OCR concludes investigation; new agreement brings Princeton into Title IX compliance

The U. S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has concluded its investigation of Title IX complaints against Princeton University that were filed in 2010 and 2011, and has released a resolution agreement (PDF) which, according to OCR, "addresses the compliance concerns identified in OCR's investigation and, when fully implemented, will resolve the University’s non-compliance" with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 as it applies to sexual harassment and violence.  

In a statement, Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights, said: "I applaud Princeton University for its commitment to ensuring a community-wide culture of prevention, support and safety for its students, staff and community. We look forward to continuing to work cooperatively with Princeton to implement this agreement."

This fall the University put in place changes in policies and procedures that were intended to achieve full compliance with Title IX requirements as interpreted by OCR as well as with the federal Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. 

OCR said that its preliminary review of Princeton’s recently revised policies and procedures found that they correct "many of the deficiencies identified in the University’s previous … policies and procedures" and that they include specific assurances that the University "will respond to complaints or reports of sexual harassment or sexual assault/violence with measures designed to stop the behavior, eliminate the discrimination, prevent the recurrence of the harassment, and remediate any adverse effects of the harassment on campus on in University-related programs or activities."

In its statement, OCR specifically cited Princeton’s use of a "preponderance of the evidence" standard to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct, and its commitments to provide appeal rights to both parties, handle cases promptly, and “provide appropriate interim measures to preserve a complainant’s educational experience, promote safety for all, and deter retaliation." The statement also cited Princeton’s agreement “to take numerous other steps to ensure that these revised policies are effective in creating a campus environment in which students feel comfortable and safe reporting incidents of sexual assault and violence.” 

OCR said that it would review the revised policies and procedures in detail to ensure their compliance with the terms of the agreement and applicable Title IX requirements, and that it expects to complete this review by December 7, 2014.    

Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber said: "We are pleased that this investigation has been concluded with an agreement that brings the University’s policies and procedures into compliance with all statutory and regulatory requirements. The agreement reaffirms our commitment to address all matters of sexual misconduct in ways that are fair, effective, and transparent, and our determination to ensure a campus climate that places high priority on prevention and support, and on ensuring safety and freedom from discrimination for all members of our campus community."   

In addition to revising its policies and procedures, the University also has created a new faculty-student Committee on Sexual Misconduct, co-chaired by Professor Deborah Nord of the Department of English and Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Michele Minter. The committee will recommend strategies to ensure students understand their rights under Title IX and the University’s sexual misconduct policies and procedures, and to improve the effectiveness of the University’s procedures, support services and resources available to students and for the prevention of sexual misconduct, including outreach and educational activities. The committee will also provide consultative support for annual climate surveys.