Federal complaint against Swarthmore could grow

Posted: April 30, 2013

MORE ALLEGED victims of sexual misconduct are expected to join a complaint by 22 current and former students accusing Swarthmore College of violating a federal law that mandates reporting of crimes, advocates say.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Education earlier this month, claims that the elite Delaware County college underreported incidents of sexual misconduct - a violation of the federal Clery Act. Students also plan to file a complaint alleging Title IX violations, claiming that the school is permitting a sexually hostile environment for women.

Sophomore Mia Ferguson, one of the complainants, told the Daily News yesterday that the school is trying to protect its image.

"Families wouldn't want to send their child here if they knew how many assaults occur on campus," said Ferguson, who claims she was sexually assaulted during the fall 2011 semester.

Ferguson said she expects more alleged victims to sign onto the Clery complaint as a result of news coverage.

"I think a lot of students are feeling somewhat of a weight lifted off," she said. "[They see] there are voices out there who are ready to support victims of sexual assault. I think that will encourage students to come forward and share their stories."

Ferguson said some alleged victims have gone directly to police, but either were coerced by school administators to withdraw their reports or the reports were dropped due to lack of evidence.

Swarthmore is not the only school accused of mishandling claims of sexual misconduct. Similar allegations have been made recently at University of North Carolina, Wesleyan, Yale and Occidental College.

Rebecca Chopp, president of Swarthmore, announced earlier this month that the school would ask outside experts to review its handling of sex-related cases - a measure taken by other schools. Chopp has declined to comment on the federal complaints, but acknowledged flaws in the recording of incidents, which she claims have been addressed.

"We've made changes in policies, we've provided more support and more training, we've changed some personnel," Chopp told the New York Times.

Ferguson said the Title IX complaint would be filed to prompt immediate steps to protect students.

"There seems to be no immediate protection granted to the student body here," she told the People Paper.

Swarthmore had an enrollment of 1,545 students in the 2011-12 school year.

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