Facing heightened scrutiny from concerned alumni and the Dallas County district attorney, Southern Methodist University announced that it will form a task force to evaluate how it handles sexual assault reports.
The move comes after some victims’ advocates have questioned whether SMU’s student disciplinary process — which operates the same whether a student has been accused of cheating, drinking, stealing or raping someone — adequately protects victims while their cases wind through the university system and, in some cases, the criminal justice system.
This month, two SMU students were arrested in separate cases — one of which took eight months to reach the district attorney’s office. In that case, a campus disciplinary panel found the accused guilty of misconduct in the rape of a fellow student. A second panel overturned the decision.
Only then was the case forwarded to the district attorney’s office and presented to a grand jury, which indicted the suspect, leading to his arrest. In the meantime, the student who reported the February assault had to attend classes on the same campus with the man she accused of raping her.