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Tufts, Feds Disagree On Sexual Assault Compliance

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Tufts University has failed to comply with federal law when addressing sexual assault and harassment complaints on campus despite making several policy improvements since a federal investigation began in 2010, the Department of Education said.

The department's Office for Civil Rights said Monday that Tufts, based in Medford, signed an agreement April 17 to resolve the issue but then revoked it April 26. The office said Tufts has made several important policy and procedural changes but more needs to be done.

A Tufts spokeswoman said it has been working closely with the Department of Education and is shocked it has been declared out of compliance with Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination and affects federal education funding.

"We have in place and fully support policies and procedures that comply with Title IX, are consistent with the significant guidance documents issued by the department and effectively serve our students, faculty and staff," spokeswoman Kim Thurler said.

Both parties said they hope to resolve the dispute.

The investigation began after a student complained Tufts didn't respond to her sexual assault allegations in a fair or timely fashion.

The Department of Education also confirmed it recently began investigating the handling of sexual assault issues by Harvard University's undergraduate college after students filed formal complaints in early April.

Harvard spokesman Jeff Neal said it "takes the issue of sexual harassment and sexual violence extremely seriously." He said Harvard has submitted new policy changes to the Department of Education and created a task force that will look at better ways to prevent sexual misconduct on campus.

About 50 schools are under similar investigations nationwide. In January, a White House report said about 1 in 5 female college students has been assaulted on campuses while only 1 in 8 reports it.

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