STILLWATER — An Oklahoma State University student has been suspended after an investigation into a series of sexual assaults on male students, the school announced Tuesday.
Nathan Cochran, 22, was suspended for three years beginning at the end of the current semester, and ordered to have no contact with any of the complainants in the case, OSU officials said. The current semester ends Friday.
He has not been charged with a crime.
Stillwater police are investigating a string of alleged sexual assaults involving the FarmHouse fraternity at OSU. A former member of the fraternity allegedly sexually assaulted an “undetermined number of young men,” some of whom were also fraternity members, Stillwater police Capt. Randy Dickerson said. Cochran is a former FarmHouse member.
The young men involved in the case described unwanted touching, oral sex and rape, Dickerson said. The incidents don't appear to be connected to the fraternity itself, he said.
“These were not hazing incidents or any type of fraternity involved event,” he said. “The allegations so far indicate one suspect acting independently to commit illegal acts on a number of victims.”
University spokesman Gary Shutt said OSU officials became aware of the case on Nov. 12, but didn't contact the police. Police learned of the case Thursday from a reporter on the school newspaper.
University officials have maintained that the Federal Education Rights Privacy Act, or FERPA, prohibited the university from contacting police about the assaults. University officials gave the alleged victims instructions on how to contact the police and encouraged them to do so. Initially, none of the alleged victims notified police, he said, but many have chosen to come forward since then.
Despite the university's claim to the contrary, an expert on federal student privacy law said Tuesday nothing in that law would have prohibited Oklahoma State University officials from notifying police of an investigation into a series of alleged sexual assaults.
LeRoy Rooker, the former head of the U.S. Department of Education's Family Policy Compliance Office, said FERPA doesn't bar university officials from notifying campus police about investigations the university administration conducts. The Family Policy Compliance Office is the federal agency responsible for administering FERPA.
When a college or university opens student conduct hearings against a student, documents from those hearings are treated as education records, he said, meaning they can't be disclosed to the general public.
However, that restriction wouldn't prevent university officials from asking campus police to begin their own investigation into the allegations.
Stillwater police opened an investigation into the alleged incidents Friday, the day after a reporter from the campus newspaper contacted the department with questions about the incidents, Dickerson said.
That investigation began about 3 ½ weeks after OSU officials became aware of the incident.
According to OSU's website, Cochran was active in the university's Interfraternity Council, having served as secretary of the council. He also served as a student director for Gundyville, a program that allows OSU students to camp near Boone Pickens Stadium before home football games.
He did not return a phone message for comment.
Dickerson said Tuesday the department had interviewed about five alleged victims in connection with the department's investigation. Although some of the alleged victims were fraternity members, he said, many others had no connection to the organization.
Police think the alleged assaults may have taken place in at least three jurisdictions: Tahlequah, Stillwater and on campus at OSU.