Office of Civil Rights investigates possible Title IX violation

Lachlan Johnson

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is currently investigating Whitman College for possible violation of federal law. The investigation is in response to a complaint filed by Natalie*, a student who first spoke to The Pioneer this September about the alleged mishandling of her Title IX/sexual assault investigation.

The investigation began on Nov. 7. If the OCR concludes Whitman violated the Title IX Act or another civil rights law, the college will have to negotiate a resolution agreement with the complainant. Should it refuse to do so, it will risk lose federal funding which provides a vital source of income to the college through federal grants and other forms of financial aid.

In a statement released in response to inquiry by the Seattle Times, the Whitman administration said it would comply with the investigation but did not respond publicly to the allegations at this time.

President George Bridges emailed the full text of the official statement to the Whitman community on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 19. The email emphasized that being investigated does not necessarily mean the college will be found in violation of the law. Though the college is legally prevented from commenting directly on individual cases, Bridges recommended that community members refer any media inquiries to Chief Communications Officer Michelle Ma.

This marks Whitman’s first appearance on the list of institutions under investigation for Title IX violations. The Office of Civil Rights released the list to the public this May in an attempt to increase transparency. There are currently 87 postsecondary institutions under investigation.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of survivors.