KU won’t provide details of investigation into alleged sexual assault at fraternity, but generally outlines how investigations are conducted

photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World

Phi Kappa Psi, 1602 W. 15th St.

While University of Kansas officials have said an investigation has begun related to an alleged recent sexual assault at a local fraternity, the university will not answer what it is investigating exactly or which office is doing the investigation.

However, a university spokeswoman provided general information on how such investigations are conducted, providing a general road map for how the process could play out and that it could take up to two months.

On Tuesday, the university’s leaders — KU Chancellor Douglas Girod, Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Tammara Durham — said in a message sent to the KU community that KU was investigating an alleged sexual assault at Phi Kappa Psi, 1602 W. 15th St., and that fraternity leaders were cooperating.

Their message came a day after hundreds of protesters on Monday gathered outside of the fraternity, which is adjacent to KU’s campus, alleging a sexual assault occurred there over the weekend. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the fraternity again on Tuesday.

The Journal-World asked the university several questions related to who was conducting the investigation, what they were specifically investigating and how long an investigation might take. Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, a spokeswoman for the university, told the Journal-World Wednesday that she could not share any specific details about the investigations, citing federal law protecting the privacy of students.

“Due to federal law and our commitment to ensuring the privacy, welfare and rights of individuals involved, the university does not discuss the specifics of any investigation that may or may not be happening,” she said in an email.

But she did say that the university’s Office of Civil Rights and Title IX generally conducts investigations of sexual assault. Additionally, in their message to campus, the KU officials did not directly say who was investigating the incident, but did encourage anyone with information about sexual assaults to contact the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX.

Barcomb-Peterson also pointed the Journal-World to the office’s complaint process overview published on the university’s website. The overview shows a five-step method of conducting investigations.

After the university receives a complaint and communicates with the individual whom it has affected, the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX begins a formal review if the complaint provides sufficient facts and evidence showing the university’s policies against discrimination may have been violated.

After the review, the office will provide a written report of its findings and recommendations to “appropriate administrators,” who will then determine what action will be taken.

Depending on the severity of the alleged incident and with the consent of the involved people, the administrators may pursue informal mediation between the individuals to resolve the issue. However, the process overview notes that informal resolutions may not be appropriate when the incident is severe.

Students who are found to have violated the university’s sexual harassment policy — which includes sexual assault — are subject to disciplinary actions that can include suspension or expulsion, KU has said.

Barcomb-Peterson declined to say whether there was a timeline for the Phi Kappa Psi investigation to be completed, but noted that generally investigations can take up to 60 days.

“The Office of Civil Rights & Title IX strives to complete complaint investigations in as timely and efficient a manner as possible, and within 60 days of receipt of a complaint,” she said.

The Journal-World also reached out to the KU Interfraternity Council, which includes fraternity members and regulates university chapters, but President Jack Pine did not respond to the request for information.

After the initial protest, Phi Kappa Psi said in a statement posted on social media that it was aware a “new undergraduate member” had been accused of sexual assault at the fraternity on Saturday. The fraternity said it notified university officials and would cooperate with investigations. On Wednesday, the university confirmed that a man with the same name as the alleged perpetrator is currently enrolled as a student.

Fraternity spokesman Drake DelosSantos on Wednesday declined to provide any further information.

Meanwhile, whether the incident is under criminal investigation remains unclear. The Lawrence Police Department previously said in a news release that it was aware of the alleged incident, but would not say whether it was investigating or not.

Patrick Compton, a spokesman for LPD, said that in order to protect the privacy of victims the department does not provide information about sexual assault investigations, the Journal-World reported.

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