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Local College Among 55 Facing Federal Scrutiny Over Handling Of Sexual Abuse Complaints

WASHINGTON (AP & WXXI News)  Fifty-five colleges and universities, big and small, public and private, are being investigated over their handling of sexual abuse complaints under Title IX, the Education Department revealed Thursday. 

The Education Department's decision to release the list is unprecedented and comes as the Obama administration seeks to have  greater transparency on the issue of sexual assault in higher education and how it is being handled. 

Among the colleges on the list, Hobart and William Smith Colleges. They were among four colleges in New York State. The others are: CUNY Hunter College, Sarah Lawrence College, and SUNY Binghamton.

Hobart and William Smith issued this statement:

Hobart and William Smith Colleges take seriously all allegations of sexual misconduct, respond promptly to complaints, provide access to myriad services for complainants, thoroughly investigate and adjudicate such complaints, and take necessary protective measures before, during, and after the investigation and hearing process. 

The Colleges are committed to creating and maintaining an academic environment that complies with the law, is free from sexual harassment and misconduct, and respects the different voices and experiences of the members of its community. 

The Colleges are confident that they approached this complaint with care and concern, addressed the complaint promptly, offered all available services, and investigated and adjudicated the complaint in accordance with Colleges’ policy and the law. 

As always, we will continue to proactively consider ways to ensure that our campus is free from sexual misconduct and provides opportunities for all students to participate in and benefit from the rich educational experience offered by the Colleges.

Officials at Hobart and William Smith did not give any other details about the complaint that was investigated.

An Education Department Official said a school's appearance on the list does not mean that it has violated the law but that an investigation is ongoing. 

Title IX prohibits gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funds. It is the same law that guarantees girls equal access to sports, but it also regulates institutions' handling of sexual violence and increasingly is being used by victims who say their schools failed to protect them. 

Citing research, the White House has said that 1 in 5 female students is assaulted. President Barack Obama appointed a task force comprised of his Cabinet members to review the issue after hearing complaints about the poor treatment of campus rape victims and the hidden nature of such crimes. 

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.