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But it frustrates Ortiz that politicians, mainstream media, and college administrators themselves mostly ignore the latter.
(The University of Chicago, along with the other schools in this story, said it could not comment on individual cases because of privacy laws.) To Ortiz, the national movement is mostly for “straight, white, wealthy women intoxicated and assaulted at a frat by an acquaintance.”“That wasn’t my experience at all,” she said.
Supporters say this system is meant to complement, not replace, criminal prosecution, but critics say the consequences of being found responsible for sexual misconduct under these standards are too serious.“Universities have proved beyond any doubt their incapacity and ineptitude in dealing with nuanced, fact-based accusations” such as domestic violence claims, said Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a longtime critic of how colleges handle sexual assault cases.
But he believes there’s more of a risk for the accused.
Universities all over the country are under fire for how they handle sexual assault under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program.
The 1972 law was best known for its impact on high school and college athletics until 2011, when the Education Department sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to schools reminding them that they needed to be investigating sexual violence cases under Title IX, too.
The two dated from fall 2011 into the following spring, when Ortiz told a friend that her boyfriend touched her and made her touch him when she didn’t want to. But it was also the only relationship Ortiz had ever known.
It wasn’t until he broke up with her that summer that Ortiz confided in a mentor on campus.
Campuses should approach nonsexual violence in the same way they do sexual assault, said Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations at the American Association of University Women.Schools are disincentivized to rule in their favor, lest they risk a federal investigation.“The heavy thumb of the federal government is always on the side of the accuser,” he said.“If they rule in favor of the accuser, they risk nothing.”Dershowitz believes colleges should abandon the adjudication process completely and stick to providing resources.Her complaint led to a still-ongoing federal Title IX investigation against the University of Chicago, but it also led to mental health issues that forced Ortiz to take a leave of absence, she said.Ortiz’s ex-boyfriend graduated the day after the mediation.
The next wave of Title IX activism, researchers and activists say, will focus on how colleges investigate allegations of and provide resources to students in abusive relationships.