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WSU under investigation for sexual violence, harassment complaints

— Washington State University is among 55 higher educational institutions being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

It is the only university in Washington state being investigated for possible violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

"We are making this list available in an effort to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights," Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said. "We hope this increased transparency will spur community dialogue about this important issue."

Officials said the goal of a Title IX investigation is to ensure university campuses are in compliance with federal law.

The Department will not disclose any case-specific facts or details about the institutions being investigated. But the list includes investigations opened due to complaints.

All colleges, and universities and K-12 schools receiving federal funds must comply with Title IX. Schools that violate the law and refuse to address problems can lose federal funding or be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for further action.

Under federal law, sexual violence refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person's will or where a person is incapable of giving consent -- including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual abuse and sexual coercion.

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