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Official Says USC Will Cooperate With Investigation Over Alleged Mishandling Of Rape Claims

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — An official at the University of Southern California said Monday the school will cooperate fully with a federal investigation into student allegations that the administration mishandled claims of rape and sexual assault on campus.

In a statement, Jody Shipper, USC’s Title IX coordinator and the executive director of the Office of Equity and Diversity said the university welcomed help from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to update its procedures, but maintained that the school has always been committed to addressing all issues that arise.

“The opening of an investigation is an expected step in the process,” Shipper said in a statement. “The OCR states that ‘opening the allegations for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to their merits.'”

Members of USC’s Student Coalition Against Rape — SCAR – filed an equal opportunity complaint with the U.S. Department of Education last spring. At the time of the filing, student groups at other schools — including Dartmouth, Yale, Swarthmore, UC Berkeley and Occidental — lodged similar complaints against their universities.

In SCAR’s filing, the student group alleges that USC downplayed complaints of sexual violence and in some cases, refused to discipline the perpetrators.

“I thought that by reporting a felony to my school, I would be supported by my school’s resources and officials, but I was wrong,” said USC student Ari Mastav. In her case, she said officials refused to change her classes so that she would not have to see the man who assaulted her.

“Instead I was forced to remain in close proximity to the person who caused me great mental, emotional and physical distress,” she said.

According to Shipper, the university updated the protocols for reporting sexual assault in 2011-2012. She said USC has been reviewing its guidelines to respond to updated federal requirements.

“The university offers confidential resources for students, including the Student Counseling Center and the Center for Women and Men,” Shipper said.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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