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UH-Manoa handling of sex abuse cases under review

By Star-Advertiser & Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:00 p.m. HST, May 01, 2014

The University of Hawaii's flagship Manoa campus is on a list of 55 colleges and universities being investigated to ensure that they comply with federal law in handling sex abuse complaints.

University spokeswoman Diane Chang said the review of UH procedures is a "compliance audit," and was not triggered by a complaint.

The Education Department revealed its list of colleges under investigation for the first time on Thursday -- though no details of any complaints -- as the Obama administration sought to bring more openness to the issue of sexual violence on and around the nation's campuses.

The list includes well known private institutions such as Harvard and Princeton as well public ones such as the University of California at Berkeley and Arizona State. 

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said there was "absolutely zero presumption" of guilt. The Education Department said some of the cases resulted from complaints while others are "compliance reviews," but the list did not specify which was which. 

Chang said the investigators from the Office for Civil Rights have been on campus meeting with students, faculty, staff, administrators and regents.

"Investigative team members stated to UH Manoa executives toward the end of their visit that it was important to keep in mind that this audit was not triggered by a complaint, and that it was not based on an individual incident," Chang said in a statement. 

Few details of individual cases are known. One, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, involves allegations of mishandling of a matter involving a football player. The investigation began after federal authorities received complaints related to the expulsion of Brendan Gibbons, a former placekicker.

A student group examined the school's student sexual misconduct policy and last month determined the university failed to explain a yearslong delay between the alleged incident and Gibbons' expulsion in December. Spokesman Rick Fitzgerald says the university has been "fully cooperating."

UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple met with the investigative team and said its feedback should be helpful.

"The audit is a productive opportunity to see how else we can enhance student safety, above and beyond what we're doing already," he said. "We anticipate a forward-thinking negotiated resolution with the Office of Civil Rights that will enhance the safety of our UH Manoa students."

The Obama administration's effort to bring more attention to the issue of sexual assaults is not limited to colleges.

Separately on Thursday, the Pentagon said that reports of assaults by members of the military have risen 50 percent since the beginning of a campaign to persuade more victims to come forward. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he is ordering six initiatives to deal with sexual assaults, including efforts to get more male victims to speak up.

The college investigations are done under Title IX of a U.S. law, which prohibits gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funds. It is the same law that guarantees girls and women equal access to sports, but it also regulates institutions' handling of sexual violence and increasingly is being used by victims who say their schools failed to protect them.

The agency previously would confirm such Title IX investigations when asked, but students and others were often unaware of them.

Duncan said there had been "lots of internal debate" about whether to release the list but that transparency is important.

"No one probably loves to have their name on that list," Duncan said during a White House briefing. "But we'll investigate; we'll go where the facts are. And where they have done everything perfectly, we'll be very loud and clear that they've done everything perfectly."

The department can withhold federal funding from a school that doesn't comply with the law, but it so far has not used that power and instead has negotiated voluntary resolutions for violators.

About half of all states have schools under investigation.

Harvard students filed formal complaints in late March to the department saying the college did not respond promptly to reports of sexual violence, that students were subjected to a sexually hostile environment, and that in some cases assault victims were forced to live in the same residence buildings as their alleged assailants.

"Harvard has taken a number of steps to foster prevention efforts and to support students who have experienced sexual misconduct," spokesman Jeff Neal said. They include appointing a Title IX officer to review policies and procedures.

While being on the list might be difficult for schools, Duncan said, it pales in comparison to the difficulty and trauma borne by sexual assault victims on American college campuses.

The White House has said that as many as 1 in 5 female college students is assaulted. President Barack Obama has appointed a task force of Cabinet members to review the issue after hearing complaints about poor treatment of campus rape victims and the hidden nature of such crimes.

The task force's report, released just two days earlier, announced the creation of a website, notalone.gov, offering resources for victims and information about past enforcement actions on campuses. The task force also made a wide range of recommendations to schools, such as identifying confidential victims' advocates and conducting surveys to better gauge the frequency of sexual assault on campuses.

