The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

State, national, world

December 11, 2012

FarmHouse sexual assault cases could stretch to Tahlequah

STILLWATER, Okla. — Allegations of sexual assault by a former FarmHouse fraternity member could stretch as far as Tahlequah, Stillwater Police Capt. Randy Dickerson said.

Dickerson said Monday the department’s investigation has revealed assaults may have happened in the city of Stillwater, Tahlequah and on the Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater.

FarmHouse officials said no assaults occurred at the chapter’s fraternity house. The assaults didn’t occur at a fraternity event or as part of a new member education program.

OSU police and Tahlequah authorities have be notified. Dickerson said. It will be a joint investigation. Stillwater police will assist the other departments in setting up interviews and exchange information.

Dickerson encouraged possible victims to contact the Stillwater Police Department at 405-742-8385.

Stillwater police have been investigating the allegations since they came to light Thursday via an anonymous email to Oklahoma State University’s campus paper.

Oklahoma State University learned of a series of sexual assault allegations Nov. 12 and launched an investigation that concluded Nov. 30.

The staff of the university’s Office of Student Conduct Education and Administration conducted hearings. The office assesses possible accusations of student misconduct of a nonacademic nature.

“Five students filed allegations against the same individual and there were five student conduct hearings,” said OSU Communications Director Gary Shutt. “They have concluded and action has been taken.”

The university did not contact police about the allegations of sexual assault. The students were encouraged by OSU officials on numerous occasions to contact police but none did, Shutt said.

Shutt cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which prevents schools from releasing student information, as the reason police were never notified.

The results and actions of the student conduct hearings, Shutt said, would remain sealed under FERPA until the appeal period has expired and the results become final. According to OSU’s code of conduct a student has seven days to appeal.

“Oklahoma State University took the allegations very seriously and took immediate action,” Shutt said.

FarmHouse International Fraternity Executive Director Chad E. Harris said the chapter’s investigation and response was appropriate.

“The safety and security of our members is of vital concern and is of the utmost importance to our organization,” Harris said. “As such, we are taking this matter very seriously.”

The behavior isn’t condoned by FarmHouse, Harris said. He also praised the manner in which Oklahoma State University handled the situation.

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