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4 New York colleges named in federal sex assault probe

Art McFarland with the report.
May 5, 2014 9:06:26 AM PDT
Four New York colleges and universities - ranging from a state university to a liberal arts college where almost three-quarters of the students are women - are among campuses being investigated over their handling of sexual abuse complaints, according to federal education officials.

The New York institutions are Binghamton University, part of the State University of New York system; Hobart and William Smith Colleges, a school in New York's Finger Lakes region; Hunter College, a Manhattan commuter college that's part of the City University of New York; and Sarah Lawrence College, a heavily female college in the city's suburbs.

They're among 55 schools nationwide on a federal Education Department list released Thursday. The agency previously would confirm investigations when asked, but students and others were often unaware of them.

Being on the list means only that an investigation is underway, not that a college has been found to have violated federal law regulation institutions' handling of sexual violence. The Education Department didn't disclose details about the investigations or the complaints that prompted the probes.

At Hunter College, a student filed a complaint 15 months ago and withdrew it six months later, said John Rose, the dean for diversity and compliance. The roughly 23,000-student school to hold a March meeting to make sure students knew about help available for sexual harassment and assault victims, should they ever need it, he noted.

The college aims to stop any discrimination or violence "by broadly disseminating our policies and rigorously enforcing them," he said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Sarah Lawrence didn't immediately respond to questions about what prompted the investigation, but she said the college has since taken steps that include putting up posters advising students on what to do if they are sexually assaulted and requiring a "consent and respect online" course for new students starting this summer.

The Bronxville college - where more than 70 percent of the roughly 1,700 students are female - was recently rocked by a 21-year-old senior's complaint that a male student raped her after she let him stay in her room this September, according to the Journal News. He said the encounter was consensual. He was arrested, but prosecutors decided there wasn't enough evidence to pursue charges. However, a faculty panel found he violated the school's sexual misconduct policy, and he has been suspended, according to the newspaper.

A Hobart and William Smith spokeswoman declined to give any details about the complaint being investigated. The combined colleges with about 2,300 students in Geneva, addressed the matter promptly, adjudicated it properly and approached it "with care and concern," they said in a statement.

Binghamton said it has complied with the investigation but wouldn't give any further information.


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