The board that oversees Oklahoma State University has hired an outside attorney to assist with a review of the school's response to reports of sexual assaults, education leaders announced Wednesday.
Dallas-based attorney James Sears Bryant will assist the Board of Regents for Oklahoma State University and the A&M Colleges as it investigates the university's response to reports of sexual assaults. Nathan Cochran, a former OSU student, faces sexual battery charges.
Bryant works in the Dallas office of national law firm Wilson Esler, where he specializes in higher education and sports law.
NewsOK Search: Read complete coverage on the sexual assaults
In 2008, he led an independent investigation into a sexual misconduct case at the University of Iowa. In that case, a female student reported being sexually assaulted by two University of Iowa football players. The woman was later subject to intimidation and retaliation by other student athletes.
In that investigation, Bryant reported the university failed to adequately protect the woman from retaliation.
In a statement, Board of Regents Chairman Andy Lester, an Edmond attorney, said he has known Bryant for 30 years and has confidence in his work.
“I am familiar with his work both from having practiced law with him and from following the investigation he led in a sexual misconduct matter at the University of Iowa,” Lester said. “He has an excellent reputation for his diligence, thoroughness and integrity.”
Scope of the review
Lester said the board wouldn't know the cost of hiring Bryant until the scope of the review had been formalized and defined.
“While managing the costs associated with this review is critically important to the regents, we also desire to obtain the best qualified expert to advise us on this serious matter,” he said.“We are confident in Mr. Bryant and his ability to expedite a timely and efficient review.”
On Dec. 13, OSU President Burns Hargis called for an investigation into the university's response to the alleged assaults after OSU officials handled the reports as an academic matter rather than notifying police.
OSU student Nathan Cochran, 22, faces three counts of sexual battery in a case police first learned about Dec. 6 through the university's student newspaper. The allegations involve two male students who reported being targeted by Cochran after they had fallen asleep.
Cochran pleaded not guilty to all three charges Dec. 13. Cochran is free on $100,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing Monday in Payne County District Court.
University officials learned of the assault reports Nov. 12, but they said 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.