By Russell Hixson
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Oklahoma State University officials encouraged five students who claimed they were sexually assaulted by a FarmHouse fraternity member to talk to police, but couldn’t compel them to do so, a university spokesman said Monday.
The university’s Director of Communications Gary Shutt said the five filed allegations of sexual misconduct with the Office of Student Conduct Education and Administration, which held five hearings. The hearings concluded Nov. 30 and action was taken.
Stillwater police said Monday that its investigation has expanded to other police departments. Stillwater police believe the sexual assaults occurred in Stillwater, Tahlequah and on the Oklahoma State University campus, police spokesman Capt. Randy Dickerson said.
The OSU and Tahlequah police have been notified and a joint investigation is starting, Dickerson said. Stillwater police will assist the other departments to set up interviews and all three will exchange information.
A FarmHouse fraternity spokesman said no assaults occurred at the fraternity’s OSU chapter house. They didn’t happen at a fraternity event or as part of its new member education program. The student is no longer a member of FarmHouse fraternity.
The five students lodged their allegations with the OSU Office of Student Conduct Education and Administration on Nov. 12, Shutt said.
“There were five student conduct hearings,” Shutt said. “They have concluded and action has been taken.”
Student Conduct Education and Administration investigates violations of the Student Code of Conduct, including sexual misconduct, according to the office’s website.
Shutt said the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prevents university officials from notifying police about the sexual assaults.
The actions and results of the hearings will remain sealed because of the privacy act until the appeal period has expired and results are final, Shutt said.
According to the university’s code of conduct a student has seven days to appeal.
“Oklahoma State University took the allegations very seriously and took immediate action,” Shutt said.
Stillwater police have been investigating the allegations since they came to light Thursday after OSU’s student newspaper received an anonymous email.
FarmHouse International Fraternity Executive Director Chad E. Harris said the chapter’s investigation and response was appropriate.
“The safety and security of our members is of vital concern and is of the utmost importance to our organization,” Harris said. “As such, we are taking this matter very seriously.”
The behavior isn’t condoned by FarmHouse, Harris said. He also praised the manner in which Oklahoma State University handled the situation.
Dickerson encouraged victims to contact the Stillwater Police Department at 405-742-8385.