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Sexual assault policy changes are likely for Oklahoma State University, regents chairman says

by Silas Allen Published: January 9, 2013

— Policy changes are likely in store for Oklahoma State University, no matter the outcome of an upcoming review of the university's handling of a series of alleged sexual assaults.

Andy Lester, chairman of the Board of Regents for Oklahoma State University and the A&M Colleges, said he expects a regents task force to recommend changes at OSU and the other four institutions the board oversees.

The task force is reviewing university officials' response to reports of sexual assaults involving a now-suspended OSU student. Nathan Cochran, 22, faces four charges of sexual battery for three incidents in which Cochran allegedly targeted male students while they slept.

University officials learned of the assault reports on Nov. 12, but concerns over federal student privacy laws led them not to share this information with police. Instead, they held conduct hearings resulting in a decision to suspend Cochran from the university for three years beginning with the end of the fall 2012 semester.

Stillwater police eventually learned of the alleged assaults through OSU's student newspaper.

The task force was formed last summer in response to the sex abuse scandal at Penn State University. Originally, the committee was assigned to review the board's policies and those of the five institutions it governs, and make changes to prevent a similar situation from arising here.

After the sexual assault reports came to light, OSU President Burns Hargis asked the task force to review the university's handling of the situation, as well.

Even before the allegations came to light, Lester said, the task force was likely to recommend policy changes. For the most part, he said, the policies that are now in force needed little amending. But no policy should be static, he said.

Lester wouldn't elaborate on what those changes would be but said he had originally hoped to have a report ready for the board's Jan. 25 meeting. Now, Lester said, the task force isn't likely to meet that deadline. He said he wouldn't speculate about when the task force's report may be complete.

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by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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