The federal government has begun a probe into the manner in which the Missouri University of Science and Technology follows up on complaints of sexual violence.

Sexual harassment in the workplace does not arise out of a void. It springs from a culture where unwelcome sexual behavior is not only tolerated, but in some egregious cases, even celebrated. Much of this bad behavior is fostered on university campuses.

Missouri S&T is not the lone institution of higher learning under scrutiny by the Department of Education. There are 60 other colleges and universities being investigated for possible Title IX violations. Under that federal law, universities and colleges receiving federal funds must investigate sexual assault claims. The schools must also institute an impartial and timely grievance procedure that resolves those claims.

A Missouri S&T spokesman stated that university officials are cooperating fully with the investigation, adding that the university has a policy in place to deal aggressively with sexual assault.

“We place a high priority on the safety and security of our students and offer a broad array of support resources and services for students, faculty and staff who may have been sexually assaulted,” he said.

He went on to add that the broader initiative will thoroughly review the education in place regarding sexual assault, reporting and prevention resources that the university has available. “We are also reviewing our policies and procedures, to ensure that we continue to create a safe, secure environment for all students, faculty and staff,” he stated.

The DOE’s Office of Civil Rights began their inquiry last month after first unveiling a list of colleges and universities being investigated. The probe is part of the Obama administration’s effort to bring awareness to the issue of sexual assault on college campuses.

University campuses should be welcoming environments where students broaden their horizons and further their education. Faculty and staff should feel safe in their workplaces as well. If that is not the case due to sexual harassment, students and employees have recourse through the legal system should they choose to pursue it.

Source: Springfield News-Leader, “U.S. investigates sexual violence policies at Missouri S&T” Deirdre Shesgreen, Jun. 04, 2014