Ann Arbor, MI- Two Michigan universities are now facing federal probes into their handling of sexual harassment and assaults complaints. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights announced they would investigate University of Michigan and Michigan State University to determine if they conformed to federal laws.
The DOE received two complaints that the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor mishandled sexual assaults complaints. DOE spokesman Jim Bradshaw said Michigan State in East Lansing was being investigated for a Title IX, gender equality, violation.
Central to the federal investigation of U of M is an event that occurred in 2009 and involved a prized football player Brendan Gibbons who was dismissed from the team last December.
In 2009, a female student accused Gibbons, the collegiate team’s starting kicker, of sexually assaulting her. He was arrested on the charges in December of 2009, but in 2010 police dropped the charges after the victim failed to file a formal complain the Huffington Post reported.
A former professor from the U of M, Douglas Smith provided the Huffington Post with documents which showed the university told the assault victim that university administrators could not take any action against Gibbons unless she filed a criminal complaint. The woman abandoned the charges after she was threatened, Smith told the Post.
(This instance mirrors and recent and similar case involving a star football player Jamies Winston at Florida State University.)
In late 2013, Gibson was found guilty of sexual misconduct by the university and dismissed from the football team, but it took the university four years to take action. He has not faced any criminal charges.
Smith told the Huffington Post he has brought up the low resolution of sexual assault complaints at two Regents meetings, but thus far his concerns have been largely ignored.
In a statement, he University of Michigan said they will comply with the federal investigation, but insists they fully complied with federal regulations.
The Department of Education over the past few years has rigorously investigated universities and colleges across the country for their handling of sexual assault and harassment. Universities are repeatedly being accused of ignoring or failing to address sexual misconduct on their campuses.
Last month, President Obama launched an initiative to curtail rape, sexual assault and harassment on college campuses. The “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action” initiative will focus on developing solutions to the rampant problem.
The initiative will also focus on training law enforcement how to properly investigate sexual assault complaints. It will also help develops methods by which colleges and university can protect their students and address complaints when they arise.
According the studies, one in five college-age women are assaulted at least once while at university and even more troubling, 7 percent of college-age men admit to assaulting a fellow student. Studies have also found that college-age women are more vulnerable to sexual abuse than any other group of women.