President Ronald J. Daniels announced via email that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has officially launched an investigation into the University’s response to incidents of alleged sexual assault and a possible Clery Act violation.
In the email, which was sent Tuesday afternoon to the entire University community, Daniels stated that the University had agreed on Monday to cooperate with OCR’s investigation after receiving an official notification of a complaint.
“Nothing remains more important to Johns Hopkins than the welfare of our students, and although the OCR notification does not contain any specific details about the underlying allegations, we will continue to take strong action to improve and to lead in this evolving area of the law and practice,” Daniels’ email stated.
News of the complaint, which was received by OCR in mid-April, surfaced in May after The Huffington Post published an article with statements from the complainants, who accused the University of failing to adequately inform the community of an alleged gang rape at the Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) fraternity house in March 2013.
The article also included screenshots of emails sent by several administration officials regarding the school’s failure to notify students, faculty and staff of an investigation into the incident.
Although The Huffington Post article reported that the complaint specifically addressed the PIKE house allegations, the University was not provided with the text of the complaint, and thus, cannot discuss the focus of the federal investigation.
“We have no hard reason to doubt [that the complaint included the PIKE house allegations]. But we also have no official way to know that it’s true,” executive director of media relations and crisis communications Dennis O’Shea wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
According to O’Shea, it is typical in federal investigations of this nature to not disclose information to the University about the content or filers of the complaint.
“Neither the media reports published in May nor the notification the university has now received from the Education Department identifies who filed the complaint. And we [the University] have not seen the complaint,” O’Shea wrote. “None of that is at all unusual. It is the government’s practice in these investigations to withhold both the complaints and the identity of those who file them.”
The President’s email also included details about the Provost’s Sexual Violence Advisory Committee (SVAC) as well as the independent review being conducted by the University in regard to the administration’s response to allegations of sexual violence.
O’Shea explained the differences between the roles of these two initiatives in his email to The News-Letter.
“The advisory committee is being established not to investigate particular incidents but rather to advise on policies, procedures and best practices the university may adopt,” O’Shea wrote.
Following the publication of The Huffington Post’s article, the University began an independent investigation regarding the allegations of misconduct within the administration.
“The allegations reported in...The Huffington Post story in May are part of the independent review commissioned by President Daniels and the chairman of the board of trustees. That review is not yet complete, but, as President Daniels’ mentioned in his message today, it is nearing completion,” O’Shea wrote.
Daniels also stated his intent to keep the Hopkins community updated on the University’s efforts to combat sexual assault and violence.
“Addressing a challenge of such urgency and importance as campus sexual violence demands multi-faceted analyses and honest reflection on both our successes and our failures,” Daniels wrote.