OSU Expands Task Force To Review Handling Of Sexual Battery Allegations

Thursday, December 13th 2012, 5:03 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis announced on Thursday that he has called for a comprehensive investigation into the way the school handled recent sexual battery allegations.

Hargis has asked the OSU/A&M Board of Regents to expand a current task force which is reviewing policies, practices and procedures related to sexual misconduct, a news release said.

This week, 22-year-old student and former fraternity member Nathan Cochran was charged with three counts of sexual battery. He is currently in the Payne County jail on $100,000 bond.

12/13/2012 Oklahoma State Student Charged With Sexual Battery Appears In Court

The way the university handled the situation has come into question. The school reportedly learned of the allegations 18 days before alerting police. The alleged battery took place in November 2011 and August 2012.

School officials said federal privacy laws prohibited them from telling investigators.

OSU officials said that after the allegations surfaced, a student conduct hearing was held, which found Cochran responsible for violating the student conduct code, by sexual misconduct.

Cochran was suspended from the university for three years, effective Friday, and was ordered not to contact the alleged victims.

Hargis released this statement on Thursday:

"The seriousness of this matter warrants a focused and full investigation into how it was handled by the university. We treat sexual misconduct incidents among students at OSU as a violation of the student code of conduct, involving confidential on-campus hearings. As was the case here, students who bravely came forward knew they would have a private and safe environment in which to report allegations of sexual misconduct against another student.

I cannot say enough about the students who came forward to participate in the hearings. They did the right thing and I personally commend them. And I am also appreciative that University officials involved in the hearings repeatedly urged the students to contact the police.

Nevertheless, questions remain and we have an obligation to clear up any ambiguity, and if warranted, amend and strengthen our policies and procedures while abiding by federal laws. We cannot and do not tolerate sexual misconduct. In that regard, the task force set up by the OSU/A&M Board of Regents affords us a timely opportunity to take a deliberate and comprehensive review of the handling of this specific incident. We cannot leave any doubt that we are indeed properly and appropriately handling sexual misconduct allegations, and we must determine if we need to amend our policies and procedures to more effectively and efficiently handle these types of matters in the future."

In response to President Hargis's request, OSU/A&M Board Chair Andy Lester said the task force will include a thorough review of the handling of this particular incident.

"As I said when we formed the task force, we have an absolute responsibility to review our policies in the aftermath of Penn State," Lester said. "This is a very serious matter, and I applaud President Hargis for calling on the task force to include it in our review. We will do so in a constructive manner, ever mindful of the sensitivities and concerns of victims; but, it is also our obligation to expeditiously protect our students and community from those who are found to threaten our society with sexual misconduct."