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Office of Student Conflict Resolution releases report

By Austen Hufford, Daily News Editor
Published February 26, 2013

An annual report released by the University’s primary discipline unit for students shows a marked increase in the number of sexual misconduct cases investigated internally by the University, even though the total number of disciplinary cases handled decreased. The increase follows an August 2011 federal mandate and the subsequent implementation of a new interim sexual misconduct allegation policy.

The number of sexual assault and sexual harassment reports handled through the University’s internal disciplinary process increased from three to 62 between the 2011 to 2012 academic year, when the policy went into effect, and the year prior, according to a newly released report from the Office of Student Conflict Resolutions, which is responsible for dealing with non-academic violations of the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

The 2011 to 2012 annual report detailed 497 reported violations of the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities during the year, which is a 7-percent drop from the 537 received during the 2010 to 2011 academic year.

The Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities — which students agree to as a condition of enrollment — details rules and procedures University students must follow. The statement explicitly lays out 21 broad categories of violations, such as “illegally possessing or using alcohol” and “sexually assaulting another person.” Not all violations are legal offenses.

OSCR investigates, determines guilt and sentences individuals who violate all non-academic violations of the statement, such as destruction of property. OSCR can sentence individuals to a variety of non-legal punishments, such as suspension from the University and substance abuse classes. In cases in which police are also investigating, OSCR’s punishments are independent from any legal consequences that may be handed down by the criminal justice system.

In cases of sexual nature, such as sexual harassment or stalking, OSCR refers cases to the University’s Office of Institutional Equity for investigation. If guilt is determined by OIE, an appropriate sentencing is handed down by OSCR.

The report covers violations between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 and lists all reported violations of the statement, including cases where the student was eventually found not guilty.

However, University officials say there is no evidence to indicate an increase of sexual misconduct on campus. While the timeframe is different — calendar year versus academic year — there were decreases in both sexual assaults reported to University Police and the Sexual Assault and Awareness Center between 2010 and 2011, according to the University’s Annual Security Report.

In April 2011, the U.S. Department of Education asked colleges nationwide to update their sexual misconduct policies to better comply with Title IX, a federal statute that forbids sexual discrimination at universities that receive federal funding.

Under the former sexual misconduct policy, individuals who reported sex crimes had to file a formal complaint in order for OSCR to investigate. The interim policy, implemented on Aug. 19, requires the University to investigate all claims of sexual misconduct it receives. A permanent policy is expected to be implemented later this calendar year.

The interim policy states that sexual misconduct allegations that “become known to the University” must go through the investigative process.

Currently, staff and faculty members are encouraged, but not required, to report sexual misconduct allegations to the University. OSCR Director Jay Wilgus said this might change in the permanent policy, which may outline which employees are responsible for reporting.