STILLWATER — As an investigation into alleged sexual assaults at Oklahoma State University widens, a Stillwater police captain said Monday the failure of those involved to call the police could have hindered the inquiry.
But OSU officials say the university wasn't allowed to notify police of the incidents because of federal student privacy laws.
Stillwater police are investigating a string of alleged sexual assaults involving the FarmHouse fraternity at OSU. University spokesman Gary Shutt said OSU officials became aware of the alleged incidents on Nov. 12, but didn't contact police.
Shutt said the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, prohibits the university from contacting police in such cases.
University officials gave the alleged victims instructions on how to contact the police and encouraged them to do so.
None of the alleged victims notified police, he said.
Police opened an investigation into the alleged incidents Friday, after a reporter from the campus newspaper contacted the department with questions about the incidents, said Stillwater police Capt. Randy Dickerson.
That investigation began about 3 ½ weeks after OSU officials became aware of the incident.
Although he wouldn't speculate about whether this investigation had been hindered by the delay, Dickerson said investigations like this one are generally more successful if police can begin contacting witnesses, suspects and alleged victims early.
In a case where several people claim to have been the victims of possible felony sexual assaults, Dickerson said, he thinks someone familiar with the situation should have called the police.
“Absolutely, I do,” he said.
The university held student conduct hearings against a student in response to the allegations, Shutt said. Universities use student conduct hearings to address nonacademic student misconduct that may be legal or illegal, including hazing, theft and possession or sale of drugs.
During those hearings, five other students came forward to make claims against that student in the hearings, he said.
Shutt declined to name the student or say what action the university took against the accused student at the conclusion of the hearings, citing privacy restrictions.
The hearings were concluded by Nov. 30, Shutt said.
Dickerson said Monday the department had interviewed four victims as part of the investigation. Police think the alleged assaults may have taken place in at least three jurisdictions: Tahlequah, Stillwater and on campus at OSU.
Police will continue interviewing victims in the coming days, he said.
Police suspect there may be many more victims in the case who haven't come forward, Dickerson said.
“I've been made aware that there are numerous victims,” he said.
Fraternity President Nick Jordan would not give details Friday of the alleged assaults, but said the fraternity turned over the matter to the university after becoming aware of the alleged incident.
“None of the alleged actions occurred in the house, and the individual is no longer associated with us,” Jordan said.