Feds to investigate Michigan over handling of rape allegations

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has launched an investigation how the University of Michigan handled rape allegations against a former football player.

The department notified former Michigan professor Douglas Smith of the investigation in an email late Monday. Smith filed a complaint with the department about the matter in August 2013.

“OCR has determined it is appropriate to proceed to investigation on the following issue,” the office said in an email to Smith obtained by The Times, “that the University failed to promptly and equitably respond to complaints, reports and/or incidents of sexual violence of which it had notice and, as a result, students were subjected to a sexually hostile environment.”

The email noted investigation of Smith’s complaint will be consolidated with another unidentified complaint filed about the situation and will also include examination of the university’s Title IX grievance procedure.

“We're very proud of our student sexual misconduct policy, our prevention efforts and our programs to support survivors of sexual misconduct,” Michigan spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in an emailed statement. “We will fully cooperate with the Department of Education and we believe that a review of our policy, programs and investigations will conclude that the University of Michigan is doing what it should in this important area.”

A Department of Education spokesman confirmed the investigation but declined further comment.

In December, the university’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily, reported kicker Brendan Gibbons was expelled Dec. 19 for violating the university's sexual misconduct policy. The paper cited a letter sent to Gibbons’ Florida home from the university’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution.

The incident that spurred the expulsion and federal investigation dates to November 2009. Gibbons was arrested but no criminal charges were filed.

Gibbons was Michigan’s starting kicker for three seasons and much of the 2013, but didn’t travel to the team’s bowl game in December.

The Office of Civil Rights received 20 postsecondary Title IX complaints related to sexual violence since Oct. 1, and, as of Feb. 21, had 41 investigations pending into similar issues.


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