Federal authorities have launched an investigation into the handling of at least two alleged rape cases at the University of Southern California.
The investigation comes in response to a federal complaint a student coalition filed on May 22, alleging that the university violated their civil rights in ignoring or mishandling sexual assault and rape complaints.
The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights is investigating the university under Title IX, the law that prohibits discrimination based on gender. The university may also face an investigation of its compliance with the Clery Act, which states universities that receive federal financial aid funds must report sexual assault cases to the Education Department. Institutions that are not compliant may face fines of $35,000 per violation.
Students also filed complaints against three other universities on May 22: Swarthmore College, Dartmouth College and the University of California, Berkeley. Complaints regarding the handling of sexual assault and rape cases have also been filed against several other colleges, as recently as Wednesday, when students at the University of Colorado, Boulder did so. Previous complaints have also targeted Occidental College in southern California and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Members of the Student Coalition Against Rape held a news conference on Monday detailing their complaints.
In the complaint against USC, more than 100 students outlined what they say was a "gross mishandling" of the cases, according to KTLA.
Tucker Reed, a USC student who said she was raped by her boyfriend and blogged openly about the details, led the group.
Reed said she filed a complaint with campus officials and showed them a recording of her alleged attacker confessing. After six months, however, the case was dropped.
"The process made me feel raped a second time," Reed said, according to NBC News.
Another student, Ari Mostov, said at the news conference that campus authorities told her that her alleged attacker was not guilty because "he didn't orgasm" and that she should not pursue her case with the Los Angeles Police Department, according to ABC News.
Mostov said her alleged attacker was a fellow screenwriting major with whom she shared classes. However, she said officials did not let her change her classes, according to CBS.
"I thought that by reporting a felony to my school, I would be supported by my school's resources and officials, but I was wrong," Mostov said. "Instead I was forced to remain in close proximity to the person who caused me great mental, emotional and physical distress."
KTLA reported that USC's Office of Equity and Diversity handed out a statement at the news conference saying the university "is strongly committed to upholding civil rights."
Jody Shipper, the Title IX coordinator and executive director of USC's Office of Equity and Diversity, said in a statement that the university received a letter from the Education Department notifying it of the allegations.
"The opening of an investigation is an expected step in the process, and the OCR states that 'opening the allegations for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to their merits,'" Shipper said in the statement.