NORMAN, Okla. — The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents voted Thursday to lengthen the time frame during which victims of sexual assault on campus can decide if they want the university to pursue disciplinary action against the assailant.
The board voted unanimously to revise the policy regarding sexual assault. The new revision increases the time frame from 30 days to 365 days for which victims can decide if they want the university to pursue further disciplinary action.
The change comes after a group of students brought it to the attention of OU President David Boren.
Boren says many victims of sexual assault have mixed feelings and may need more time to decide if they want to proceed.
“In some cases victims of sexual assault have very mixed feelings about a very difficult situation and it’s certainly difficult to come to a decision about whether or not to file a complaint in 30 days,” he says.
Boren says it was never the university’s intention to have a statute of limitations, but a technicality in the Student Code of Conduct wording inadvertently created one.
Under the code, the university must bring disciplinary action against a student within 30 days of discovering the violation.
The 30-day requirement included a student wanting the university to pursue disciplinary action against another student because of a sexual assault.
But under the policy changes the Regents approved, sexual assault is excluded from the 30-day requirement and set at 365 days.
“This allows us to take an action simply to correct what was an unintended consequence of the language of our sexual assault policy,” Boren told Regents before they voted to approve the policy revision.
The time frame starts from the date campus police are first informed of the crime.
He noted that there is a different time frame for victims who wish to pursue legal action through the district attorney. The statute of limitations under Oklahoma law for prosecuting rape is 12 years from the date the crime is reported to law enforcement.
The campus policy change also adds sexual misconduct as a reason to expel or suspend a student.
Boren says he has created an advisory committee, which includes some of the students who initially brought the matter to his attention, to create recommendations about the campus’ sexual assault policy that will be presented to the Regents in the fall.
Future changes may include more sexual assault education and training for police, mandatory education for incoming freshman and expanded counseling options for victims.
Boren says he appreciated the students bringing the issue to his attention because sexual assault on college campuses is a national problem that many universities do not tackle.
“From this problem being brought to our attention, I think the University of Oklahoma now is going to move to the forefront nationally of all universities helping academic communities face up to this very serious problem,” he says.