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May 2, 2014

OSU under investigation for sexual violence abuse

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State University is one of 55 higher education institutions under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

The department released its list Thursday. OSU is the only university in Oklahoma on the list.

“We are making this list available in an effort to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights,” Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said in a press release. “We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue.

“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.”

Enacted in 1972, Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education institutions that receive federal financial assistance.

According to a press release, the goal of a Title IX investigation is to ensure that schools are in compliance with federal law, which demands that students are not denied the ability to participate fully in educational and other opportunities due to sex.

“Oklahoma State University is gathering information requested by the U.S. Department of Education,” said Gary Shutt, director of communications at OSU. “The university will work with DOE as the department conducts this compliance review.

“Oklahoma State University is committed to providing the safest campus possible for students and others. In the last year, OSU conducted an exhaustive systemwide review of our policies related to sexual abuse on campus. As a result of that review, OSU has further strengthened its policies.”

Mark Rountree is a reporter for the Stillwater News Press.

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