Stillwater News Press

December 13, 2012

Stillwater police captain 'stunned' by university's response to assault complaints

Oklahoma State University president creates task force to review procedures

By Russell Hixson
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Stillwater Police Capt. Randy Dickerson said he was "stunned" by Oklahoma State University's defense of why police were not notified when five students filed sexual misconduct complaints against Nathan Cochran.

Cochran, 22,  has been charged with three counts of sexual battery. Cochran has been arrested and made his first court appearance on Thursday.

Oklahoma State University Vice President Gary Clark said Wednesday the school was bound by the Family Educational and Privacy Act to not contact police.

Universities can override this if there is a health or safety emergency. Clark said the school determined this was not the case with Cochran.

Dickerson said that five students  coming forward and accusing one person of sexual assault should have met the criteria for police involvement.

"The decision to notify law enforcement at that time was certainly available to Oklahoma State University through exceptions in FERPA," Dickerson said, "They made the decision not to notify police, which is their call to make, however; to attempt to justify this by saying this man is not a threat to other students is quite honestly, a huge misunderstanding of this case."

Dickerson said police have been in contact with five or six victims to initiate criminal investigations and these are not the same five who came forward to OSU. He said there is also a large volume of direct or indirect information leading police to believe a significant number of victims are not willing to disclose sexual assaults that were committed to them.

 OSU President Burns Hargis announced Thursday he is calling for a task force review of the university's handling of the incidents.

 "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," Hargis said.