Universities' enforcement of Title IX protections against sexual harassment and gendered violence suffers from inconsistent and generally lightly sanctioned outcomes as understaffed offices struggle to reach victims and effectively address complaints, USA Today reports. An original analysis of outcome data obtained by the news organization focused on dozens of the nation's largest public universities found that few students who harmed victims faced meaningful punishment as schools steered cases away from harsher punishments. “This data really helps provide a counternarrative to the men's rights groups claiming that there are swaths of young men who are being falsely accused of sexual violence and having their lives ruined,” said Tracey Vitchers, executive director of the nonprofit It's On Us, which combats campus sexual violence through student organizing and education. “It's just simply not true, and this data backs that up.”
USA Today asked 107 public universities that compete in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision for aggregate statistics about sexual misconduct reports received from 2014 through 2020, including the number formally investigated, the number that resulted in students being found responsible, and a breakdown of sanctions imposed. The analysis covered all forms of sexual misconduct schools must address under Title IX, including sexual harassment and assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. Reporters also reviewed thousands of pages of Title IX case files, policies, outside reviews, court records, and other documents and interviewed more than 100 student survivors, current and former Title IX officials, attorneys, researchers and activists to understand how cases fell through the cracks. Of the tens of thousands of sexual misconduct reports filed across the 56 universities that provided complete data, just 1,094 students were suspended and 594 expelled — an average of 2.8 suspensions and 1.5 expulsions per school each year. In the rare cases when Title IX reports resulted in discipline, students found responsible were frequently issued light sanctions that allowed them to continue their education without interruption.