LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The University of Southern California (USC) and Occidental College were named among 55 colleges and universities currently under investigation for their handling of sexual abuse complaints, federal officials announced Thursday.

The move by the U.S. Education Department – which the Associated Press described as unprecedented – is part of an overall effort by the Obama Administration to increase transparency and “spur community dialogue,” according to Catherine E. Lhamon, the U.S. Department of Education’s assistant secretary for civil rights.

A designation on the list in no way indicates “at this stage that the college or university has violated the law,” Lhamon said.

Nearly a dozen current and former students at Occidental College reached a financial settlement with the Department of Education last year over claims that school officials failed to respond adequately to reports of sexual assaults or protect students.

USC officials revealed last fall that they had also under-reported the number of sexual assault cases in 2010 and 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported.

KNX 1070’s Jon Baird reports some USC students were supportive of the Education Department’s efforts.

“I think once the university recognizes that it hasn’t done the best job that they can with the resources and money that they have, and they’re being called out on that, I think that’s really fantastic,” said one student.

The only other California institutions named on the Department of Education list were Butte-Glen Community College District in Northern California and UC Berkeley.

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Department of Education can withhold federal funding from any school that fails to comply with the law, but it so far has not used that power and instead has negotiated voluntary resolutions for violators, the Associated Press reported.

Federal officials did not release any additional details about the cases being investigated at each university.

Click here for the Department’s full list of “Higher Education Institutions with Open Title IX Sexual Violence Investigations”.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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