Filed Date: 2013
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The United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) received a complaint in 2013 filed by University of Southern California (USC) students on behalf of themselves and other students, which alleged that USC failed to respond promptly and equitably to reports of sexual harassment or sexual violence in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (09-13-2294). A subsequent complaint (09-16-2128) was filed by a male student against the university in 2016. The complaint alleged that the university discriminated against the complainant on the basis of sex when it failed to provide him a prompt and equitable response to a sexual harassment and assault claim against him and to a sexual assault/harassment claim he filed against a fellow student. It further alleged that the university subjected him to different treatment on the basis of sex when he was denied counseling for sexual trauma.
OCR opened both cases for investigation, and investigated six major issues:
(1) Whether the university complied with Title IX requirements regarding the development and dissemination of a notice of nondiscrimination;
(2) Whether the university complied with the Title IX requirements regarding the designation and notice of a Title IX Coordinator;
(3) Whether the university's written sexual harassment and sexual violence policies complied with Title IX;
(4) Whether the university provided a prompt and equitable response to incidents of sexual violence of which it had notice;
(5) Whether the university's failure to provide a prompt and equitable response to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence allowed affected students to be subjected to or continue to be subjected to a sexually hostile environment;
(6) And whether the university discriminated against the complainant and other male students by denying them counseling for sexual harassment and sexual violence based on their sex.
OCR determined that the information provided to students about how to file a complaint was widely distributed, and the grievance procedures were adequately explained and available. OCR found that the university's policies post-March 2015 were in compliance with Title IX, but previous policies were not in compliance because they did not provide an equal opportunity to complainants and respondents to present witnesses and relevant evidence, did not provide reasonably prompt timeframes for major stages of the grievance process, did not provide equitable notice of the outcome to both parties, and did not provide an assurance that the University will take steps to prevent recurrence of the harassment and to correct its discriminatory effects on the complainant and others as appropriate.
With respect to policies applicable to sexual harassment and sexual violence by faculty, OCR found that the university was in compliance for the 2015-2016 academic year, but out of compliance in prior years under review because the policies did not designate reasonably prompt timeframes for determining sanctions or completing the appeal process, did not provide for notice to the parties of the outcome of the appeal, did not address whether they provided an assessment of conduct that may create a hostile environment on campus, which may have occurred off campus, and did not provide an assurance that the university would take steps to prevent recurrence of the harassment and correct its discriminatory effects.
Of the five specific cases alleged in the two complaints, OCR found that two were prompt and equitable, one was equitable but not prompt, and two were in compliance with Title IX, but OCR had concerns about the university's actions. In one case, OCR addressed concerns that the university did not have processes in place for addressing possible conflicts of interest on review panels. In the other, OCR determined that the university may not have taken sufficient steps to determine whether additional interim measures during the complaint process were appropriate.
The university entered into a voluntary resolution agreement on March 12, 2018. As part of the agreement, USC agreed to review and revise its notice of nondiscrimination on the basis of sex and policies and procedures governing sexual harassment to ensure compliance with Title IX, provide notice of its Title IX policy and procedure revisions to the university community and training to those handling the university’s response to complaints, and submit periodic self-monitoring assessments on the university’s handling of reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence.
Elizabeth Heise (12/4/2018)
Faer, Laura Lynne (California)
Faer, Laura Lynne (California)
Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.
State / Territory: California
Filing Date: 2013
Case Ongoing: Yes
Students at the University of Southern California who alleged that the university failed to promptly and adequately resolve their Title IX complaints.
Public Interest Lawyer: Unknown
Filed Pro Se: Unknown
Class Action Sought: No
Class Action Outcome: Not sought
Causes of Action:
Special Case Type(s):
Prevailing Party: Mixed
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief:
Form of Settlement:
Order Duration: 2018 - None
Content of Injunction: