Vanderbilt, Amherst Slapped With Federal Complaints For Mishandling Campus Rape Cases

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Both Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, and Amherst College, in Massachusetts, were slapped with federal complaints Friday for the alleged mishandling of rape and harassment cases.

Six former and current Vanderbilt students filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education on Thursday alleging that the school failed to appropriately respond to their complaints and created a hostile environment that keeps victims from reported sexual assault on campus.

One student says Vanderbilt pressured her into letting them handle her harassment case, but that they failed to take any action against her stalker.

Two former Amherst students who were the victims of rape filed a complaint accusing the school of inappropriately handling their cases, including sending one to a psychiatric ward.

Both schools are accused of violating the federal gender equity law, by failing to provide adequate resources for rape victims, and the Clery Act, the federal campus safety law, by underreporting sexual assault cases.

Vanderbilt senior Sarah O’Brien, who was raped in 2010, organized the complaint against the university.

“The big thing for all of us involved is to give voice to a problem that is not addressed properly on our campus,” she told the Tennessean.

"We have long had policies and procedures in place to deal with complaints of sexual misconduct and to support students who report incidents of sexual misconduct and violence," said Vanderbilt’s vice chancellor for public affairs, Beth Fortune, in a statement. "We review and update those measures on a regular basis and are always seeking ways to make them as effective as possible. We will cooperate fully with the Department of Education in any review it undertakes."

Students at Amherst were spurred on by a recent incident in which an off-campus fraternity printed offensive t-shirts showing a woman being roasted on a spit.

Amherst President Biddy Martin told the Huffington Post in a statement that the school is “responding to reports of sexual misconduct and assault by taking appropriate steps to eliminate the misconduct, prevent its recurrence and address its effects."

Sources: Huffington Post, ThinkProgress