BOONE — Appalachian State University is changing how it handles sexual assault allegations as part of an agreement with federal education officials that came after problems arose when two female students said football players raped them.
The university no longer allows students to judge whether another student sexually assaulted someone. Instead, the university has created a three-member sexual misconduct board made up of faculty and staff.
One woman said two players raped her in the spring of 2011 at an off-campus party, and the other woman said the same two players raped her at an off-campus party in the fall of 2011.
A university conduct review board, which includes students, heard the cases behind closed doors, prompting a silent protest in March about how the reviews were handled.
After one of the women complained to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, the school agreed to change its handling of such allegations, including setting up a task force to make recommendations to address sex-based harassment.
The agreement also requires the university to survey students to assess the presence and effect of gender-based harassment, and students’ awareness of their rights. The Office for Civil Rights will monitor the agreement until it determines ASU is in full compliance.
ASU plans to start the survey this fall. It also is starting a “Red Flag” campaign that educates students about how to respond when they see something inappropriate happening.
Dean of Students J.J. Brown said it’s a significant change to remove students from the process. “These are highly complex issues and challenges, and it puts our students in a very difficult position to process it and process it as peers,” he said.
Federal law requires a university to investigate an allegation that a student was a victim of violence by another student. In these two cases, the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office also investigated and turned over its findings to District Attorney Jerry Wilson, who declined to prosecute.
Chancellor Ken Peacock told trustees Friday that “we’re serious about finding out when these things happen, and they will happen.
“When I say that, people think I’m taking it lightly,” he said. “I’m not taking it lightly. I’m taking it very seriously. ... We take this as seriously as anyone in the state takes it, and that’s something we will continue to do.”