A group of UC Santa Barbara students said they have filed complaints with the federal government alleging that university administrators did not properly discipline a student who was found responsible for raping another undergraduate.
The allegations are part of a movement, led mostly by college students and recent graduates, to use existing federal laws as a way of holding campuses responsible for conducting thorough investigations of sexual violence accusations and providing safe environments.
Recent UC Santa Barbara graduate Myra Crimmel said she was assaulted by a fellow student and another man last September, several weeks before fall classes. Crimmel said she was drugged before her assault.
After Crimmel reported the incident, university administrators told her the process would take no more than 60 days.
She did not report the crime to local police because she said she did not want to go through a trial. Instead, university employees found the accused student responsible for raping Crimmel, she said, and recommended a two-semester suspension.
The accused student hired lawyers, and Crimmel said that university administrators stopped talking to her about the incident. Several months later, they began pressuring her to agree to allow her assailant back on campus the following school year, after she had graduated.
Crimmel said she was exhausted by the process and agreed to the terms because she was not well-informed of her options by school administrators.
She said she had asked several UC administrators for an explanation of the process, but that she had gotten little response.
In a statement, UCSB said it could not discuss the complaint publicly. But, the statement said, "the university takes reports by our students of sexual assault extremely seriously. We offer numerous counseling, support and advocacy resources for survivors, and we have a comprehensive adjudication process."
Officials with the U.S. Department of Education said they received the complaint from UCSB students late Wednesday.
UC President Janet Napolitano has established a system-wide task force on sexual misconduct, which is set to offer recommendations this month on how to further improve its policies.
In the complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education, Crimmel and others allege that the school failed to conduct thorough investigations, that the punishments were too lenient and that administrators fostered a hostile environment that does not encourage students to report crimes.
"I'm here today asking for answers not only for myself, but all students," Crimmel said.
The students said they filed Title IX and Clery Act complaints. Title IX bans sex discrimination by schools receiving federal funds and the Clery Act requires schools receiving federal financial aid to report sexual assaults and other crimes to the federal government
The federal government began cracking down on college sexual assault in 2011 and has since launched more investigations, released more guidelines, imposed more fines and received more complaints than ever before.
Over 70 postsecondary educational institutions are being investigated for potential Title IX violations, federal authorities have said.
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