UMass Amherst Statement on Federal Title IX Review

AMHERST, Mass. – The inclusion of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in a list released today by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault is related to a standard compliance review. The university is not the subject of a Title IX complaint.

“The Task Force has done outstanding work in providing strategies to prevent sexual assault, respond compassionately to victims and hold perpetrators accountable,” said Enku Gelaye, vice chancellor for student affairs and campus life. “We fully support their work, and we have already been actively engaged in implementing many of the best practices recommended by the Task Force. Much more must be done to safeguard our students and we are committed to that effort.”

Under Title IX, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education regularly conducts proactive compliance reviews of schools that receive federal funds. A review of UMass Amherst was conducted starting June 30, 2011 and no conclusions have been reached.

In two broadcast e-mail communications to the campus community, the university explained the purpose of the review and encouraged participation. A message from the Chancellor’s Office noted, “Compliance reviews are designed to address systemic issues and ensure that violations are readily identified and promptly eliminated. We applaud the work of the OCR and are confident that any information that results from this compliance review will have a direct and positive impact throughout the University.”

Gelaye observed that prevention of sexual assault is a major concern of the university as reflected by the launch this year of the UMatter at UMass campaign, which includes extensive bystander intervention training for students and employees. The outreach effort was featured in a New York Times’ Education Life story on Feb. 7, 2014. Gelaye also noted that UMass Amherst has conducted campus climate surveys for the past three years, collaborates with campus stakeholders through a Title IX Committee process, revised its Code of Student Conduct to strengthen its sexual misconduct policy and is launching a Men and Masculinity Center to engage men on this issue.

Community partnerships and confidential, trauma informed support resources were also identified by the Task Force as an important element in support and prevention. The Center for Women & Community has been housed at UMass Amherst for 40 years. It has supported thousands of survivors of sexual assault, and offered countless hours of sexual assault prevention education to the campus and broader community. 

“The CWC recently received a $270,000 federal grant to strengthen its efforts. Last year, the CWC sexual assault hotline responded to more than 500 hotline calls from area college students and provided crisis intervention and support to 227 victims of violence affiliated with the Five Colleges.”  said Becky Lockwood, associate director of Counseling and Rape Crisis Services at the Center for Women & Community.