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ASU under investigation for a possible Title IX violation

A student alleges that the University failed to protect her from retaliation after she filed a Title IX complaint

20170914 asu charter stock

A student rides past the ASU Charter sign on the Tempe campus on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017.

ASU is under investigation by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights after a student reported that the University failed to protect her from retaliation following a Title IX complaint.

The graduate student, whose name has not been made public, originally filed a Title IX complaint for harassment by a professor in January, according to an article by Inside Higher Ed. She claims the University failed to address retaliation after her complaint was filed by two other graduate students who worked with her and the professor in the Bio-Inspired Mechatronics Lab. 

The professor, Panagiotis Polygerinos, resigned from ASU in February and is not eligible to be rehired. ASU's Office of Equity and Inclusion later found him in violation of its policies on "prohibition against discrimination, harassment and retaliation" and "romantic or sexual relationships between faculty members and students," according to a letter that was obtained by The State Press from ASU Executive Vice President Mark Searle.

Searle's letter to the student for the Office of Equity and Inclusion stated that "all parties who make complaints or participate in an investigation are protected from retaliation," and that if the student had concerns regarding retaliation she should report them to the Office of University Rights and Responsibilities

According to an Oct. 10 letter from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, the student's lawyer, Laura Dunn, alleges that "the University fostered a sexually hostile environment" by failing to address the retaliation complaints. 

Dunn, when reached by phone on Thursday, did not want to answer questions, saying that her client is not seeking additional media coverage at this time, but said that "obviously, any time someone reaches out to the Office for Civil Rights and files a Title IX complaint, they're seeking to enforce their civil rights."

The University declined to comment because this is an ongoing investigation. 

According to the Inside Higher Ed story, the student would like to have the lab equipment she needs to be transferred to a neutral location. She is also looking for the reimbursement of one year of tuition based on an estimate that she lost a year's worth of work due to the harassment and retaliation. She is also seeking reimbursement for her attorney fees.

If the Office for Civil Rights finds ASU in violation of Title IX, then it will work to negotiate a solution. If that fails, the Office for Civil Rights will be required to either refer the case to the Department of Justice or begin proceedings to end ASU's federal funding.

Students can report discrimination by going to the Office of University Rights and Responsibilities. 

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