Occidental College is trying to separate a deluge of bogus sexual assault allegations from those that may be legitimate after two groups, including one claiming to represent "men's rights," tried to undermine the school's anonymous reporting system, a campus spokesman said.
Over the course of 36 hours, some 400 anonymous reports -- some by people who claimed to have been assaulted by "Occidental College," "feminists" or "Fatty McFatFat" -- flooded in after members of the online communities Reddit and 4Chan began discussing the idea late Monday, Occidental spokesman Jim Tranquada said.
Occidental officials now are trying to determine how to isolate false claims from reports of any actual assaults that may have occurred during that time.
The online campaign appears to have been fueled by misconceptions about how the college's anonymous sexual misconduct reporting form works.
FOR THE RECORD:
A front-page article in the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 7, 2013, was incorrect in reporting that Occidental College failed to disclose 27 alleged sexual assaults that occurred in 2012.
The article ("College shelved more assault reports") dealt with Occidental's obligations under the federal Clery Act, which requires schools to publish statistics annually on reported crime on or near campus.
Occidental representatives approached The Times early this month to seek a correction. Documents reviewed by The Times this week show that the 27 incidents did not fall under the law's disclosure requirements for a variety of reasons.
Some were not sexual assaults as defined by the Clery Act. Rather, they involved sexual harassment, inappropriate text messages or other conduct not covered by the act. Other alleged incidents were not reported because they occurred off-campus, beyond the boundaries that Occidental determined were covered by the act. Some occurred in 2011, and the college accounted for them that year.
Subsequent Times articles published Dec. 20 in the LATExtra section and Jan. 23 in Section A repeated the original error regarding the alleged underreporting of sexual assaults.
The Times regrets the errors in the articles.
"Feminists at Occidental College created an online form to anonymously report rape/sexual assault," a user wrote in a Tuesday post on Reddit's Men's Rights group. "You just fill out a form and the person is called into the office on a rape charge. The 'victim' never has to prove anything or reveal their identity."
In fact, the form was created by campus administrators in 2009 to encourage assault victims to come forward, not as an enforcement tool. Allegations reported to the site are reviewed by administrators and, if they occur on or near campus, should be reported to federal authorities in annual crime statistics. The anonymous reports can be used to track patterns and make inquiries but do not lead to formal investigations, Tranquada said.
Occidental for months has been at the center of a nationwide push to hold campus administrators responsible for violating federal laws on the handling of sexual assault reports.
More than 50 students and faculty at the small liberal arts college in Eagle Rock have signed on to two federal complaints alleging Occidental routinely discouraged women from reporting assaults, bungled investigations and failed to disclose assault claims to the federal government. The Department of Education is investigating both complaints.
In October, Occidental officials acknowledged that they had failed to report two dozen sexual assault allegations made in 2010 and 2011.
Earlier this month, a Times review found that Occidental had failed to disclose an additional 27 reports made in 2012, as well as most complaints filed through the anonymous reporting system.