Letter to the Emerson Community

Letter to the Emerson Community Regarding Alleged Draft of OCR Complaint

June 25, 2014

Emerson College has recently reviewed a document online that purports to be a draft of a Title IX complaint filed last October with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), in which four Emerson undergraduates allege that the College did not satisfy certain provisions of Title IX in its handling of their sexual assault claims. Because OCR has not given Emerson access to the complaint, we do not know if this document is, in fact, the complaint that OCR is investigating, though its contents are consistent with several public statements made by the Emerson students.

The unauthorized release of the document, real or not, is extremely painful to the students involved and to the Emerson staff involved as well. It is an egregious violation of their privacy.

Having reviewed the online document carefully, Emerson has substantial and detailed disagreement with facts alleged in it. Emerson is working assiduously with the OCR as it investigates these complaints and will continue to do so.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits educational institutions from making a student’s educational records public without the expressed consent of the student. Because Emerson has not received consent from any of these students, Emerson cannot comment on specifics contained in the document.

Emerson has taken and will continue to take the issue of sexual assault extremely seriously. Over the course of the past two years, both before and after the OCR complaint, Emerson College has dedicated substantial new resources toward the prevention of and response to sexual assault. Most recently, we retained Margolis Healy & Associates, an independent consulting firm, to review Emerson’s policies and procedures regarding Title IX and to advise the College on following best practices in these areas. Additionally, an internal Task Force on Sexual Assault, comprised of Emerson faculty, administrators, and students, has recommended several measures to prevent and raise awareness about sexual assault on our campus. Several new staff have been either hired or will be hired, including a full-time Director of Violence Prevention and Response/Sexual Assault Response Advocate and other positions that will reinforce Emerson’s commitment to addressing sexual assault. We are confident the OCR report will demonstrate that we have complied substantially and substantively with Title IX.  We look forward to the OCR, Margolis Healy & Associates, and Sexual Assault Task Force reports as they assist us in strengthening our capacity to respond effectively to this issue.

Our focus has been and will continue to be on the well-being of our students so as to provide a safe and positive learning environment for their academic achievement and personal growth.

Lee Pelton

President, Emerson College