OSU regents approve changes on notifying police of sexual assault allegations
BY SAMANTHA VICENT World Correspondent
Saturday, March 02, 2013
3/02/13 at 7:41 AM
See the reports:
Read the findings of the OSU regents’ task force and the independent review of the university’s
investigation into sexual assault allegations.
tulsaworld.com/osuspecialcounselreportOriginal Print Headline: OSU regents approve task force revisions
STILLWATER - The Board of Regents for the Oklahoma A&M Colleges unanimously adopted recommendations presented Friday by the Policies and Procedures Review Task Force, which include a provision requiring administrators to notify law enforcement about sexual assault allegations.
The group, created in July in response to an investigation into the Penn State sexual abuse scandal, completed a comprehensive review of the regents' policies, practices and procedures for several institutions, including Oklahoma State University, task force chairman Tucker Link said during the regents' regular meeting.
"We wanted to make sure our policies indicate clearly that illegal, immoral or unethical conduct or actions which violate institutional policy will not be tolerated," he said.
In November, student conduct personnel received complaints from five students who alleged former student Nathan Cochran assaulted them on and off campus in Stillwater. On Nov. 30, a panel found Cochran responsible for four sexual misconduct violations and suspended him from the university until Jan. 1, 2016, but administrators, citing federal privacy laws as a defense, did not turn Cochran's identity over to campus or local police until Dec. 11.
The Stillwater Police Department only learned of the allegations Dec. 6 from a reporter with The Daily O'Collegian, OSU's student newspaper.
On Dec. 13, OSU President Burns Hargis called for the task force to review the university's handling of sexual misconduct claims involving Cochran, who faces four sexual battery charges in Payne County District Court and is free on a $100,000 bond. Later that month, the task force announced it had hired Dallas-based attorney James Sears Bryant to complete an independent investigation.
In his final report, Bryant concluded OSU administrators publicly misinterpreted the Federal Educational Rights Privacy Act when talking to media about their decision not to give Cochran's name to police, calling their defense "misguided" and pointing to various exemptions in the law. However, FERPA did not require OSU to provide the information to law enforcement and no laws were broken during the process, Bryant said.
Link also expanded on the newly created independent advocate position, another product of the task force review. The advocate would assist assault victims in many areas, from reporting allegations to finding counseling services, and would report to regents CEO Jason Ramsey, Link said.
Also during Friday's meeting, the regents approved a policy pertaining to minors who participate in OSU-related activities and programs. All adults who work with minors must complete university-approved training relating to interaction, protection and reporting misconduct, according to the meeting agenda. The policy also sets several standards on proper behavior and bars adults from being alone with minors, with few exceptions.
Hargis said OSU would promptly implement the changes the regents adopted on Friday.
"The task force created an opportunity for us to have a serious conversation on how best to handle sexual misconduct situations in the future," he said. "The task force was efficient in carrying out its charge ... We will not tolerate misconduct and will vigorously investigate claims as we follow the revised policies and procedures."
Tucker Link: "We wanted to make sure ... actions that violate our policies will not be tolerated."