Kansas

K-State students push university to change policy on rape investigations

Anderson Hall houses the administrative offices at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. K-State is leading the latest federal list of colleges and universities under investigation for how they have handled reports of sexual violence on their campus.
Anderson Hall houses the administrative offices at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. K-State is leading the latest federal list of colleges and universities under investigation for how they have handled reports of sexual violence on their campus. The Kansas City Star

Kansas State University’s Interfraternity Council on Wednesday called for the university to investigate all alleged rapes reported by students on and off the Manhattan campus.

The council — the governing body for fraternities at Kansas State — and its 25 chapter presidents unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night calling for a change to university policy.

On Wednesday the group held a four-hour rally on campus for all students and Greek organizations supporting the action. The rally came one week after two female students filed separate lawsuits accusing the university of refusing to investigate their reports of rape by fellow students because the alleged incidents occurred in off-campus fraternity houses.

“For too long Kansas State University has refused to investigate sexual assault allegations that occur off campus,” council president Zach Lowery wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “As a university that prides itself on the value of Family this is unacceptable.”

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The council’s resolution said that “over the past two years, members of the (Interfraternity Council) board of directors and Panhellenic Council board of directors have met with university officials requesting a change in policy to allow the Office of Institutional Equity to investigate Title IX violations that occur off campus. These meetings have provided no clear plan of action.”

In a statement Wednesday, the university said that “these issues are critically important, and we want to be on the same page with our students, faculty and staff.”

In addition, university spokesman Jeff Morris said the university has always “reviewed all complaints regardless of whether they are on campus or off campus.” The review determines whether a case is investigated by the university’s Office of Institutional Equity.

Morris said the university has not always agreed to investigate off-campus incidents, but “we are saying today that we will” by fixing policy language.

“The fact that the students came out and said this to us has helped give us a sense of urgency,” Morris said.

The rally comes a week after Kansas State topped a federal list of colleges and universities under investigation for how they have handled reports of sexual violence on their campuses.

The U.S. Department of Education’s April 20 report listed four Kansas State incidents under investigation for alleged Title IX violations. Two other schools — Stanford University and St. Mary’s College of Maryland — also had four investigations listed.

The report listed 178 schools under investigation. Not all cases involve sexual violence; some schools are under review for complaints involving sexual harassment.

Title IX is the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and protects against sexual violence and harassment.

Two of the four K-State cases under federal investigation involve the two women who sued last week.

A spokesman with the U.S. Department of Education said all the K-State cases being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights involve sexual violence in 2014 and 2015 but declined to comment further.

That an institution is being investigated does not mean that federal laws were actually violated.

Kansas State officials said they could not comment on the investigations. However, the university said it “devotes nearly $600,000 each year to address Title IX and provides resources, programming, training and staff.”

Mará Rose Williams: 816-234-4419, @marawilliamskc

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