Lawyer to oversee OSU investigation of sex-assault policy in wake of allegations
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Thursday, January 03, 2013
1/03/13 at 7:51 AM
STILLWATER - An attorney who oversaw an Iowa university's rape investigation in 2008 will advise the task force that is reviewing Oklahoma State University's investigation into sexual assault allegations against a student.
The OSU-A&M board of regents announced Wednesday that it has hired Dallas attorney James Sears Bryant as a consultant for its task force to review how administrators handled five students' allegations against Nathan Michael Cochran, 22.
Bryant led a panel commissioned by the Iowa Board of Regents to review the University of Iowa's investigation into rape allegations against two football players. The panel ruled that university officials mishandled the investigation.
OSU-A&M regent Andy Lester said in a news release Wednesday that Bryant has "an excellent reputation for his diligence, thoroughness and integrity" and will have "broad, independent latitude" in the OSU task force's review.
"Mr. Bryant's knowledge of applicable federal and Oklahoma law will help us understand the facts and identify what changes in our policies and procedures, if any, are warranted," Lester said.
Five students told OSU administrators between Nov. 12 and Nov. 28 that Cochran had sexually assaulted them while he was intoxicated, and two of them said the incidents happened on university property, according to a memo released to the Tulsa World last week.
OSU suspended Cochran for three years after discipline panels ruled Nov. 30 that four of the complaints were valid, but administrators said they did not notify police out of concern for the accusers' privacy and because they believed that the Federal Educational Rights Privacy Act prohibited it.
Cochran, a Heavener High School graduate, was secretary of OSU's Interfraternity Council and was a student director for Gundyville, a program that allows students to camp near Boone Pickens Stadium before home football games.
He was charged Dec. 12 with three counts of sexual battery in connection with a Stillwater police investigation that began after a reporter with The Daily O'Collegian, the university's student newspaper, asked officers about the allegations Dec. 6.
Police said the charges stem from two assaults that were not among those reported to administrators, and they said dozens more assaults might have occurred.
OSU President Burns Hargis asked the regents' task force on Dec. 13 to evaluate OSU's investigation, including administrators' decision not to notify the police.
The task force, led by regent Tucker Link, was created in July to review the OSU system's policies for handling sexual misconduct, with the aim of avoiding situations such as the Penn State University sex scandal.
"The decision by the Board of Regents to engage an independent adviser experienced in reviewing university sexual assault policies underscores the serious nature of this matter," Hargis said in the regents' news release.
He added that the university will cooperate with Bryant's investigation.
Bryant now works for the Dallas branch of the Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker law firm.
Original Print Headline: Lawyer to oversee OSU policy inquiry
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
Nathan Michael Cochran: He was suspended from OSU for three years after a panel validated four of the complaints against him