OSU did not tell police of sexual assault allegations - ocolly.com : Crime

OSU did not tell police of sexual assault allegations

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Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012 12:00 am

Oklahoma State University’s student conduct office did not notify local law enforcement of its investigation into multiple sexual assault allegations.

On Thursday, The Daily O’Collegian received an anonymous email claiming a former member of FarmHouse fraternity has committed more than 10 assaults on new fraternity members. On Thursday night, Stillwater Police Capt. Randy Dickerson said he was unaware of the events described in the email.

However, after speaking with university sources on Friday morning, Dickerson said he learned OSU’s student conduct office knew about “several occurrences” similar to those described in the anonymous email and investigated them. Dickerson decided to open a criminal investigation later that day.

On Friday night, Dickerson said Stillwater police investigators have spoken to two men who claim to be victims of varying sexual assaults.

“We have been provided information leading the Stillwater Police Department to believe there are numerous possible victims and that many alleged assaults committed by one suspect have been perpetrated in several jurisdictions, including Stillwater,” he said. “We will continue our investigation, working with other affected jurisdictional agencies as appropriate.”

On Monday, Dickerson said the alleged assaults may have happened in Tahlequah in addition to on and off-campus in Stillwater. He said he is working on informing law enforcement in each jurisdiction.

When FarmHouse became aware of the allegations, chapter members immediately notified the Interfraternity Council and student conduct officials, FarmHouse president Nick Jordan said Friday. Jordan said the student accused of the assaults is no longer a member of the fraternity and that none of the alleged assaults took place inside the chapter house.

OSU Director of Communications Gary Shutt confirmed that student conduct completed an investigation into an incident on Nov. 30 but did not specify what the allegations were. The incident was reported Nov. 12, he said.

“In anything that comes to student conduct, they determine whether law enforcement needs to be contacted,” Shutt said. “Police were not notified, but it was the students’ decision not to notify them at that time.”

During the student conduct investigation, five students came forward with information against the former fraternity member, he said.

Shutt also said information pertaining to the incident is protected by FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Claiming protection under the act, Shutt declined to release the names of any of the parties involved in the investigation or provide details as to the student conduct board’s decision.

An amendment to the FERPA guidelines says the act shall not prohibit universities from disclosing final results of a disciplinary proceeding if the accused student is an alleged perpetrator of any crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense, which includes incest and statutory rape.

Disciplinary files maintained by student conduct are otherwise protected by FERPA, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

OSU’s student conduct website says it may disclose hearing outcomes if a student is a perpetrator of such crimes but will not release information regarding alleged victims or witnesses.

Student conduct panel member and SGA Supreme Court Justice Ben Copelin said he did not know about the investigation or allegations until Friday. The student conduct panel is comprised of 10 faculty, 10 staff and 10 students, but only one member of each group is needed to hold disciplinary hearings, according to the student code of conduct handbook.

In light of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal, the OSU/A&M Board of Regents formed a Policies and Procedures Review Task Force earlier this year to conduct a “comprehensive review” of board and institutional policies and to recommend appropriate changes, regents chairman Andy Lester said Sunday via email.

“Although no time limit was imposed on the Task Force to complete its work, I am hopeful it will make its recommendations so that the Board of Regents will be able to consider them at the next regular meeting                  (January 25,in Okmulgee at OSU-IT),” Lester said.

Lester said was aware of the assault allegations but was unfamiliar with the details of the situation.

“They are serious and warrant a full investigation,” he said. “It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the facts of an ongoing investigation.”

The news about OSU’s handling of the reports has drawn negative reactions from students.

Steven Skiba, a psychology senior, said student conduct’s decision to not report the incident to authorities is disappointing and indicates a failure of the system.

“I would like to see some investigation into that and possibly a revision of the system in place,” he said. “This is something that should not happen regularly.”

Bobby Mizell, a recreation management senior, said the situation has hurt OSU’s Greek community.

“With the stuff that happened with Jerry Sandusky at Penn State, this was not a good idea,” he said. “The situation should have been turned over to authorities and handled faster.”

Mizell said he thinks not notifying police was the wrong thing to do.

“My concern is how we keep the Greek community and students safe,” he said.

Dickerson has not since released additional updates about the investigation but said he would provide more information on Monday.

Dickerson requests anyone with knowledge of the allegations call Stillwater PD at 405- 742-8287.