Network Members Launch First Major Collaborative Effort: “Sexual Assaults on Campus”

The Center for Public IntegrityNPR, and five regional nonprofit investigative organizations are publishing and airing national and local stories this week that reveal that students found “responsible” for sexual assaults on campus often face little or no punishment from school judicial systems.

The seven organizations are all part of the Investigative News Network’s consortium of some two dozen nonprofit news organizations that produce investigative stories.

In a year-long investigation, The Center put together a package of stories that is accompanied by significant contributions and localized campus assault stories from NPR and five other members of the Network.

In the series of stories, the Center found that college officials believe the sanctions are administered by the college judicial system in a thoughtful way to hold abusive students accountable. But the Center’s investigation discovered that “responsible” findings rarely lead to tough punishments like expulsion—even in cases involving alleged repeat offenders.

“This impressive package of stories shows both the power and potential of INN and its collaborative efforts,” said Brant Houston, chair of the network’s steering committee. “Through these shocking stories of campus sexual assaults, INN is demonstrating how it can expose the magnitude of a problem throughout the nation.

The collaboration on the campus sexual assault stories was funded by the McCormick Foundation, based in Chicago.

The state and regional groups include the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism , the New England Center for Investigative Reporting , Texas Watchdog , the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network, and Investigate West.  For some stories, the groups partnered with local public TV and radio.

And in a series of stories to be released throughout the week, state and regional centers will detail failures and shortcoming by local universities and colleges in reining in and punishing those committing sexual assaults.

Among their revelations: Colleges across Colorado are withholding information about sexual assaults against students – and officials at the University of Colorado now acknowledge a suspected pattern of alleged date-rape drug use at a fraternity in Boulder.

  • At a Texas university, officials were slow to realize they had an “undetected rapist” in their midst who appeared to be pillar of the campus community.
  • In Wisconsin, even a woman who aggressively sought prosecution against her rapist saw no charges filed or action taken against him.

The Network was formed last summer following a three-day meeting of mostly nonprofit investigative journalism groups in New York. The mission of the network is to encourage and help with the work and public reach of its member organizations, to foster high-quality, original investigative journalism, and to hold government and corporate power accountable at the local, national, and international levels.

NPR News Investigation’s multi-part series began today as NPR correspondent Joseph Shapiro, with the Center for Public Integrity, began examining  why colleges and universities fail to protect women from this epidemic of sexual assault.

The NPR series continues tomorrow and Friday on All Things Considered, which will broadcast a two-part report by Shapiro on one victim’s struggle for justice. All reports in the series will be available at NPR.org, along with reporting and resource information from the Center for Public Integrity. For local stations and broadcast times for NPR programs, please visit www.npr.org/stations

Research shows that repeat offenders actually account for a significant number of sexual assaults on campus, contrary to the beliefs of those who adjudicate these cases. Experts say authorities are often slow to realize they have such “undetected rapists” in their midst, according to the new series in the Center’s Sexual Assault on Campus project.

Critics question whether faculty, staff, and students should even adjudicate what amounts to a felony crime.  But these internal campus proceedings grow from two federal laws, known as Title IX and the Clery Act, which require schools to respond to claims of sexual assault on campus and to offer key rights to victims.

The U.S. Department of Education enforces both laws, yet its Office for Civil Rights rarely investigates student allegations of botched school proceedings. When cases do go forward, the civil rights office rarely rules against schools, the Center’s probe has found, and virtually never issues sanctions against institutions.

“The full extent of campus sexual assault is often hidden by secret proceedings, shoddy record-keeping and an indifferent bureaucracy,” said Bill Buzenberg, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity. “Yet these are serious crimes that go largely unpunished. This is a troubling area of campus life that lacks much needed transparency and accountability.”

Support for editorial collaboration with members of the Investigative News Network is provided by the McCormick Foundation.  Additional support for the Investigative News Network is provided by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Surdna Foundation, the William Penn Foundation, and Buzz Woolley.

Sexual Assault on Campus is generously supported by grants from the Dart Society, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the NoVo Foundation.

Support for this and other Center for Public Integrity projects is provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford FoundationGreenlight Capital LLC employees, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Park Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and many other generous institutional and individual donors.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>