Three current and former female students have sued the University of California at Berkeley, charging that the school failed to properly respond to their sexual assault complaints and that administrators didn't act quickly enough or adequately penalise attackers.

The civil suit accuses college regents of "deliberate indifference" in three 2012 cases. It also accuses the board of discrimination, fraud and failure to properly educate students about sexual misconduct and enact policies to handle and prevent such behavior, reports the Los Angeles Times.

"They absolutely failed to respond to these charges in any manner that could be considered adequate," said Irwin M. Zalkin, an attorney for the plaintiffs. "There was deliberate and utter indifference to these girls."

Berkeley officials are withholding comment until they examine the case. But a spokeswoman did say that a state audit found that Berkeley's handling of sexual assault and harassment cases in 2013-14 were "reasonable and that sanctions were appropriate given the severity of the incidents."

Sex assaults and harassment on US college campuses is a mounting problem, and federal law enforcement officials are examining specific universities across the nation and how they have handled complaints from students.

University of California officials unveiled a plan last year to combat sexual misconduct in the entire system after pressure from the White House.