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May 01, 2014

Miles Grover, a junior at Tufts, protests the schools handling of sexual assaults on campus. (Mallory Noe-Payne/WGBH)

For the first time, the US Department of Education released a full list of colleges and universities facing sexual abuse investigations and six Massachusetts colleges are on the list.

The schools include Amherst, Boston University, Emerson, Harvard College, Harvard Law School and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. All are under investigation for the mishandling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

See a full list of schools under investigation nationwide.

"Virtually every higher education institution feels somewhat under scrutiny right now with all the attention that’s being paid to this issue,”  said Ada Meloy, the general counsel at The American Council on Education in Washington D.C.

She says the fact that a college is on the list does not necessarily mean that a school has done anything wrong, but just that it is being investigated for potential violations.

“It can put the school in a very difficult position because many of the individuals who file complaints would prefer not to have the details or their identity disclosed,” said Meloy.

The release of the list comes after a series of lawsuits filed by women under the federal Title IX law, including a case at Tufts University in Medford where an anonymous woman says administrators haven't adequately responded to her allegations. The Department of Education has already found Tufts noncompliant with Title IX.

At Tufts on Thursday, more than 100 students organized a protest, standing outside the main administration building on campus.

"Sign,  resign, we need our Title IX," chanted the crowd. 

Junior Ruby Vail was one of the students in the crowd. She's active in several support groups on campus.

"We decided we want to rally in support of survivors, to stand with survivors and to demand that Tufts comply with Title IX," said Vail.

Vail says the administration hasn't responded to students' demands that they admit their guilt and change policies.

"I'm feeling right now a lot of talk and not very much action," Vail said. "I personally haven't seen a lot of actual change."

In a statement read at the event, Tufts President Anthony Monaco responded to the protestors.

"I know that you have gathered today to express your concern about recent interactions between Tufts and the Office for Civil Rights. I want to assure you that we are moving quickly to resolve this unfortunate situation," read the statement. 

In a commentary for WGBH News, Robert Shibley, senior vice president at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, wrote about Tufts and Title IX.

The university came to a voluntary agreement with the Boston office of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR, the agency tasked with enforcing the statute) on April 17 over how to remedy past Title IX problems. But just days later, the Washington OCR office told Tufts that its new policies also failed to comply with Title IX.

That’s when Tufts did something unprecedented — it withdrew from the voluntary agreement and issued statements loudly condemning OCR’s move. Tufts issued a statement saying that OCR’s new finding “has no basis in law,” while President Anthony Monaco said he was willing to sign a new agreement only on the condition that OCR “is very clear about what we have to improve.”

In Washington, the Obama Administration has also stepped up its pressure. Earlier this week, a White House task force launched a new website encouraging colleges to conduct anonymous surveys of students. But it's still up to colleges themselves to make changes.

On Greater Boston, an Emerson student spoke about her experience filing a sexual assault complaint against Emerson University. 

Tufts, sexual assault, Title IX

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