University Hides Sexual Assaults from Campus Through Privacy Law

You would expect your child’s university to notify the campus if one or more sexual assaults had been reported on campus. That’s a dangerous assumption for anyone with a child at Oklahoma State University, which just “won” the Society of Professional Journalists’ Black Hole Award. The Oklahoman reports:

OSU received the award for officials’ decision not to notify police or the public about a series of alleged sexual assaults on campus. At the time, OSU officials repeatedly said they weren’t able to do so because of restrictions under the [Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act], commonly known as FERPA.

In a statement, Don Meyers, a member of the society’s freedom of information committee, called that claim “the textbook definition of egregious.”

“If a municipal police force had pulled that shenanigan, they’d be in trouble on multiple fronts,” he said. …

Former OSU student Nathan Cochran, 22, faces four counts of sexual battery in Payne County in connection with three incidents reported as occurring between Nov. 3, 2011, and Aug. 15.

Students’ debt problems, rising tuition and grim job prospects have understandably taken the lion’s share of attention to what’s happening at colleges and universities in the U.S., but there’s a lot more happening at these schools that should concern everyone.

If First Amendment and transparency issues in college interest you, I recommend following the Student Press Law Center’s Twitter feed, which shared this news. For a dramatic rendering of what’s happening in colleges, with a focus on the First Amendment and religious attitudes, check out the Kickstarter campaign for a TV show I’m developing called COPY.

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Author: GREG PIPER

I'm a tech journalist who's making a TV show about a college newspaper.

  • http://www.americaincontext.com Barky

    I’ve been noticing this over the last couple of years: businesses & institutions refusing to report incidents because of privacy. Privacy laws were meant to protect victims, not hid misdeeds from public view. They absolutely should notify law enforcement & report statistics. The former is required by law, the latter can be done without attribution to victims.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    If many parents only knew what they were paying a king’s ransom for at a school that may or may not have strong oversight, just as any medium size town or city would….