Report: Oklahoma State University's response to sexual assault reports was 'misguided'

by Silas Allen Modified: February 25, 2013 at 7:26 pm •  Published: February 25, 2013
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According to the report, OSU officials rejected that argument, saying a different provision in FERPA wouldn't have allowed them to turn over educational records, including those generated in student conduct hearings.

But that provision wouldn't have applied in this case, according to the report. When officials learned of the incidents, no student conduct hearings were pending, meaning no such records had been created.

“OSU could have notified the police immediately after it became aware that the sexual assaults had been committed,” the report states.

Although OSU officials misinterpreted the act, James Sears Bryant, the Board of Regents' independent counsel, said he thought they did so in good faith. Student privacy is a difficult area of law, he said, and applying the facts of any case to it can present challenges.

“What makes all law difficult is when you apply facts to it,” he said.

“Like other areas of law, there's a lot of room for interpretation.”

The report recommends the board of regents hire an independent advocate to work with sexual assault victims at all campuses in the system.

That person would make sure victims are aware of their rights and help them deal with police, medical personnel and university administrators.

That person would answer to the Board of Regents, not to the administration at any particular university, Bryant said. The advocate's duty would be to the victim, not to the institution, he said.

The report also recommends the board adopt a policy requiring officials at all colleges and universities in the system to notify police when they learn of a sexual assault on campus, on campus-owned property or against a student.

University officials wouldn't be required to identify victims without their consent.

In a separate report, the task force also laid out proposed policy changes that came about during the initial review that followed the Penn State scandal. Among those changes is a requirement that all campuses in the system adopt policies to protect minors who are involved with activities the institution sponsors.

The board is scheduled to vote on the recommendations from both reports at a meeting at 10 a.m. Friday at OSU's Student Union.

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by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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