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Case Name Department of Education OCR Title IX Investigation of University of Southern California ED-CA-0034
Docket / Court 09-13-2294 ( No Court )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Education
Case Summary
The United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) received a complaint in 2013 filed by University of Southern California (USC) students on behalf of themselves and other students, which alleged that USC failed to respond promptly and equitably to reports of sexual harassment ... read more >
The United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) received a complaint in 2013 filed by University of Southern California (USC) students on behalf of themselves and other students, which alleged that USC failed to respond promptly and equitably to reports of sexual harassment or sexual violence in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (09-13-2294). A subsequent complaint (09-16-2128) was filed by a male student against the university in 2016. The complaint alleged that the university discriminated against the complainant on the basis of sex when it failed to provide him a prompt and equitable response to a sexual harassment and assault claim against him and to a sexual assault/harassment claim he filed against a fellow student. It further alleged that the university subjected him to different treatment on the basis of sex when he was denied counseling for sexual trauma.

OCR opened both cases for investigation, and investigated six major issues:
(1) Whether the university complied with Title IX requirements regarding the development and dissemination of a notice of nondiscrimination;
(2) Whether the university complied with the Title IX requirements regarding the designation and notice of a Title IX Coordinator;
(3) Whether the university's written sexual harassment and sexual violence policies complied with Title IX;
(4) Whether the university provided a prompt and equitable response to incidents of sexual violence of which it had notice;
(5) Whether the university's failure to provide a prompt and equitable response to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence allowed affected students to be subjected to or continue to be subjected to a sexually hostile environment;
(6) And whether the university discriminated against the complainant and other male students by denying them counseling for sexual harassment and sexual violence based on their sex.

OCR determined that the information provided to students about how to file a complaint was widely distributed, and the grievance procedures were adequately explained and available. OCR found that the university's policies post-March 2015 were in compliance with Title IX, but previous policies were not in compliance because they did not provide an equal opportunity to complainants and respondents to present witnesses and relevant evidence, did not provide reasonably prompt timeframes for major stages of the grievance process, did not provide equitable notice of the outcome to both parties, and did not provide an assurance that the University will take steps to prevent recurrence of the harassment and to correct its discriminatory effects on the complainant and others as appropriate.

With respect to policies applicable to sexual harassment and sexual violence by faculty, OCR found that the university was in compliance for the 2015-2016 academic year, but out of compliance in prior years under review because the policies did not designate reasonably prompt timeframes for determining sanctions or completing the appeal process, did not provide for notice to the parties of the outcome of the appeal, did not address whether they provided an assessment of conduct that may create a hostile environment on campus, which may have occurred off campus, and did not provide an assurance that the university would take steps to prevent recurrence of the harassment and correct its discriminatory effects.

Of the five specific cases alleged in the two complaints, OCR found that two were prompt and equitable, one was equitable but not prompt, and two were in compliance with Title IX, but OCR had concerns about the university's actions. In one case, OCR addressed concerns that the university did not have processes in place for addressing possible conflicts of interest on review panels. In the other, OCR determined that the university may not have taken sufficient steps to determine whether additional interim measures during the complaint process were appropriate.

The university entered into a voluntary resolution agreement on March 12, 2018. As part of the agreement, USC agreed to review and revise its notice of nondiscrimination on the basis of sex and policies and procedures governing sexual harassment to ensure compliance with Title IX, provide notice of its Title IX policy and procedure revisions to the university community and training to those handling the university’s response to complaints, and submit periodic self-monitoring assessments on the university’s handling of reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Elizabeth Heise - 12/04/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Monitoring
Reporting
Defendant-type
College/University
Discrimination-basis
Sex discrimination
General
Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students
Assault/abuse by staff
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Out-of-court
Causes of Action Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq.
Defendant(s) University of Southern California
Plaintiff Description Students at the University of Southern California who alleged that the university failed to promptly and adequately resolve their Title IX complaints.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se Unknown
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer Unknown
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2018 - n/a
Filing Year 2013
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Chronicle of Higher Education, Title IX Tracker: University of Southern California
Chronicle of Higher Education
Date: Jan. 3, 2019
By: Chronicle of Higher Education
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Office of Civil Rights, Title IX
Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights
Date: Dec. 23, 2018
By: Department of Education, Office of Student Rights
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
[Notification letter for the University of Southern California]
ED-CA-0034-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/08/2016
[Notification letter for the University of Southern California]
ED-CA-0034-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/08/2016
[Additional notification letter for University of Southern California]
ED-CA-0034-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/27/2016
[Findings Letter for University of Southern California]
ED-CA-0034-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/12/2018
show all people docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Faer, Laura F. (California) show/hide docs
ED-CA-0034-0001

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