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Two Students Sue K-State Over Rape Investigations

Two K-State students sued the university, alleging it violated its Title IX obligations by failing to investigate alleged rapes. Few facts are established, but let's assess the situation.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

K-State finds itself the defendant in a pair of lawsuits alleging the University violated its Title IX obligations by failing to investigate alleged rapes. You can, and should, read more details in reports from the Kansas City Star and the New York Times.

In an emailed statement, K-State cited its anti-discrimination policies, which address off-campus incidents. Relevant text quoted below:

Off campus occurrences that are not related to University-sponsored programs or activities are investigated under this Policy only if those occurrences relate to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation alleged on campus.

In other words, K-State's stance is that it's not required to investigate off-campus incidents. Whether that's true is for the United States District Court for the District of Kansas to decide. But this stance runs directly contrary to direction from the U.S. Department of Education. Quote from the New York Times article linked above:

The Education Department has advised universities that they are required under Title IX to investigate accusations of off-campus rapes of students, specifically citing off-campus fraternity houses. Kansas State recognizes 25 fraternities; all their houses are located off campus.

"The fact that the alleged misconduct took place off campus does not relieve the school of its obligation to investigate the complaint," the department said in a document in 2014 that explains the responsibility of universities to investigate sexual violence. A similar directive was contained in a 2011 letter to universities.

Both incidents were referred to the Riley County Police Department. One is still under investigation. Prosecutors declined to press charges in the other.

Incidents like this raise a number of issues that require thoughtful examination. Does Title IX require campus administration to investigate off-campus incidents involving students? If it does, is it good policy to have university administrators carrying out a quasi-law enforcement/judicial function? What should be done to accommodate students when a complaint is made, but no charges are filed?

As this story develops, we'll have more to say. It's too early to reach any definitive conclusions about what happened and what the University should have done. Keep in mind as you discuss these issues that all of us, including the accusers and the accused, are Wildcats. Let's work toward a result that's just for all parties involved, whether that means the individuals constituting the University bureaucracy failed certain students on campus, or that those same people allowed the proper authorities to handle the situation.