UT officials: Policy changes expected in response to sexual assault case

City Councilman Larry Sykes
City Councilman Larry Sykes

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - University of Toledo officials say they are taking action against claims of mishandling a recent sexual assault case.

The University of Toledo is one of about 70 colleges across the country in the spotlight due to Title IX and Clery Act complaints being filed, claiming negligence and misconduct during sexual assault cases.

Toledo City Councilman Larry Sykes called a press conference Thursday to issue a statement on the situation, but later called it off. Sykes says a member of the UT board of trustees asked him not to comment because policy changes are already underway.

Though Sykes did not issue a formal statement, he did say the university needs harsher punishments in place for those who commit sexual assault.

"We need to look at everybody and make sure the policy is fair and equitable," he said. "You come on campus and do something, these are the things that will happen, and these people have to understand that so we have those things in place for them to be addressed."

This all stems after a student says she was raped in September of last year at an off-campus apartment. The university's conduct process resulted in the alleged rapist charged with sexual misconduct and given sanctions that included an educational project and a $25 administrative fee.

"The hearing board would look at the entirety of the situation to look at sanctions to best educate that student and help prevent future misconduct behaviors," explained UT's Student Conduct Officer Mary Martinez.

Meanwhile, students at UT received a letter from Interim President Nagi Naganathan reiterating the university's policies regarding sexual assault and resources available to students.

"It's pretty shocking," said UT Junior Anitra McFarland. "Maybe it's because people feel scared into hiding or sometimes the university might sweep it under the rug because they don't want that light on their campus."

Several freshmen say sexual assault was addressed when they first arrived on campus.

"At orientation, they basically covered it and then in your folder you get at orientation, there are fliers that give you more information on it," said UT Freshman Megan.

"There is a mandatory session we go to, and we have to take a course on sexual assault, too," added Maddie, another freshman.

There are also resources available to help students during an emergency situation, including a number they can call printed on the back of all IDs and a distress button in the My UT app.

The University of Toledo issued the following statement on Thursday:

The University of Toledo regularly reviews all policies and procedures to ensure industry best practices are adhered to in areas ranging from research to health care compliance to the Student Code of Conduct. UT is committed to a culture of continuous improvement and periodic review and revisions are standard practice.  We are always looking to improve.

In the coming weeks, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault is expected to announce further guidelines and expectations regarding how universities respond to sexual assault. In the past months UT has already engaged in extensive policy revisions incorporating new guidelines from policy groups and federal agencies regarding Title IX and other federal standards. In light of this ongoing national conversation and expressly because concerns have been raised regarding University procedures, it is imperative that UT review our policies and procedures currently in place and, if warranted, make changes. 

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