The number of federal investigations into college handling of sexual violence reports jumped 50 percent in the past six months, reflecting a surge of discrimination claims and the difficulty of resolving high-profile cases that can drag on for years, the Washington Post reports. On May 1, the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights released the first public list of colleges and universities under scrutiny for possible violations of federal law in their responses to sexual violence allegations. At the time, 59 cases were pending at 55 schools. As of this week, 89 cases are pending at 85 schools.
Eight cases are more than three years old, including one at the University of Virginia, one at Harvard Law School and one at Princeton University. The rising total poses challenges for the Obama administration as it seeks to lead a national campaign against sexual assault on campuses. Catherine Lhamon, assistant education secretary for civil rights, said more students are turning to her office for help as they have become aware that the government is willing to intervene to guarantee fair treatment. Some higher education officials wonder why the government can't move more quickly. Lhamon said her staff has shrunk to 544 full-time positions this year from 619 in 2011 as its workload has grown.