SMU Is Under Federal Investigation for How It Handles Rape Allegations

On Tuesday, the White House released a report -- and a star-studded public service announcement -- aimed at reducing the estimated one in five women who is sexually assaulted during her college career.

"Colleges and universities can no longer turn a blind eye or pretend rape and sexual assault doesn't occur on their campuses," Vice President Joe Biden wrote in the report. "We need to provide survivors with more support and we need to bring perpetrators to more justice and we need colleges and universities to step up."

On Thursday, the Department of Education released a list of the 55 colleges and universities that most need to step up. Those schools, which include SMU, are under a federal Title IX investigation for over their handling of sexual assault complaints on campus.

See also: At an SMU Student's Rape Trial, Glimpses of the School's Secretive Justice System

Title IX is a 1972 law prohibiting sex discrimination at colleges and universities that receive federal funds. It contains a provision holding schools liable if their response to a sexual assault "is clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances."

SMU's inclusion on the list probably shouldn't come as a surprise. The campus has come under heavy criticism for its use of "non-adversarial" on-campus hearings to adjudicate student-on-student assaults and an apparent reluctance to move cases into the criminal court system.

A task force formed in the wake of several high-profile sexual assault cases last year recommended tweaking how the school handles such cases, largely through increased student awareness.

The Department of Education investigation, it should be said, is not evidence that the school has violated federal law, just that the feds are looking.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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