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Nevadan wrote:
UH administrators are highly paid. What do they do? Nothing, as expected.
on May 1,2014 | 07:47AM
Anonymous wrote:
UH does Everything Autonomous there way - out of control and no liability.
on May 1,2014 | 08:18AM
st1d wrote:
with 20% of all female students being sexually assaulted, the u.h. must have thousands of reports and complaints on file.
on May 1,2014 | 10:49AM
joseph007 wrote:
Diane Chang is a liar. UH was selectively chosen because of the numerous rapes without proper investigations. Rape victims were harassed, called liars, reports were not done fully, and so on and so on. UH was one of 9 that were specifically chosen because of this. Diane Chang - good try to cover up: but caught.
on May 2,2014 | 08:41AM
Bdpapa wrote:
I am disappointed with UH but not surprised. Hopefully, there are measures in place to make sure that these things don't reoccur.
on May 1,2014 | 08:41AM
csdhawaii wrote:
'Duncan said there is "absolutely zero presumption" of guilt in his mind for schools being investigated.'
on May 1,2014 | 09:03AM
Nevadan wrote:
.... for legal protection only
on May 1,2014 | 09:10AM
eoe wrote:
Oh my goodness another example of the tyranny and executive overreach of the Obama administration. Benghazi! Benghazi!
on May 1,2014 | 09:10AM
joseph007 wrote:
Finally the feds have done something right. Of course the UH will deny then "make the appropriate changes" in small print a few weeks/months after the denial.
on May 1,2014 | 09:15AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Back when I was at Manoa I had a sex complaint too. I complained I never got any sex. They never responded to my plea for help either.
on May 1,2014 | 09:26AM
CriticalReader wrote:
I think they only respond if they find there is something wrong or unjustified with a complained of circumstance.
on May 1,2014 | 09:48AM
HanabataDays wrote:
Obvously you were blind to the multiple iteratons of Velma Ko's number that abounded everywhere on campus.
on May 1,2014 | 11:12AM
sjean wrote:
Let's all make fun of rape.
on May 1,2014 | 11:35AM
st1d wrote:
"Citing research, the White House has said that 1 in 5 female students is assaulted."

if 20% of all female students have been or about to be sexually assaulted throughout the entire university and college system, then why limit the investigations to just 55 institutions.

a quick perusal of the number of sexual assaults reported by each institution would evidence whether or not the institution is in compliance of title ix's sexual assault regulations.

on May 1,2014 | 09:39AM
Bothrops wrote:
"I also want to make it clear that a college or university's appearance on this list and being the subject of a Title IX investigation in no way indicates at this stage that the college or university is violating or has violated the law." But they expect universities to spend more money on dealing with legal violations they may or may not have committed and to create more administrators to spend the money for these programs which will in turn require more bureaucrats in DC to monitor compliance. Is there any evidence that any of this will solve the underlying problem of late adolescents and young adults learning how to relate to the opposite sex? Most human societies have spent enormous amounts of resources on this problem, or on how to avoid it altogether (protecting virginity) and I am not sure any has succeeded. Does anyone expect Washington, D.C. to do any better?
on May 1,2014 | 11:42AM
ellinaskyrt wrote:

A big part of the problem is that people like you think "avoiding rape" is the equivalent of "protecting virginity." Rape doesn't just happen to virgins. It happens to men and women, married and unmarried, young and old.

Avoiding rape starts with teaching our boys and girls that it's never okay to take advantage of someone against their wishes. Rape is not about sex; it's about overpowering someone violently and demonstrating one's dominance over someone else.

Just because a problem hasn't been completely solved doesn't mean we should throw our hands and give up. If the federal government wants to put its power and resources (and yes, the money I pay in taxes) to reduce greatly the number of rape victims and perpetrators in the nation, I will not deride that effort, but applaud it. If your child were raped on a college campus or if your cousin was raped by a fellow soldier or if your elderly mother were raped by her caregiver, you wouldn't be hemming and hawing about money and resources spent on violations that haven't yet been proven to have happened. You would just want the problem fixed.

on May 1,2014 | 02:15PM
islandsun wrote:
Maybe a nice fat lawsuit will wake up these regents.....
on May 1,2014 | 11:49AM
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