Princeton University violated Title IX legislation, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights department announced Wednesday.
The OCR found that Princeton favored the rights of students accused of sexual misconduct over those of the alleged victims, according to a DOE statement. Princeton was found in violation of federal law for failing to respond to complaints of sexual violence adequately and for failing to end one student’s experience with a sexually hostile environment. As a result, the university will likely have to pay restitution to reported sexual assault victims.
“There is a culture at Princeton that looks the other way at sexual assault,” said Princeton student Duncan Hories.
While some Princeton students interviewed characterized the student environment as healthy, others expressed concern for the university’s handling of cases of sexual misconduct.
Hories said the news left a lot of students concerned, especially because the discussion of sexual assault on campus is not new. The Title IX violations, he said, have brought the topic back onto the radar of many students.
Others agreed, emphasizing that Princeton’s problem is not isolated. One student, who asked to remain anonymous, said they believed there was a “rape culture” at Princeton enhanced by the culture of the eating clubs.
The news that Princeton violated Title IX legislation came a day after The Daily Princetonian reported claims of a sexual assault case at one of Princeton’s eating clubs. The university’s federally mandated crime log recorded that a case of sexual assault from Oct. 10th was reported on Nov. 3. According to The Daily Princetonian, a university student was allegedly photographed publicly performing a sexual act at Tiger Inn, one of the eating clubs. Students told the newspaper that the photograph was then distributed via email to members of the eating club.
“At no point did our department receive a report of this incident from a witness or victim prior to me being notified by a member of the press,” Police Captain Nick Sutter told The Daily Princetonian on Tuesday afternoon. “We do not have any information relating to whether the alleged acts were consensual or nonconsensual with respect to the individuals involved.”
Hories said that this most recent sexual assault case could easily be related to the Title IX legislation violation, adding that Princeton has a social culture that is conducive to sexual misconduct and gender discrimination.
Princeton student Alissa Lopez said that the eating clubs, the center of Princeton’s social scene, demonstrate gender discrimination on campus. Princeton’s student body is 49 percent female; however, only a third of eating club officers are women. There is only one female president, and all but one of the eating clubs have more males than females in positions of the highest authority, she said.
“The eating clubs are generally perceived as the center of the social scene, and the disproportionate leadership of each club fails in general terms of gender equality,” she said.
This fall, Princeton instituted a new sexual misconduct policy that instituted major changes, including the introduction of a committee that will review each of the sexual misconduct cases within the university.
Ella Cheng, the student life chair within the Princeton student government, is one of the students who has consulted with administration on sexual misconduct policies. Cheng said that these new policies are part of the resolution agreement between the OCR and Princeton.
However, despite the news of the violation, Princeton student Lily Lesser said she felt very comfortable that Princeton has a sufficient support network for students who have been victims of sexual misconduct on campus. The university has a SHARE system — similar to Yale’s — with many resources, and freshmen are required to participate in sexual harassment training during their orientation, she said.
Yale was investigated by the Department of Education after a Title IX complaint in 2011.