Task force says KU code should clarify that school can discipline students for off-campus sex assaults

Kansas University’s Sexual Assault Task Force is recommending KU make crystal clear that the university can discipline students for sexual misconduct no matter how far from campus it occurred.

The task force finalized proposed changes to the student code on Friday and plans to formally submit a bill recommending the amendments to the Student Senate in January, after winter break.

The changes add language explicitly stating that KU can discipline students for sexual violence, sexual harassment and intimate partner violence regardless of whether it occurred on or off university premises. The power would apply in cases when the victim was a KU student at the time of the offense, according to the draft bill.

KU residence and scholarship halls are within campus boundaries. Greek houses and apartments, where thousands more students live and where sexual assaults have also been reported, are off-campus.

Angela Murphy, task force co-chairwoman and KU Graduate Affairs Director, said the intent and spirit of the proposal is local in nature. However, it also would apply to students at the beach on spring break or even farther away.

“This additional jurisdiction is necessary because students at KU are also members of the Lawrence community,” Murphy said. “It’s an everyone issue.”

Technically, KU believes the code already allowed the university to discipline students in such cases.

However, according to the draft bill, the previous language apparently wasn’t strong enough to stand up in court. The draft cites an unnamed case in which a Douglas County District Court judge refused to uphold KU’s sanctioning of a student found responsible for sexual harassment that the university couldn’t prove happened on campus.

Before presenting the draft bill to the full Student Senate, the task force is submitting it for review to Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, KU attorneys and Student Senate leaders.

Many universities extend their jurisdiction beyond campus for school code violations connected to a variety of crimes in faraway places, KU Assistant Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jane Tuttle said in an October interview with the Journal-World.

KU only has jurisdiction off campus for issues related to Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education and requires schools to provide a safe environment for women to access their education. Sex assault complaints fall under Title IX.