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May 09, 2014

Students at Tufts University protest the schools handling of sexual assault cases (Mallory Noe-Payne/WGBH).

Tufts University has settled its dispute with the U.S. Education Department over its compliance with federal sexual assault policy. The disagreement sparked a national debate about sexual abuse investigations on college campuses.

Friday’s settlement comes just over a week after the Department said Tufts had mishandled sexual violence and harassment complaints, and the university withdrew its agreement to comply with Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination on college campuses.

Tufts president Anthony Monaco tells WGBH he met with the Department this week and administrators recommitted to the Title IX agreement it had boldly dropped. 

“We’ve had to react to changing guidelines and that has led to some confusion," said Monaco, who feels the Office of Civil Rights singled out Tufts to warn other schools.

“I think the Office wanted to find that we were currently out of compliance but they didn’t clarify why,” Monaco said in a phone interview. “I think that level of misunderstanding is what we had to correct with them.”

By voluntarily recommitting to Title IX, the university agrees to be investigated and pledges to seek out information from students and faculty. Tufts maintains that it is in compliance with Title IX and has already hired a coordinator to evaluate campus climate, conduct annual surveys and oversee prevention efforts.

In a statement, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon congratulated Tufts for taking swift action. “I look forward to working with President Monaco and the university community to ensure the safety of all students on campus,” Lhamon said.

Last week, for the first time, the Education Department publicly unveiled a full list of colleges facing sexual abuse investigations, including six Massachusetts schools. The Obama administration has also increased pressure on colleges to better handle sexual assault cases.

increasing access and success, Tufts University, Title IX

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