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Wichita State more transparent than KU, K-State on sexual assault investigation records — but still unclear

December 10, 2016

In the past month, the student newspapers at Kansas’s two largest universities have been denied reasonably priced access to public records related to sexual assault investigations.

The Collegian, Kansas State’s student newspaper, requested records subject to the Kansas Open Records Act from the university’s Office of Institutional Equity. Those requests included any sexual harassment and/or sexual violence investigations related to the conduct of any student, faculty or staff member or campus visitor from May 1, 2012 to August 26, 2016.

Two and a half months after the original request was filed, Kansas State granted The Collegian’s request — with a catch. The paper would gain access to the public records, but those records would cost the newspaper $1,375.

The University Daily Kansan, Kansas University’s student newspaper, paid $561 for the same documents from its university.

Wichita State provided those same records to The Sunflower — free of charge.

The records, however, offer only a fragmented view of sexual discrimination and sexual violence at WSU. In many ways, the records raise more questions than they answer.

What the records tell us:

Title IX complaints against university employees: 16.4 a year.

Wichita State received 82 Title IX Complaints against university employees from March 2012 to July 2016. Of those, 60 were sexual harassment complaints, 14 were gender discrimination, seven were retaliation, three were stalking and one was equal pay.

Title IX complaints against university employees that result in formal disciplinary action from the university: 4 a year.

Of the 82 complaints against university employees from 2012 to 2016, 20 resulted in formal action from the university.

Title IX complaints against students: 26 a year.

From August 2015 to July 2016, WSU received 26 complaints against students for violating Title IX.

Title IX complaints against students that result in formal disciplinary action from the university: 5 a year

Of the 26 complaints against students at WSU, five were found in violation of university policy and sanctions were issued. At the time The Sunflower received the records, four cases against students were still listed as active.

Complaints handled by the Office of Employment Equal Opportunity: 9 a year

From March 2014 to April 2015, the WSU Office of Employment Equal Opportunity handled nine complaints. Of those nine complaints, one had “sufficient evidence to support a finding of sexual harassment.”

What the records don’t tell us:

Who did what.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) limits what student educational records a university can release. Any personally identifiable or protected information cannot be disclosed to the public. Therefore, complainants and respondents’ names are not included in the records released to The Sunflower.

Under Kansas law, state employees’ personnel files are exempt from the Kansas Open Records Act. Any personally identifiable or protected information cannot be disclosed to the public. Therefore, employee names are not included in the records released to The Sunflower.

The nature of each complaint is vague, citing only what offense was investigated in the broadest sense (e.g., “Discrimination – Sexual Harassment,” “Discrimination – Gender,” “Discrimination – Retaliation,” “Discrimination – Equal Pay”) for investigations involving an employee. There is no designation listed in the record for Title IX investigations of students.

According to the Jeanne Clery Act, a consumer protection measure passed in 1990 to inform students and parents about the safety of each school, universities — like WSU — that accept federal funds must release an annual security report informing the public of serious crimes at on-campus locations and at off-campus, university-sponsored events. Among those crimes required to be disclosed by the university are sexual assault and Violence Against Women Act offenses, including domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.

University police reported two on-campus rapes, nine domestic violence offenses, five cases of dating violence and 17 instances of stalking from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2015. Without those inclusions on the records provided by WSU, The Sunflower cannot report with any certainty whether those cases resulted in Title IX investigations or disciplinary actions by the university.

How the university handled complaints.

The complaints that resulted in formal findings by the university do not include detailed information about the actions taken by the university. The date of the complaint, the date of the resolution, the policy violation investigated and, sometimes, a brief summary of the nature of the offense are offered in the records provided by the university.

Twenty-eight of the 82 complaints against university employees were settled through what shows in the records as “Informal Resolution.” The university did not provide any clarity on what that means.

Sanctions issued against students found to be in violation of Title IX are also unclear, listing the findings as “sanctions issued” with no information about what those sanctions included.

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