KU chancellor responds to criticism about rape investigation

Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little on Thursday sought to calm criticism that the school failed to enact strong enough punishment against a student accused of rape.

“The university’s administration, faculty, and staff have a responsibility to create an environment where everyone feels safe,” Gray-Little said in an email to students, faculty and staff.

“If you feel unsafe, then I and the rest of the university leadership have a responsibility to do what we can to make changes so you do feel safe,” she wrote.

Gray-Little’s message followed outrage from some students and alumni after it was reported a 20-year-old student said she was raped in 2013 and her alleged attacker was put on disciplinary probation and banned from student housing, but not required to perform any community service. In addition, the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office initially did not file charges, but on Wednesday said it was reviewing the case.

Gray-Little said she could not speak about the specific case that has prompted criticisms.

Gray-Little outlined the procedure that the school follows when it receives a report of a sexual assault. But she added that the administration needs help from others on campus.

“We cannot have police officers in every room or at every party, and you wouldn’t want us to. So we also expect you – each one of you – to look out for each other and to be willing to take action when you know something is wrong, or to report to the proper authorities so they can take action,” she said. She invited thoughts and proposals on how to prevent sexual assaults by emailing her.

But Twitter users immediately criticized Gray-Little’s response using the hashtag #aGreatPlaceToBeUnsafe.

“If KU thinks that ‘response’ is sufficient, nothing will change,” posted Alex Boeding.

Meanwhile, Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Kenny Wilk said Thursday the board will review the policies of state post-secondary institutions on how they investigate allegations of sexual assault on their campuses.

Three public universities — KU, Kansas State University and Washburn University — are among 76 schools nationwide being investigated by the federal government on how sexual assaults are investigated.

“We do have policies at every one of our institutions, and we have been making some inquiries,” Wilk said. “I think we are going to have a review and thorough discussion about how they are working and being enforced,” he said.

Wilk said he expected that discussion probably to occur at the board’s monthly meeting in October.

He said he wants to see if more needs to be done and whether current policies are being followed.

Wilk said the review has been prompted by recent reports on the incidence of sexual assaults on campuses.

“It’s a national issue. It’s a very serious issue and we take it seriously,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has listed the schools as part of probe into sexual violence on campus.

The list doesn’t include specific information about what case got a school included, and the universities in Kansas, including KU, have declined to provide details.

A White House task force said earlier this year that nationally 1 in 5 female students is assaulted.