The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday took the unprecedented step of releasing the names of the 55 colleges and universities currently facing a Title IX investigation over their handling of sexual abuse complaints.
Oklahoma State University was one of the 55 schools named in the investigation.
OSU came under fire in December 2012 for how it handled sexual assault allegations involving a fraternity member by citing a federal law meant to protect students' privacy. The school handled those claims internally and told police 18 days after it was made aware of them.
At this point, the Title IX investigation doesn't detail whether the incident is a part of the probe or say what officials will be examining.
"Oklahoma State University is gathering information requested by the U.S. Department of Education," OSU Director of Communications Gary Shutt said in a statement. "The university will work with DOE as the department conducts this compliance review. Oklahoma State University is committed to providing the safest campus possible for students and others. In the last year, OSU conducted an exhaustive, system-wide review of our policies related to sexual abuse on campus. As a result of that review, OSU has further strengthened its policies."
The release came two days after a White House task force promised greater government transparency on sexual assault in higher education. Going forward, the department said, it will keep an updated list of schools facing such an investigation and make it available upon request.
The agency previously would confirm such an investigation when asked, but students and others were often unaware of them.
"We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue," Catherine E. Lhamon, the department's assistant secretary for civil rights, said in a statement.
Lhamon said a school's appearance on the list does not mean that it has violated the law but that an investigation is ongoing.
Title IX prohibits gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funds. It is the same law that guarantees girls equal access to sports, but it also regulates institutions' handling of sexual violence and increasingly is being used by victims who say their schools failed to protect them.
Colby Bruno, who represents hundreds of assault victims and works with universities to educate them on Title IX, told CBS News that the federal government is "lacking" when it comes to enforcement.
"If a school doesn't have a watchdog, then the school is going to do what they want behind closed doors," Bruno said.
Asked to differentiate between schools that get it right and schools that don't, Bruno said, "The schools pay attention -- they pay attention to what students say, they pay attention to what the numbers say, they pay attention to what their federal requirements are."
Citing research, the White House has said that 1 in 5 female students is assaulted. President Barack Obama appointed a task force comprised of his Cabinet members to review the issue after hearing complaints about the poor treatment of campus rape victims and the hidden nature of such crimes.
The task force announced the creation of a website, notalone.gov, offering resources for victims and information about past enforcement actions on campuses. The task force also made a wide range of recommendations to schools, such as identifying confidential victims' advocates and conducting surveys to better gauge the frequency of sexual assault on their campuses.
The department publicized guidance on Title IX's sexual assault provisions in 2011, and complaints by students have since increased. Complaints, however, don't always lead to an investigation.
The department can withhold federal funding from a school that doesn't comply with the law, but it so far has not used that power and instead has negotiated voluntary resolutions for violators.
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have said non-compliance under the law is "far too common." They say a lack of federal resources is partly to blame for that, and they've sought more money to ensure timely and proper investigations.
Another law that campus sexual assault cases fall under is the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to report crime statistics on or near their campuses. It also requires schools to develop prevention policies and ensure victims their basic rights. Investigations under this law are not included in the list that was released.
In January 2013, a woman reported being filmed during consensual sex in a campus residence hall at OSU. Campus police nor OSU Communications would comment on the woman's allegations to News On 6 then, but a spokesperson, however, provided us with a police report with the woman's name, address and her telephone number visible. The name of the man was blacked out intentionally.
Joey Senat, Associate Professor at OSU's School of Media & Strategic Communications, told News On 6 the Open Records Act did not apply in this situation and the victim's name should not have been released.
The school should have followed the Clery Act in that case, a federal statute which supersedes the state's Open Records Act, he said.
"The Clery Act requires public and private post-secondary schools that receive federal funding and maintain a police or security department to keep a daily crime log that is open to public inspection and is readily understandable," Senat wrote on the Freedom of Information Oklahoma website.
List of Schools named in the Title IX investigation:
ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY
BUTTE-GLEN COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICTOCCIDENTAL COLLEGE
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-BERKELEY
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT DENVER
UNIVERSITY OF DENVER
UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT
CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA
FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII AT MANOA
UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
HARVARD UNIVERSITY - LAW SCHOOL
UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS-AMHERST
FROSTBURG STATE UNIVERSITY
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN-ANN ARBOR
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL HILL
MINOT STATE UNIVERSITY
CUNY HUNTER COLLEGE
HOBART AND WILLIAM SMITH COLLEGES
SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE
SUNY AT BINGHAMTON
OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY
CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY
FRANKLIN AND MARSHALL COLLEGE
PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY
SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY
THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS-PAN AMERICAN
COLLEGE OF WILLIAM AND MARY
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-WHITEWATER
WEST VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE