assault reporting process and structure under Title IX.
The BYU Advisory Council on Campus Response to Sexual Assault has been working throughout the summer on this study. The council has been working with many people inside and outside the university to identify changes that will help BYU move toward the elimination of sexual assault on campus and determine how to better handle the reporting process for victims of sexual assault as sensitively and compassionately as possible. The council will evaluate the impact the OCR investigation may have on its own study, said Vice President of Student Life Janet S. Scharman, who has been leading BYU’s study.
"Our continued emphasis will be on providing our students with the support that they need, as well as an understanding of the Title IX process," Scharman said. "We take any report of sexual assault extremely seriously, with our first priority being the welfare and safety of our students. Our goal in every situation is to give students the support that they need and safeguard their educational environment."
- Update on Sexual Assault Study; Request for your feedback (May 19, 2016)
- Message to students, faculty and staff (May 19, 2016)
- President Worthen calls for study of Title IX reporting processes and structure (April 18, 2016)