BY World's Editorials Writers
Friday, December 14, 2012
12/14/12 at 2:45 AM
We hope that Oklahoma State University officials will rethink a policy that delayed for almost a month a police investigation into a series of alleged sexual assaults against male students by another male student, now suspended from the school.
Nathan Michael Cochran, 22, who was suspended by OSU over allegations that he sexually assaulted at least four students, was charged Wednesday with three counts of sexual battery.
Stillwater police have spoken with six possible victims and they believe there may be others. Check Wednesday's and Thursday's editions of the Tulsa World for details in the case.
OSU officials learned of at least some of the allegations as early as Nov. 12 and campus disciplinary actions apparently were taken against Cochran on Nov. 30.
But OSU officials did not notify Stillwater police that possible felony offenses may have occurred on campus. Instead, they gave the students involved instructions on how to notify police and encouraged them to do so, but apparently, none did.
OSU officials first said the Federal Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) prevented them from directly notifying police, but that apparently isn't the case. They later said they decided not to notify police out of respect for the accusers' privacy.
Stillwater only began their investigation into the incidents on Dec. 7, after a reporter for the OSU campus newspaper inquired about the allegations.
The alleged incidents obviously put OSU officials in a tight spot. But they have to balance the privacy of possible victims, who naturally aren't anxious to be identified, against their obligation to protect all of the students on campus. Parents who send their teenage children off to any university would not be comforted by the knowledge that allegations of serious criminal misconduct were not turned over to the proper law enforcement authorities.
OSU officials ought to re-examine their policies and their interpretation of the federal law. If the law does indeed prevent them from reporting allegations of serious crimes, then the state's congressional delegation should be called upon to change it.