Press Release dtd. October 31, 2016
The U.S. Department of Education announced today that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has reached an agreement with the City University of New York (CUNY) and its Hunter College after finding that the college violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by failing to promptly and equitably respond to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence.
Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in education programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. Hunter College is the largest college within CUNY.
"By entering into this agreement, CUNY and Hunter College demonstrate a strong commitment to address and prevent sexual harassment and violence among students, staff and the CUNY community at large," said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. "We look forward to working with CUNY and Hunter College to implement this agreement, including through ensuring a university-wide culture of prevention, support and safety."
OCR's investigation was triggered by a student complaint of sexual harassment by a professor. That student also alleged that the college retaliated against her.
OCR assessed whether Hunter failed to respond promptly and equitably to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence, including from the complainant. And, whether as a result of those alleged actions, the complainant and other students were subjected to a sexually hostile environment.
Following its investigation, OCR identified Title IX violations or concerns with every sexual harassment complaint file that OCR reviewed, including the complainant's. The college in some instances:
- Failed to address complaints in a prompt and equitable manner, although the college did take some important and appropriate steps to investigate and address the allegations.
- Failed to assess and address the effects of a possible sexually hostile environment and may have contributed to a continuation of a sexually hostile environment for students. And,
- Failed to assess the need and provide for interim measures.
OCR further determined that CUNY and the college violated Title IX because they:
- Failed to adopt and publish grievance procedures that complied with the requirements of Title IX.
- Failed to have an adequate notice of nondiscrimination. And,
- Failed to appropriately notify students and employees of the Title IX coordinators.
OCR in its investigation, however, found no evidence that the college retaliated against the complainant as alleged.
Under the resolution agreement, CUNY and its Hunter College agreed to take actions to remedy the Title IX violations, including the following:
- Revise CUNY's grievance procedures for addressing complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of sex (including sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual violence) to ensure that these comply with Title IX.
- Provide training to all college staff responsible for recognizing and reporting incidents of sexual harassment, likely to witness or receivereports of sexual harassment, or charged with Title IX compliance and implementation responsibilities.
- Continue to provide yearly training for college students that addresses sexual misconduct and information on Title IX policies and procedures, including information from the revisions to the policies to bring them into compliance with Title IX.
- Address any remaining effects that the complainant may have suffered due to sexual harassment by a professor.
- Take actions to address violations and concerns OCR identified with respect to the 12 other cases OCR reviewed from academic years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.
- Reexamine all complaints of sexual harassment, including sexual assault and sexual violence, filed with the college during academic years 2013-2014, 2014-2015, and 2015-2016, to determine whether complaints were handled in accordance with the requirements of Title IX, and take appropriate action to address any problems identified, including providing remedies that may still be available for the complainants in these cases, such as counseling or academic adjustments.