KU creates sexual assault task force

LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas will create a task force and require students, faculty and staff to undergo training in response to criticism of the school’s handling of sexual assault complaints, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said.

The chancellor announced Thursday in an email to the university community that that the task force, which will include students, faculty and staff, will review current policies and practices and recommend improvements for preventing and responding to sexual assaults.

The actions come after a group of university students and activists released a video this week telling prospective students that the university was not safe. The group, called September Siblings, also circulated petitions demanding changes in how sexual assault is handled on campus. And more than 300 people attended a forum on the subject Tuesday, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/1rSF1db ).

“Our university has a responsibility to create an environment where every member of our community feels safe,” Gray-Little said in the email. “And as chancellor, that responsibility is ultimately mine.”

Gray-Little said she directed Provost Jeffrey Vitter to ensure that all students, faculty and staff undergo sexual assault training. She said sanctions for not completing the training will be at least as severe as those for missing compulsory alcohol training, which prevent students from taking classes if they don’t complete a quiz at the end of the alcohol training.

The task force will be led by Angela Murphy, a graduate student in the English department, and Alesha Doan, chairwoman of the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and associate professor of political science.

Murphy called Gray-Little’s announcement a strong “first step.”

“I’m dedicated to making sure the students’ voice is heard and we do what we need to do as an institution,” she said.

Gray-Little also invited students, faculty and staff to join her in panel discussion on the topic next week during Sexual Assault Awareness Week.

The pressure to address the issue was sparked by reports that in 2013, the university declined to order a student accused of raping another student to perform community service. The university has declined to comment on the case. Other women have since come forward alleging that the school didn’t take sexual violence seriously.

The university also is among 76 schools being investigated by the federal government for their handling of sexual assault cases.