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1 iossarian  Thu, Feb 28, 2013 7:28:13am

OK, I’ll weigh in on this one.

First up, I’ve followed the links back to the original source (or at least, the original news coverage of the university’s board of regents/special counsel/task force report that covers the case):


As far as I can tell, the report is fairly clear that the university officials in question chose their course of action due to a misinterpretation of FERPA regulations (either they genuinely thought they were not allowed to contact the police, or there was sufficient doubt in their minds that they decided not to). The key segment on this is:

Although OSU officials misinterpreted the act, James Sears Bryant, the Board of Regents’ independent counsel, said he thought they did so in good faith. Student privacy is a difficult area of law, he said, and applying the facts of any case to it can present challenges.

Campus crime reporting isn’t really my thing, but the intersection between it and student privacy is obviously at least somewhat tricky. Obviously, spelling out the ways in which information can be shared between academic units and campus police (or indeed other law enforcement units) is a good thing to do, and is hopefully something that more institutions are doing now.

The final question of whether there needs to be an actual (legal?) obligation to report such accusations to the police is left to the reader. As in - if you’re teaching a class and a female student comes in with a black eye, and it turns out she had a fight with her boyfriend, should you be required to go to the police on her behalf?

2 iossarian  Thu, Feb 28, 2013 7:31:23am

Oops - should have mentioned, on that final point, that the special counsel report does indeed recommend making the reporting a requirement:

The report also recommends the board adopt a policy requiring officials at all colleges and universities in the system to notify police when they learn of a sexual assault on campus, on campus-owned property or against a student.

University officials wouldn’t be required to identify victims without their consent.

So a report has to be made of the occurrence (so the total number can be tracked), but individual details don’t get logged without consent. Seems a reasonable compromise.

3 calochortus  Thu, Feb 28, 2013 8:15:07am

Universities have been avoiding reporting rapes for a long, long time. I’m guessing they just think it is complicated, will reflect poorly on the school and is best swept under the rug. In this case I suspect the student privacy issue was a very convenient aid to this policy. The officials involved may have actually convinced themselves of the correctness of their actions, but I think it comes out of that earlier mindset.

4 FemNaziBitch  Thu, Feb 28, 2013 11:04:02am

re: #1 iossarian

The final question of whether there needs to be an actual (legal?) obligation to report such accusations to the police is left to the reader. As in - if you’re teaching a class and a female student comes in with a black eye, and it turns out she had a fight with her boyfriend, should you be required to go to the police on her behalf?

I think this is a case where we need to establish a clear line. Universities used to be considered in loco parentis, in which case they would be required to report all cases of abuse or suspected abuse. —no?

The issue these days is that college students are over 18, and we live in a time in which these kids and their parents neither need, nor want in loco parentis. As many kids pay for their own education it’s an archaic concept. Students are adults with full privacy rights.

I suspect such things will or have been established regionally in the courts, but have not yet become national policy among universities.

Universities are like corporations (or are corporations), they have a different and special status under the law. The political pull is vast, their financial holdings are global. It’s a vipers nest.

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