Students Announce Second Federal Complaint Against Swarthmore

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Yesterday morning, Mia Ferguson ‘15 stood in front of Independence Hall and announced that she was filing a second complaint against Swarthmore, this time for Title IX violations.

In a press conference attended by Swarthmore students, alumni, and other supporters, Ferguson detailed the Clery Act and Title IX complaints, voiced her disappointment with the school administrative response thus far, and detailed her hopes for moving forward.

According to Title IX, educational institutions are obligated to promptly respond and investigate any claims or incidents of sexual harassment or assault, as well as make publicly known procedures that students looking to file complaints of sexual discrimination can follow. Sexual discrimination, in this case, includes sexual harassment, assault, and rape.  

After numerous student and alumni accounts that revealed the administration’s lack of openness and willingness to cooperate, Ferguson felt that the only measure drastic enough to elicit an effective response from the school was to file this second complaint.

“Department of Education investigations are now the best way and only way for Swarthmore College to understand its pervasive institutional problems, find ways to resolve them, and move forward as a college renowned not only for its leadership and excellence in education but also for student safety,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson, who described the frustrating obstacles she encountered after trying to report her sexual assault, is looking to Swarthmore to adopt a proactive stance in leading the change in ways universities handle issues of sexual violence, harassment, and assault.

Students and alumni have already begun to come together as the driving force for change within this school. Earlier this week, students organized Swarthmore Assault Prevention and Survivor Advocacy. Alumni are circulating an online petition that expresses concern over the school’s mishandling of sexual assault on campus. On a national level, the IX Network allows students across the country coping with the aftermaths of sexual assault to reach out and find each other.

In the end, Ferguson recognizes the milestones that have already been reached, and the positive changes that have already occurred within universities in the past several decades. However, she hopes that even greater steps can be taken, with Swarthmore leading the way towards an even more open and supportive environment for sexual assault victims and survivors on college campuses to speak out and be heard.

Within the coming weeks, Swarthmore will undergo external review, as the Department of Education will investigate both of Ferguson’s complaints. If the DOE determines them to be legitimate, Swarthmore could face a series of fines.

Photo by Jenni Lu/The Daily Gazette


  1. Could someone explain to me what is (are) the alleged violation(s) of the Clery Act by Swarthmore College? I am guessing from the articles that it is a failure to report nonforcible sex offenses which were either reported to police or campus security. Is this accurate?

    • Hi Question,

      Do these articles help?

      Clery mainly deals with how crimes are reported. Any college that receives federal funding must publicly report crimes. They also can’t hinder survivors from reporting crimes. The complaint brought against Swarthmore has a couple different components (listed in the first article). In one of their complaints, they argue that Swarthmore has a hostile environment that prevents survivors from reporting their assaults. This drifts into Title IX regulations, which states that Colleges who fail to adequately respond to sexual assault are creating a hostile environment that infringes on students’ equal rights to an education. This is where the demarcations between Clery Act and Title IX blur.

      For clarification. You mention police, and that’s a bit different. Sexual assaults that are reported to law enforcement and not to the College may not be listed in the Clery report. According to Chris Krebs, who co-authored the study on sexual assault cited by the “Dear Colleague” letter, it would be possible to have a full blown trial for a rape or sexual assault and not have it show up on the Clery report if no one reports that assault to a college official.

      Hope this helps.


      Max Nesterak ’13
      Co-Editor in Chief

  2. I’m curious as to why this happened in front of Independence Hall. Anybody know? Also where there any media outlets present besides the DG?

    • i heard (third-hand) that the press corps didn’t want to come out to swat because it’s private property and they can’t film on campus..

  3. So I don’t really know how the law works, but in the article, it says:

    “Department of Education investigations are now the best way and only way for Swarthmore College to understand its pervasive institutional problems…”

    Again, I have no idea what I’m talking about, but isn’t sexual assault a crime? If the college is covering up assault of any kind, should there be an extensive criminal investigation, rather than a complaint?

  4. Does the College actively tell victims of sexual assault not to call the police and report the crimes?

  5. “A video of the press conference, along with interviews with attendees, will be uploaded later today.”

    Why don’t I believe you?

    • Dear Skepticism,

      We’ve finished the video, but our Final Cut Pro is acting up and won’t let us export. We need to do some more trouble-shooting.


      Max Nesterak ’13
      Co-Editor in Chief

  6. How many sexual assaults occur at Swarthmore each day? 2? 5? 10?

    Do you (those holding the press conference) consider the risk there comparable to other parts of Philadelphia? Newark? Chicago?

    Why do you think so many rapists attend Swarthmore, or are some of these perpetrators from outside of the College attendees?

    Sounds very dangerous there, and once the statistics are compiled the rate should be very interesting to compare.

    • Uhm: So are you saying that students at Swarthmore become rapists after they enroll because the sexual assault culture is so prevalent? Are there certain subsets that embrace this rape culture more, such as domestic vs international students?

      How are you compiling your statistics, are you using the total Swarthmore population, or just females as the victims? Also, do you think that most sexual assaults are perpetuated by a few students, or by several?How many are by nonstudents? How many women suffer multiple sexual assaults?

    • Even if “only” 1 student a year were raped, the school still has to be in compliance with Title IX and the Clery Act. Even if no students were raped, the school has a duty to follow the law.

      How many rapes would be enough for your concern?

    • Maybe if any victim ever at swarthmore reported assault to the police, assaulters wouldn’t feel so “condoned.”

      For real, this is a crime our laws are in place, in part, to deter. If we never make use of the criminal system, we lose the deterrence.

    • @uhm. You are taking things way out of context in a way that is inappropriate. Your statistics are based on the united states population which covers such a range of cultures and locales that it would be very difficult to compare in any helpful way even if it weren’t completely and fundamentally rendered inaccurate by low reporting. Furthermore, swarthmore (though it’s administration has failed it’s students) is less of a rape culture than anywhere else I have personally been (which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to be ever better). The fact that we even have had consent workshops is a big deal. The fact that Mia and hope are publicly talking about the clery and title ix complaints is a big deal. Back home, people would laugh you off the street if you suggested you had been assaulted by a friend, or would explain to you that it wasn’t really rape because you didn’t physically fight back, or would tell you that as a drunk girl you were kind of asking for it. The truth is we are enormously privileged here to have access to the support and information we do. And I would like to emphasize that it’s not enough– that we should constantly work to be better because one assault is one too many. But this is not a rape culture and accusing it of fundamentally being one undermines the attempts of students to create a safe and supportive culture. Last thing– people do not turn into rapists. No one wakes up saying I think I’ll go assault someone today! Perpetrators have committed an intolerable act and are fully responsible for what they’ve done but perpetrators are not fundamentally rapists. They are people. Often people who have fucked up in a way that is inexcusable but maybe people who can learn maybe people who can become part of the struggle to increase access to information maybe people who are willing to work to prevent other futures from looking like their own past. How can that possibly happen if we label them forever as rapist.

  7. For the students filing the complain, have any of you read up on Naomi Wolf’s experience with renown professor Harold Bloom at Yale? This might be helpful. I know the perpetration is peer to peer, but this article deals with the silence.

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