Reports of Sexual Assault Raise Questions of Campus Safety, Enforcement

Updated Sep 4, 2012

As campuses are infiltrated by new and returning students and classes get underway, the issue of sexual assault on campus is again at the foreground of concerns for college administrators.

Huffington Post College reports incidents on nine different campuses since schools re-opened their doors for the start of the 2012-2013 school year, including four in just over two weeks at the University of Georgia. While these numbers seem staggering, they are indeed consistent with recent studies on campus climate. U.S. Department of Justice research found that 1 in 5 college-age women will be sexually assaulted. And it is no secret that a majority of these crimes go unreported every year.

National Public Radio (NPR) reported last year that enforcement of punishment on campuses that do not disclose crimes on campus leaves much to be desired. The U.S. Department of Education, which has enforcement authority over schools’ disclosure of crimes, has been criticized for not doing enough to make sure students and their parents are aware of potential threats on campus.

Sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape are considered gender discrimination, which is explicitly protected under Title IX, though under which the DOE has not penalized schools accused of hiding rape. Between 1998 and 2008, the department received 24 complaints of rape or sexual assault under Title IX, acting in only five cases, and none of the five schools were penalized; instead, they were given guidance on how to improve campus procedures, according to the NPR report.