Stillwater News Press

Local News

December 12, 2012

Oklahoma State University defends decision to not notify police of sexual misconduct allegations

STILLWATER, Okla. — Wednesday, Oklahoma State University officials defended the university’s decision not to notify police after the Office of Student Conduct Education and Administration received sex-crime allegations involving a student.

Five victims filed complaints against student Nathan Cochran, 22, of Stillwater in November. Wednesday, criminal charges were filed against Cochran.

He was found responsible for four incidents of sexual misconduct by the Office of Student Conduct on Dec. 3, and given a three-year suspension and ordered not to contact any of the victims.

He was found not responsible for one of the incidents and declined to appeal the rulings.

A joint-criminal investigation involving Stillwater, OSU and Tahlequah police is under way. Stillwater police launched its investigation on Dec. 7, a month after FarmHouse fraternity asked OSU how to report allegations of sexual misconduct to the university.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Oklahoma State University Vice President and General Counsel Gary Clark said the school acted swiftly and within the confines of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

“Even though we encouraged (victims) to go to the police that’s not our place to force them,” he said. “They have a privacy right.”

Several victims have gone to the police. Clark said he does not think those who have contacted police are the same five who filed complaints with Student Conduct. Clark said these victims were encouraged at least three times to contact police.

Clark said one student frantically called the school when articles about the incidents began to be published.

“He said, ‘You haven’t given my name to the police have you? Because my dad would kill me,’ and so he was very alarmed at that possibility,” Clark said.

Clark said he contacted the Department of Education to ensure the law was followed.

The only instance a school would be allowed to release the names of witnesses or victims is if there is a health or safety emergency. Clark said the Office of Student Conduct determined this was not the case with Cochran.

The determination was made because some of the incidents occurred 18 months prior to being reported and all the victims were acquainted with Cochran.

Cochran, Clark said, had not been on campus for several weeks.

Clark said the earliest the school could have released Cochran’s name, what he was responsible for doing and sanctions,  if it wanted, would have been Dec. 3 when victims’ hearings were completed and a decision had been reached.

However, Clark said the school waited until the appeal process was over as it views a “final” decision as one that cannot be appealed.

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