- A list of more than 700 substantiated cases of sexual misconduct at colleges and universities across the country is available to the public — a snapshot of an issue that isn't new to the industry but is being propelled to a tipping point through the #MeToo movement. The earliest case is from 1917, though most date from the early 2000s to the present.
- Julie Libarkin, director of Michigan State University's Geocognition Research Lab, has been collecting and verifying cases for the past two years, Inside Higher Ed reported. To be included, cases must have been publicly documented through sources such as institutional findings, settlements, legal fact findings and admissions.
- In compiling the list, Libarkin noticed patterns that helped her develop a taxonomy for what actions the umbrella term of "sexual misconduct" covers.
In recent years, industries from architecture to media have come to publicly reckon with their histories of sexual misconduct. And higher ed has been no exception, particularly because it is entwined with other sectors.
For example, The New York Times published sexual misconduct allegations earlier this year by five women against the famed architect Richard Meier, roiling the architecture profession. Cornell University, Meier's alma mater, responded by canceling an event planned in his honor, declining his gift of an endowed chair in the architecture department and reviewing his previous donations.
While faculty allegations make up the majority of Libarkin's list, several deans, vice presidents and presidents are named as well. Many cases resulted in resignations, some in suspensions and others in firings. And of course, there were settlements.
Data gathered by the Wall Street Journal found that in 2016 and 2017 alone, 22 public universities and systems paid more than $10.5 million across 59 settlements involving sexual harassment claims made by students, faculty and staff.
Most of those settlements stemmed from cases alleging the universities mishandled complaints. The largest settlement on the list ($2.48 million) came from the University of Tennessee for a 2016 lawsuit brought by six women accusing four former and one then-current student-athlete of sexual assault and saying the university fostered a campus environment that made such acts possible — particularly by football players — and does not support victims.
The presence of such a list adds an element of permanence to cases that many colleges and universities wish to hide from view. However, research examining the impact of Education Department investigations into how universities handle sexual assault complaints indicates that responding swiftly, fairly and even publicly to sexual misconduct more generally doesn't negatively impact the supply of future applicants and could even lead to higher enrollment.