SMU Task Force to Review Sexual Misconduct Policies

Dallas County district attorney says group aims to balance SMU's federal obligations with state law

By Randy McIlwain
|  Monday, Oct 1, 2012  |  Updated 7:16 PM CDT
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Officials at Southern Methodist University announced the formation of a task force to take a look at the school's sexual misconduct policy and procedures after police arrested two students last month for alleged sexual assaults.

Randy McIlwain, NBC 5 News

Officials at Southern Methodist University announced the formation of a task force to take a look at the school's sexual misconduct policy and procedures after police arrested two students last month for alleged sexual assaults.

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Southern Methodist University is forming a special task force to review its guidelines for sexual misconduct policies and procedures in the wake of the arrests of two students last month in separate sexual assault cases.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins asked for a meeting with SMU President Gerald Turner to discuss the role he wants his office to play in the task force as it relates to reporting crimes of any kind for criminal prosecution.

SMU has its own police department and is bound by federal rules on how to handle students accused of crimes, Watkins said.

SMU is subject to Title IX, a federal law that mandates that students accused of crimes receive administrative due process before the university renders punishment such as expulsion.

The Title IX hearing takes precedent over the criminal process and often delays even the potential for justice for victims.

Watkins said the goal of the task force is to strike a balance between the university’s Title IX obligations and state law so victims are not left in a legal limbo wondering if the suspect will ever face justice.

"They have to have a process in place before they make a determination on whether a student will be expelled or continue to go to school and sometimes that process in contrary to the criminal justice process," Watkins said.

The task force itself will be made up of SMU staff, students, alumni, victims advocates and representatives from the district attorney's office. An announcement of who will serve on the task force is expected later this week.

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