Thirty-seven students and alumni filed a federal complaint Thursday accusing Occidental College administrators of violating equal rights standards when dealing with rape, sexual assault and retaliation claims.
The Title IX action filed with the federal Education Department was announced at a news conference by attorney Gloria Allred, who was flanked by more than a dozen young women, including five alleged victims she represents. A video of the news conference is below.
Allred said rape and sexual assault investigations have been dragged out, and when investigations uncover wrongdoing, the punishments were light. One student was found responsible for the rape of one woman and the sexual assault of another but graduated after writing a book report and giving up a student leadership role, she said.
"We believe that the university's response has been deliberately indifferent towards the victims," magnifying their suffering, Allred said.
The complaints involve incidents from 2009 to 2013, and two remain under investigation by Los Angeles police, she said.
College administrators issued a statement Thursday pledging reform and a responsive process to make sure the approximately 2,100 students on the campus nicknamed "Oxy" are safe.
"We readily acknowledge that Oxy has more work to do and are vigilantly ensuring our continual progress," said spokesman Jim Tranquada.
The school has recently retained former sex crime prosecutors and experts to conduct an independent review of their policies and practices involving sexual assault, Tranquada said.
In emotional public testimony, several young women read statements Thursday about their experiences at the small, liberal arts college in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Carly Mee said she was raped in her first week as a freshman at Occidental, and the reporting process dragged on for months.
"When I told an administrator that I did not feel safe, I was told that I had nothing to worry about, that she had met with my rapist and that he didn't seem like the type of person who would do something like that," Mee said.
Mee said her attacker was found guilty of rape and sexual assault twice by a school panel — initially and on appeal. But his initial expulsion was reduced to a suspension, and he'll be back on campus after she graduates.
"I can never come back to visit the school that I paid a great deal of money to attend for fear of seeing my rapist," Mee said.
It was unclear whether the case had been reported to police.
The Associated Press and KPCC do not normally identify people who report being sexually assaulted, but the women who spoke Thursday said they wanted to come forward publicly because they want campus safety to improve.