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Civil Rights at Westminster

Dec 08, 2015 02:13PM ● Published by Bryan Scott

By Elizabeth Suggs

Sugar House - An investigation on civil rights occurred at Westminster by the OCR (Office for Civil Rights) from Nov. 6 through Nov. 11 after a sexual harassment complaint was filed in 2013.

Think an investigation in 2015 from a complaint in 2013 isn’t prompt? According to Jason Schwartz-Johnson,  Westminster’s Title IX coordinator, it is. Things like this take time, said Schwartz-Johnson. 

“This was a timely investigation,” he said. “It was filed and then received notice.” 

It only took one complaint for the OCR to start an investigation, according to Schwartz-Johnson. 

According to Westminster, the college has provided the OCR with more than 1,000 pages of documents, discrimination training, harassment and sexual violence, allegations on sexual assault and misconduct, as well as case notes and adjudication documents.  

Proving as much information as the college has is Westminster’s way of showing how serious the college is with OCR and sexual assault, because enough isn’t being done for colleges and universities across the nation. 

The inclusion of Westminster on the OCR documents is taken very seriously, Schwartz-Johnson said.

“We provided all the information they’ve asked for,”  he said. “There are a number of individuals going to groups, and we hope that’s enough.”

As part of the campus visit, the OCR investigation will be by interviewing individuals involved with certain allegations on sexual assault, according to Westminster. The OCR held open-office interview visits for individual students, faculty and staff on civil rights issues, according to Westminster. 

The OCR will also meet with various focus groups. According to Schwartz-Johnson, the groups were smaller and done through the week. Despite conflicting statistics, the focus groups had an equal representation of both men and women. 

According to the Utah Department of Health, 2006 statistics on both men and women who have reported experiencing a rape or attempted rape is drastically different. One in eight women, about 12.4 percent, and one in 50 men, about 2 percent, of those will report on the act. Whether this demonstrates the actual statistics of rape or not, during focus groups at Westminster, according to Schwartz-Johnson, the proportion of both men and women was equal.

Schwartz-Johnson explained that one of the reasons behind the wide variety of students was because of the OCR and its investigations. Students were concerned with the “climate” and wanted to understand it further. 

Students were given the option to speak out in the groups and in individual private meetings, as well as answer whatever the OCR needed to know. 

Westminster is one of 100 higher education institutions that are under investigation. Following Westminster, the OCR plans to investigate other universities with similar sexual harassment complaints on whether enough is being done when dealing with sexual assault and harassment at universities. 

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