Eight months ago I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the US Department of Education for information about a Title IX investigation that was opened at the University of Virginia on April 19, 2019, thinking it might provide information and insight about a process often shrouded in secrecy. Last week, I received a 930-page PDF document about the case from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), longer than any novel I’ve ever read, but it ended up being a short read — all but 9 pages were redacted and blank, and 3 of those pages had had the relevant content removed, 2 were copies, and 2 were consent and procedure forms. What remained were 2 pages with a few sentences from the person filing the complaint and one word confirmation that the complaint was about “sex.”
The person’s name, sex, the date the complaint was filed, who the complaint was against, any kind of account of the incident(s), and whether or not they were a UVA student or employee had all been withheld. Oddly enough, the time of day that the complaint was filed remained: 10:16 pm.
Still, despite all the exceptions cited for disclosure of information on the investigation, despite a 930 page document being reduced to basically a few sentences, the frustration and determination of the person came through.
“I want an end to this ridiculous process,” the person wrote. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to rectify this injustice.”
Out with the new, In with the old
While schools across the country are in crisis, facing often impossible questions about how to reopen amidst a global pandemic, the Department of Education, under Betsy DeVos, has been busy rolling out new regulations for Title IX sexual harassment and assault investigations that go into effect on August 14, regulations that women’s rights organizations, advocates for survivors of sexual assault, and attorneys general from…read more.
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