Occidental College fell short in rape response, victims allege

Attorney Gloria Allred and Occidental College professor Caroline Heldman, both seated, along with six sexual assault victims at a news conference to announce the filing of a complaint against the university.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A group of Occidental College students and alumni -- including several who say they were raped -- filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education on Thursday alleging that the school failed to protect women from sexual assaults.

Flanked by six current and former students who say they were raped, attorney Gloria Allred said the complaint outlines violations of Title IX, which bars sex discrimination at schools.

In the complaint, Allred alleges that 37 students were “raped, sexually assaulted, battered, harassed or retaliated against for speaking out against sexual violence.”

The women allege that the college discourages reporting of sex crimes and proceeding with criminal and administration action against the perpetrators.


Senior Carly Mee said the student who raped her has not been expelled by the university.

Occidental officials defended the school Thursday, but acknowledged it is reviewing its policies.

“We have updated our sexual misconduct policy and procedure; trained more faculty, staff and students in how to respond effectively to reports of sexual assault; and initiated a number of programs to better educate the campus community and foster a culture that rejects sexual violence,” university spokesman Jim Tranquada said. “We readily admit that Oxy has more work to do, and are vigilantly ensuring our continual progress.”

The university has retained two former sex crime prosecutors to conduct an independent review of their policies and practices.

Allred said the college needs to take a zero tolerance approach with students the university has determined had non-consensual sex with another student.

“We believe that the university response has been deliberately indifferent toward the victims.” Allred said. “These rapes and sexual assaults have created a climate of fear and apprehension among many female students.”

Responsible perpetrators should be expelled, Allred said.


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