Sexual violence against women has been making headlines of late, especially in the context of the military and in higher education. According to a White House task force, "nearly 20 percent of female college students have been assaulted, but only 12 percent of cases are reported," according the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
With heightened attention on the issue, President Obama is "seeking more openness about the issue of sexual violence on and around the nation's campuses," reports The Associated Press. To that end, the Department of Justice released a list of schools under investigation for failing to comply with federal law.
Which schools are on the list, and what does it all mean?
What Are Title IX Violations?
First things first, let's look at the federal laws that are at issue -- namely, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Most people have heard of Title IX in the context of sports because it guarantees equal access to the playing field for women and girls who attend schools that receive federal funding.
But Title IX does more: It proscribes how schools should handle claims of sexual violence, and is increasingly the sword that students are wielding against schools that allegedly are not dealing with the issue properly.
A school can come under investigation in two ways: by reviewing complaints filed with the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, or via investigations during the normal course to determine whether a school is in compliance.
U.S. Department of Education List
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of 55 schools that are under investigation for alleged violation of Title IX in the way they dealt with (or failed to deal with) complaints of sexual violence and harassment on campus.
The list contains a variety of schools including Harvard Law School and Arizona State University; the Department released the list in the hopes that "increas[ing] transparency will spur community dialogue."
Catherine E. Lhamon, the DOE's assistant secretary for civil rights, was careful to add:
"I also want to make it clear that a college or university's appearance on this list and being the subject of a Title IX investigation in no way indicates at this stage that the college or university is violating or has violated the law."
We're not sure how each investigation is involved, but many universities are speaking out to assuage fears, according to the AP. We're wondering if a school's appearance on the list will have an effect on Fall 2014 enrollment -- only time will tell.