The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault released a report on Tuesday that suggested a number of policies for preventing and addressing sexual assault. According to Meadow Davis, associate dean of student affairs and deputy Title IX coordinator, the College already has strong policies in place in the areas the report identified.

“The bottom line, I would say, is that we’re always looking for ways to make what we do better and stronger, and we will look through the specifics of this and what the best practices are and what they’re recommending,” Davis said. “In the overall spectrum, we have most of the programs and practices already in place, but this is a great opportunity to look and see what other schools are doing.”

The White House report called for campus climate surveys about sexual assault, heightened bystander training and prevention strategies, and improved responses when sexual assaults do occur. Davis highlighted Bowdoin’s health and wellness survey (which contains a sexual assault component), its numerous student groups and training programs for sexual assault prevention and advocacy, and the review process that takes place following any sexual assault case. 

“At the end of all of our processes, we always give people the opportunity to check back in and let us know what parts of the process worked for them,” she said. 

The report also recommended increased transparency of complaints and investigations for Title IX, the law barring sex discrimination in education. The report states that the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) will release all resolution letters resulting from Title IX lawsuits and the Department of Justice will post all federal court filings relating to Title IX complaints. 
Before 2011, the focus of the Title IX was on equality in athletics. However, following the “Dear Colleague” letter from the Department of Education in 2011—which clearly linked Title IX to sexual assault—many schools, according to Davis, had to scramble to meet the requirements, many of which are still unclear to some institutions.

“Before 2011, many schools didn’t even have sexual assault policies,” said Davis. “Though Title IX had been in effect since 1970s, the focus wasn’t on the sexual assault stuff. The framing of it in 2011 was that there’s also this piece…around sexual assault.”

On Thursday, the Department of Education released a list of the 55 colleges with open and ongoing Title IX investigations. Amherst was the only NESCAC school with an ongoing investigation, although on Monday the Department of Education concluded that Tufts University was not complying with federal regulations on addressing sexual assault following a previous investigation. 

Tufts is currently in contention with the OCR over the results of a four-year Title IX investigation triggered by a student complaint filed in 2010. During the years of the investigation, Tufts made various changes to its sexual assault policies. In early April, the University entered into a voluntary agreement with the OCR stating that it would come to compliance with Title IX policies. 

However, on April 26, Tufts withdrew its signature from the agreement. 

Tufts rescinded the agreement after the OCR determined that the revamped policies—not just those that were in place at the time the Title IX complaint was filed—were not up to code. The Tufts administration denied that the University is currently in violation of Title IX, and said it believes that it made sufficient changes in the period since the complaint. 

If Tufts does not improve its policies so that they meet the OCS’s expectations, it risks losing federal aid.

The OCR-Tufts agreement reflected a standard arrangement for solving violations, according to Davis.

However, Tufts is the first institution that has withdrawn from an agreement. Though the next steps following that retraction remain unclear, the OCR will work with Tufts in an attempt to remedy the issue.