Task Force Examines Sexual Misconduct Policies

Like colleges and universities nationwide, SMU is reviewing its procedures for handling allegations of sexual misconduct in light of new guidelines issued by the federal government. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 requires institutions to investigate and have procedures for adjudicating such allegations, along with efforts to prevent them. Institutions are reviewing their procedures after receiving a “Dear Colleague” letter from the federal government.

To aid SMU’s review process, SMU President R. Gerald Turner has established the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Policies and Procedures to examine SMU’s programs in comparison with benchmark practices and determine if changes are needed, taking into account state and federal laws. Students reporting sexual misconduct can pursue SMU’s grievance procedure through its Code of Conduct, as well as the external criminal process at the same time or at a later date.

Sexual assault remains one of the most underreported crimes in all settings. By updating its procedures, SMU aims to provide an environment in which students feel comfortable coming forward to report violations. A key goal is to ensure that all students are treated with care and fairness. SMU’s standards of behavior and current grievance procedures are outlined at smu.edu/LiveResponsibly.

Specifically, the task force is reviewing:

  • Sexual assault reporting procedures and coordination among campus offices, the SMU Police Department and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office.
  • The structure and make-up of the conduct review (grievance) process;
  • Programs and responses to prevent harassment, particularly regarding the complainant.
  • Policies regarding students accused of sexual misconduct.
  • Support services for victims.
  • Orientation, training and education.

The 20-member task force is chaired by SMU Trustee Kelly Compton ’79, chair of the Student Affairs Committee of the SMU Board of Trustees. Membership includes SMU officials along with student and parent leaders, and representatives of nonprofit organizations assisting victims of sexual assault and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. The task force also is hearing from local and national experts.

“As an SMU trustee and the parent of college-age students, I appreciate the care and deliberation that is being given to this issue, which requires our best thinking and highest level of compassion,” Compton said. “The best interests of our students will be well served by the task force.”

Parents can play an important role by discussing this issue with their students.

“Although our procedures are examined regularly, and mirror those of many other institutions, the task force is a timely opportunity to broaden deliberations,” Turner said.

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