- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Federal investigators are in Alaska this week to visit University of Alaska campuses to see how the UA system responds to sexual violence.

The visit is part of a larger national review. The UA system is among 64 higher education institutions being investigated or audited by the civil rights office of the U.S. Department of Education, Alaska Dispatch News (https://is.gd/sq1ZMj) reported.

The federal agency is looking at the schools for compliance with Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination at institutions that receive federal funding. The agency is putting special emphasis on complaints of sexual violence.

UA attorney Mike O’Brien said UA is not being investigated in response to specific complaints.

“We’re amongst a group of schools not being investigated for a violation but are just being reviewed to gauge compliance with Title IX,” O’Brien said. Alaska’s “abysmal” rates of sexual violence might be a factor in the inclusion, he said.

Investigators visited the University of Alaska Fairbanks earlier this week and were to be at the University of Alaska Anchorage through Thursday. Visits to campuses in Bethel and Juneau also were planned.

In the UA system review, the university included documentation of sexual harassments or assaults since 2011. According to statistics provided by O’Brien, 257 sexual harassment or sexual assault complaints were documented between 2011 and 2013 at the system’s three main campuses in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau, as well as community campuses. Those statistics are not broken down by type of assault.

From 2011 to 2013, 12 forcible sex offenses were reported at the UAA campus, according to a report on campus safety mandated by the federal Cleary Act.

UAF received reports of 27 campus sex assaults between 2011 and 2013.

UAA compliance and diversity director Marva Watson said two full-time Title IX investigators were hired in 2012 to look into complaints and conduct staff and student training.

“The level of commitment to this and the importance of it in our organization is high,” she said.

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