BOSTON (AP) — Colleges seeing an increase in sexual misconduct complaints from years in the past have taken varying approaches in their responses.
Federal rules require colleges to respond if there’s a “hostile environment” on campus, but if there’s no longer a threat, schools can decide on their own how deeply to explore the case, if at all. Campus investigators say historical cases are particularly challenging because there’s often little evidence, and because behavior that’s seen as taboo now may have been permitted in the past.
After fielding multiple complaints about incidents from the 1980s, the women’s school in Massachusetts decided that all cases will be investigated, regardless of when they occurred. The college is retaining outside investigators to review complaints. It also has hired its first full-time Title IX coordinator.
OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
Ohio State reviews all complaints to determine if they need to be addressed. Kellie Brennan, the Title IX coordinator, says the older they are, the less likely that is. But there are exceptions — the school has paid $1.4 million to investigate dozens of accusations against a former team doctor, Richard Strauss, dating back to the 1970s.
Until recently, Rutgers had a policy that required victims to report sexual misconduct within two years or else the school typically would not investigate. The school scrapped the rule after a newspaper reported on the policy this month. Rutgers said it will now look into all sexual misconduct complaints.
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
Officials at Michigan State review complaints to determine whether the alleged offense would have violated school rules at the time. If not, the case often ends there. Otherwise, officials then make sure the accuser is willing to participate in an investigation and work to identify and locate the alleged offender.
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
The university in 2015 abandoned a time limit it had in place for investigations. Officials now say they investigate every case to the extent that they can, but often there’s little evidence to prove allegations and it comes down to determining which account is more credible.