The Obama administration's decision to call public attention to universities under investigation over sexual assault policies could be a major turning point in the fight over government transparency, prompting similar openness about probes into companies and other institutions facing federal inquiries on issues ranging from civil rights to the environment, Politico reports. It set up what could be a game-changing precedent. Virtually every government agency fields complaints that recipients of federal aid or contracts are discriminating illegally. Under the logic of the Education Department's release of the names of schools facing federal probes, those agencies could also disclose which companies or institutions are being investigated.
“I do think this suggests a potential new model,” said Gary Bass of the Bauman Foundation, which helps coordinate the drive for open government. “If you're doing it here, why not do it more broadly?” Women's rights advocates say they have been told that the disclosure policy will extend beyond the list of colleges under investigation or review over sexual violence and harassment policies to all investigations on complaints of discrimination, including probes alleging unfair treatment of women's sports programs. “My understanding is the same approach will be taken to other open investigations under Title IX or other civil rights laws the Office for Civil Rights enforces,” said Fatima Goss-Graves of the National Women's Law Center. “It certainly is a shift in the level of transparency, but I think it will work to benefit everyone in the process.”