Hampshire College president says federal investigation into sexual abuse policy not prompted by complaint

Last modified: Wednesday, July 30, 2014

AMHERST — Hampshire College was recently added to the list of 71 colleges being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for its handling of campus sexual assaults, but this was not prompted by a complaint, according to an internal memo sent to the campus community by college president Jonathan Lash.

Lash said the college had been “selected by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for a compliance review under Title IX” that could last for up to a year.

“The review was not prompted by an individual complaint against Hampshire, nor does the opening of the review signify that we are not currently in compliance,” Lash wrote. “Nonetheless we expect that OCR may identify areas where we can more effectively serve our students, faculty and staff, and I gave OCR my commitment that the College will do all we can to learn from their review.”

The review will cover Hampshire’s policies and procedures on sexual and gender-based harassment and violence, including its response to reports of sexual assault.

In May, both Amherst College and the University of Massachusetts were among 55 institutions listed as being reviewed for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment. At the time, a UMass spokesman said the campus was part of a compliance review, because no complaint had been filed. For Amherst, the review was prompted by two complaints filed in November 2013.

Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for Department of Education, referred to an earlier May 1 press relese in which the Office of Civil Rights stated that “it will not disclose any case-specific facts or details about the institutions under investigation. The list includes investigations opened because of complaints received by the OCR and those initiated by the OCR as compliance reviews.”

According to information provided by Bradshaw, the investigation at Hampshire was initiated July 17.

Lash, in his memo, said Hampshire will be “open, transparent and collaborative” with the investigation team, which is expected to visit the campus in the fall and work with Title IX staff and administrators, and by spring semester engage with the campus community.

Chief of Staff Joanna Olin will coordinate the review process with the OCR, along with a Hampshire team that includes Diana Fernandez, chief diversity officer and Title IX coordinator, Byron McCrae, dean of students, and Shelly Ruocco, associate vice president for human resources and Title IX deputy coordinator for faculty and staff.

Lash assured students, faculty and staff that he will be providing periodic updates and that those with questions should send them to his email address, president@hampshire.edu


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy