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OSU president calls for investigation into how sex assault complaints were handled

Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis is calling for an investigation into how sex assault complaints were handled after a 22-year-old student was charged with sexual battery.

BY SILAS ALLEN Published: December 14, 2012
/articleid/3737384/1/pictures/1907420">Photo - Burns Hargis Oklahoma State University president
Burns Hargis Oklahoma State University president

Stillwater police Capt. Randy Dickerson said he was “stunned” when he read Clark’s comments. He said that after five students told university officials they had been sexually assaulted, university officials could have turned the case over to police through an exception in the law.

“I would certainly draw the conclusion that one suspect who had sexually assaulted five young men might be considered a threat to other students,” Dickerson said.

“They made the decision not to notify police, which is their call to make, however to attempt to justify this by saying this man is not a threat to other students is quite honestly, a huge misunderstanding of this case.”

Dickerson said police have been in contact with “numerous” alleged victims in the case. Not all of the alleged victims have been willing to file a police report, he said, but about five have cooperated with police. Police think there are more victims who aren’t willing to discuss their cases, Dickerson said.

Dickerson said he also takes issue with Clark’s contention that police couldn’t have used information about Cochran’s identity without information about victims. Although it’s difficult to say what information may have been helpful at the time, Dickerson said police opened their investigation after speaking only with a student newspaper reporter and fraternity members. Cochran was a member of the FarmHouse fraternity.

After police launched the investigation, several men quickly came forward to tell police they’d been sexually assaulted.

“Obviously, Mr. Clark and I have a difference of opinion on some aspects of this investigation,” Dickerson said.

Students’ concerns

On campus Thursday, OSU senior Robert Jones, 21, said he’s concerned about the sexual assault reports. He heard about the incidents Dec. 7 through word-of-mouth, he said.

A member of Pi Kappa Alpha, Jones said he initially thought the accusations were intended to slander a fraternity member but quickly realized how serious the situation was as the case developed.

Jones said he has concerns about the way OSU had handled the situation up to this point. In particular, he said, he found it troubling that officials hadn’t contacted the police. He compared the incident to the sex abuse scandal at Penn State, in which several high-level school officials were charged with perjury or fired for failing to notify police about the incidents.

“I really feel like that’s exactly what Oklahoma State did,” he said.

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