Officials Probe Local College's Handling of Harassment

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC Philadelphia

    Federal education officials are investigating Swarthmore College's handling of sexual harassment allegations following complaints by some students last spring, a college spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.

    Swarthmore and three other colleges and universities were named in complaints filed in May over the handling of rape and sexual harassment allegations. Attorney Gloria Allred said the others were Dartmouth College, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Southern California.

    Swarthmore College spokeswoman Nancy Nicely said officials were told Friday about the federal investigation stemming from the May complaint and they vowed to "cooperate fully and expeditiously.''

    U.S. Department of Education spokesman Jim Bradshaw said Tuesday the Office for Civil Rights is investigating a Title IX discrimination complaint involving the allegations, but he declined further comment. Title IX bans sex discrimination in all federally funded school programs, and is best known for expanding opportunities for women students in sports. 

    The Philadelphia Inquirer said two students who filed the complaint were notified by the office in a July 12 letter about the probe, and one told the paper that she considered the investigation "validation'' and "a relief.''

    The letter from team leader Rhasheda Douglas said the office would serve as a "neutral fact finder'' and the investigation "in no way implies that OCR has decided its merit,'' the paper said.

    Nicely said Swarthmore hired a consultant in April to review school policies and practices, and has for several years ``been expanding its efforts to prevent abuse and to support survivors of assault.''

    "We will not allow discrimination, harassment, abuse or assault to exist unaddressed on this campus,'' she stressed.

    Swarthmore president Rebecca Chopp said in May that the ``physical and emotional'' safety of its students is its highest priority.