STILLWATER — Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis called for an investigation Thursday into the way the school handled sexual assault complaints involving a student accused of groping male students.
That student, Nathan Cochran, 22, was charged Wednesday with three counts of sexual battery in a case police first learned about on Dec. 6 through the university's student newspaper.
The school learned of the complaints on Nov. 12 but handled the case as an academic matter and never notified police. The school ultimately decided to suspend Cochran, beginning Friday. School officials have said that federal privacy laws led them not to report the case to police.
Hargis has asked that Andy Lester, chairman of the OSU/A&M Board of Regents, conduct the investigation through a task force that was set up over the summer to review policies regarding sexual misconduct in the wake of the sexual misconduct scandal involving former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.
Hargis said the school must clear up questions on how Cochran's case was handled “and if warranted, amend and strengthen our policies and procedures while abiding by federal laws.”
“We cannot and do not tolerate sexual misconduct,” Hargis said. “In that regard, the task force set up by the OSU/A&M Board of Regents affords us a timely opportunity to take a deliberate and comprehensive review of the handling of this specific incident. We cannot leave any doubt that we are indeed properly and appropriately handling sexual misconduct allegations, and we must determine if we need to amend our policies and procedures to more effectively and efficiently handle these types of matters in the future.”
Lester said the task force will do a thorough review:
“As I said when we formed the task force, we have an absolute responsibility to review our policies in the aftermath of Penn State. This is a very serious matter, and I applaud President Hargis for calling on the task force to include it in our review. We will do so in a constructive manner, ever mindful of the sensitivities and concerns of victims; but, it is also our obligation to expeditiously protect our students and community from those who are found to threaten our society with sexual misconduct.”