Government & Politics

University leaders in Kansas work to improve response to sex crimes on campus

Bernadette Gray-Little, chancellor of the University of Kansas, told the Kansas Board of Regents that the university is looking at ways it can improve how it handles sex offenses on campus in addition to what it has already done.
Bernadette Gray-Little, chancellor of the University of Kansas, told the Kansas Board of Regents that the university is looking at ways it can improve how it handles sex offenses on campus in addition to what it has already done. KU University Relations

The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday heard the leaders of the six universities it governs talk about efforts to handle sex-related offenses on their campuses.

“We are all doing the right things and looking at what other things we can do — what other things that will make the most difference for our students,” said Bernadette Gray-Little, chancellor at the University of Kansas.

“My main intention is to provide the education that will reduce occurrence. That will take a change in the culture on the campus.”

The regents asked the campus leaders to provide general overviews of steps being taken to ensure that each of them is in compliance with Title IX, the federal law governing gender discrimination, including sexual harassment, stalking and sexual violence on college campuses.

Title IX and campus rape became a national focus recently when reports surfaced that one out of every five college students is sexually assaulted at some point during their time on campus.

Reviews by federally formed task forces and lawmakers found that universities nationally have not complied with all aspects of Title IX and yet none has been sanctioned. Failure to comply with Title IX can lead to a loss of federal funding.

The University of Kansas found itself under scrutiny after it was put on a federal list of colleges under investigation for possible Title IX violations. A Huffington Post report about KU’s handling of a sexual assault led to student protests and forums. Gray-Little established a task force to review campus policies.

Jane McQueeny, the Title IX coordinator at KU, told regents that the law, among other requirements, says schools must completely investigate every reported case and dole out appropriate sanctions within 60 days.

Campus leaders all said they had reviewed their Title IX policies and were making some changes. All but Emporia State University have already hired full-time Title IX officers.

John Bardo, president of Wichita State University, said each campus has instituted some form of online training for faculty and students, another Title IX requirement.

Steven Scott, president of Pittsburg State University, talked about a peer-to-peer program in which juniors and seniors talk frankly to other students during an orientation program about sexual violence.

Kirk Schulz, president of Kansas State University, mentioned a program called Shattering the Silence that allows an “open dialogue” every month on how to end sexual violence on campus.

Regents praised the university leaders and said they would continue to have discussions with them about Title IX compliance.

To reach Mará Rose Williams, call 816-234-4419 or send email to mdwilliams@kcstar.com.

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