Investigators with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights are conducting interviews this week at the University of Wyoming. They’re following up on complaint filed in 2017 by a student who said her report of sexual assault to UW was not handled properly.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights sent a letter to UW President Laurie Nichols last July announcing its intent to further investigate the complaint. That letter – which was obtained by the Chronicle for Higher Education – explained that the investigation would focus on whether UW failed to provide a prompt and equitable response to an allegation of sexual assault. There is also concern that the student experienced retaliation by university employees. Chad Baldwin, UW communications director, confirmed that investigators are conducting interviews on campus.
“This is a customary thing they would do in an investigation like this. They would come and conduct interviews and that sort of thing.” Baldwin added, “The university is cooperating as it can with this investigation.”
The Office for Civil Rights letter explained that if the investigation establishes that there has been a violation of law, that it will make an attempt to negotiate a remedy. If that’s not reached then formal enforcement action could take place which could impact UW’s federal funding. Baldwin said he had no information on immediate next steps following the interviews.
The investigators on-site at UW were unable to speak on the record, but an Education Department spokesman provided the following statement via email:
“The U.S. Department of Education is committed to protecting the civil rights of all students. Consistent with its enforcement mission, representatives from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) are on-site at the University of Wyoming on May 21 and 22 as part of an investigation under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Because this case is currently under investigation, the Department cannot provide further information. Please visit the Department’s website to learn more about OCR, Title IX or how OCR processes civil rights cases.”