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A&M Board of Regents Releases Task Force and Special Counsel Findings and Recommendations for Institutional Policies and Procedures PDF  | Print |
Monday, 25 February 2013 21:09

The Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical Colleges today announced the release of a report from a task force that performed a comprehensive review of the policies, practices, and procedures of the Board of Regents and the higher-education institutions it governs.  The Board of Regents also released a report by outside special counsel that reviewed Oklahoma State University’s recent handling of alleged sexual misconduct by a student.  


Andy Lester, Chairman of the Regents, called for the Policy and Procedures Review Task Force last July in the wake of the release of the “Freeh Report” regarding tragic incidents that took place on the campus of Penn State University. 

The task force, which was chaired by Regent Tucker Link, reviewed applicable institutional and Board of Regents policies, practices, and procedures and made recommendations that will be considered for approval by the Board of Regents March 1. 

The task force recommends adoption of five new policies, as well as revisions to a variety of policies throughout the entire Board Policy Manual.  However, the majority of emphasis and time was spent reviewing policies related to campus safety and security.

Regent Chair Andy Lester said, “I am pleased at the work of the task force.  The Board of Regents will not tolerate illegal, immoral, or unethical conduct or actions that violate our policies.  I am confident the task force’s work will help accomplish that objective.  These policies exhibit our commitment to strengthen campus safety, to handle any misconduct swiftly and appropriately, and to provide transparency in how our institutions are governed.”

Regent Tucker Link said, “The task force members worked diligently to complete our review and make recommendations.  Student safety is our priority.  These recommendations will strengthen and enhance how our institutions handle campus safety matters.”

OSU President Burns Hargis said, “I appreciate the work of the Board of Regents and the task force.  We look forward to quickly implementing policy recommendations that the board approves.  This administration is fully supportive of any changes and enhancements that will make our campus safer.”

Some of the most significant recommendations of the task force include requiringeach institution to implement policies to protect minors involved with institutionally sponsored activities and programs, as well as activities and programs by third parties that use any property or facility of the institutions. 

Additionally, the task force adopted two recommendations that were a result of the special counsel report that will require each institution to promptly notify appropriate law enforcement officials of any allegations of sexual assault, and to retain an independent advocate for victims of alleged sexual assault.

The special counsel report was commissioned in December 2012 after OSU President Burns Hargis asked the task force to assess OSU’s handling of highly publicized sexual assaults reported by students to the university Student Conduct Education and Administration office. 

The Regents employed outside special counsel, James Sears Bryant, to advise them during the process.  Bryant, who is from Oklahoma and is a former prosecutor and district judge, led an independent investigation into a high profile sexual assault case for the University of Iowa Board of Regents in 2008. He works in the Dallas office of the national law firm, Wilson Elser.

Bryant’s review found that OSU’s reporting of sexual assaults at the conclusion of internal misconduct hearings did not violate any state or federal laws.  However, Bryant found in public responses to the media university staff misinterpreted applicable federal laws regarding the reporting of sexual assaults. 

James Bryant said, “OSU did not violate any state or federal laws in their handling of the matter, nor did they violate any of their own policies or procedures.  However, during discussions with the media they incorrectly asserted the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) didn’t allow them to report these alleged incidents until internal hearings were concluded.  FERPA clearly allows reporting of potential crimes at any time.”

Bryant interviewed four of the six student-complainants whose cases prompted the task force to enlarge its work.  The complainants shared their impressions of the processes involved in their individual cases and made recommendations for future policy changes.  The student-complainants spoke of the concern, sensitivity and responsiveness expressed by the members of the student conduct office.  Bryan also interviewed OSU administrators.  The administrators recounted their role in the handling of sexual assault cases under review and shared their recommendations for policy and procedure changes.

Regent Lester said, “I deeply appreciate the work of Mr. Bryant and his colleagues in helping us to quickly and thoroughly understand the facts and applicable laws surrounding these incidents.  His policy recommendations that all alleged sexual assaults be promptly reported to law enforcement, and that institutions should retain victim advocates, were well received by the task force.  We have included those recommendations in our report to the Board of Regents, which I trust will be promptly approved.”

The following are the members of the task force:  

Members

·       Tucker Link (CHAIR, TASK FORCE), Vice Chairman, Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical Colleges

·       Andy Lester, Chairman, Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical Colleges

·       Joe Weaver, Vice President for Administration and Finance, OSU

·       Jamie Payne, Assistant Vice President, Administration and Finance, Human Resources, OSU

·       Mike Bale, Director of Risk Management, OSU

·       Denise Weaver, Executive Assistant to the Provost and Senior Vice President, OSU

·       Michael Robinson, Chief Public Safety Officer, Police Department, OSU

·       Ken Bartels, Chair, Faculty Council, OSU

·       Flint Holbrook, President, Student Government Association, OSU

·       Ron Ramming, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Connors State College

·       Kevin Fite, Associate Athletic Director, Compliance, NCAA Compliance, OSU