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Oklahoma Senate: Bill would require university officials to notify police about sexual assault

BY SILAS ALLEN Modified: January 26, 2013 at 8:07 pm •  Published: January 27, 2013

A third victim told police Cochran placed his hands on the man’s leg and lower back and tried to place his hands inside the man’s pants while the man tried to sleep.

According to the court documents, Cochran told the victim he wanted to know what it was like to be with a man sexually.

Stillwater police have said they think victims could number into the dozens, with incidents occurring on campus, elsewhere in Stillwater and in Tahlequah.

University officials learned of the assault reports Nov. 12, but never contacted police, citing concerns about the Federal Educational Rights Privacy Act, or FERPA. Instead, they held conduct hearings and decided to suspend Cochran from the university for three years beginning with the end of the fall 2012 semester.

Police opened an investigation into the sexual assault cases Dec. 7, after a reporter from the campus newspaper contacted them with questions about the incidents.

That investigation began 3½ weeks after OSU officials became aware of the matter.

The Board of Regents for Oklahoma State University and the A&M Colleges announced last month a board task force would review the university’s handling of the case at the request of OSU President Burns Hargis.

Privacy limits

OSU officials have continued to defend their handling of the case against criticism from a number of quarters, including the Student Press Law Center and the Stillwater Police Department. Ivester said he doesn’t think FERPA would have prevented university officials from calling police, as they have claimed.

“I just respectfully disagree,” he said. “My interpretation of FERPA is different than how OSU handled it.”

Ivester said he hopes OSU officials will support the bill, which he thinks would enhance campus safety and allow municipal police to work more easily with campus law enforcement.

“I’m hopeful they’ll jump on board with it,” Ivester said. “They would be wise to.”

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