Michigan’s delayed response to an alleged 2009 rape of a student involving a football player has prompted an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.
In December, Michigan kicker Brendon Gibbons was expelled for violating the university’s sexual misconduct policies. In November 2009, a female student-athlete claimed Gibbons sexually assaulted her at a party. She reported the incident to friends and police. However, no action was taken against Gibbons until four years later when his football eligibility had just about expired.
The delay, which was never addressed because Michigan administrations cited privacy laws, sparked outrage across the campus and has even prompted an on-campus demonstration on Tuesday to protest the administration’s handling of sexual misconduct cases.
According to the Detroit News, the Department of Education decided to get involved after two complaints were filed, including one by Doug Smith, a former University of Michigan pathologist. In his complaint, Smith claimed that by not investigating the allegation of rape, the university was violating Title IX, which prohibits gender-based discrimination.
In essence, the Department of Education’s investigation is centered around this Title IX violation.
The newspaper notes that the university is standing by the way the case was handled even in the face of the federal investigation.
“We’re very proud of our student sexual misconduct policy, our prevention efforts and our programs to support survivors of sexual misconduct,” said Rick Fitzgerald, U-M spokesman. “We will fully cooperate with the Department of Education and we believe that a review of our policy, programs and investigations will conclude that the University of Michigan is doing what it should in this important area.”
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