KU department criticizes Gray-Little’s approach to efforts on stemming sexual assaults

The Department of American Studies at Kansas University on Friday issued a statement critical of KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little’s response to the growing controversy over allegations of sexual violence at the school.

On Thursday, Gray-Little announced strengthening mandatory sexual assault training for students, faculty and staff, and formation of a task force to review current sexual violence policies and procedures and recommend changes.

A statement issued by the Department of American Studies said Gray-Little’s announcement “does not fully consider the impact of rape or the effort necessary to move this campus significantly forward.”

Instead, the department said university leaders should lead a transparent policy review that is overseen by faculty, students and staff.

“… we believe that it is unfair to charge faculty, staff, and students with the task of resolving institutional problems. Rather, the burden of implementing policy lay with administrators and their direct administrative staff, and they must be held accountable for the failure to perform these duties to the spirit as well as the letter of policy,” the statement said.

The statement also expressed concerns with the formation of a task force, saying task forces often are used to `quiet’ an issue and give the illusion of progress, but seldom have the authority to institute change.

The department also voiced support for a number of demands from a group of students called September Siblings, which were not addressed by Gray-Little’s announcement.

These include increased funding for the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity and elimination of the term “non-consensual sex,” which has been used in KU reports on alleged sexual assaults. “Rape, after all, is rape,” the statement said.

Jennifer Hamer, chair of the American Studies department, said she hoped the department’s statement would “further strengthen our collective ability to create a fair and safe environment for all.”

In response to the department’s statement, KU spokesman Tim Caboni noted that administrators are working with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to evaluate policies and procedures.

Additionally, he defended the formation of a task force, saying, “… out of respect for shared governance and to help secure community-wide support, any changes to sanctions and the process ultimately need to go through Student Senate and University Senate, rather than being unilaterally imposed.”

KU administrators have been under fire in recent weeks after it was revealed the school is one of 76 nationwide being investigated by federal officials for how it investigates allegations of rape. In addition, a student’s allegation that she was raped and her assailant received a light school sanction have sparked an outcry from some students.