On Thursday morning, University of Mary Washington (UMW) campus group Feminists United—an affiliate of the Feminist Majority Foundation (publisher of Ms.)—and individual students filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education against UMW.
The complaint charges university administrators with “systemic failure to protect students from a sexually hostile school environment, from sex-based cyber assaults, and from threats of physical and sexual violence and from the University’s failure to take immediate effective action to eliminate the sexually hostile environment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.”
The Feminist Majority Foundation, a nationwide women’s research and action organization with campus groups in 45 states and the District of Columbia, has joined the complaint to support UMW Feminists United, individual students and to combat campus sexual assault.
“How many women have to be violated, threatened, harassed, intimidated, or even die before University administrators decide that they have a crisis on their hands. Simply put sexual assault must be treated more seriously by universities. One in five women on college campuses being assaulted is an epidemic,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Here at the University of Mary Washington, Feminists United and its leaders repeatedly told administrators that they were afraid, threatened, that the climate was scary, and there was a ‘rape culture’ that was allowed to prevail. This complaint speaks for itself and shows the dedication, commitment and courage of students who worked diligently to stop sexual assault and to end the sexually hostile environment. I am appalled that the University of Mary Washington administrators repeatedly did nothing to stop threats against and to alleviate the experienced-based fears of Feminists United and its members.
“Feminist United students repeatedly brought their concerns about threats to their safety to the attention of the administration, and were routinely met with inaction. Young women should be able to attend college with the expectation that they will be safe, respected, and at the very least that threats to their personal safety will be dealt with promptly and taken seriously,” said Gaylynn Burroughs, director of policy and research at the Feminist Majority Foundation.
“Instead of taking action, the University hid behind their lawyers and allowed these young women to be terrorized in their own community,” Burroughs added.