CU-Boulder under federal investigation after student reports sexual assault

BOULDER, Colo. - In an email sent to students, faculty and staff Wednesday afternoon, the University of Colorado Boulder said that it is under federal investigation over the way it handled a female student's report of a sexual assault.

Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano said in the email that the CU-Boulder campus is under investigation by the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.

The email subject was: New Developments in Campus Title IX Compliance

In the email, DiStefano said he has ordered an external review of the school's Title IX compliance ... over the past two to three years, there have been significant developments in Title IX guidance from OCR, as well as updates to the Violence Against Women Act, which the University has made a significant effort to incorporate into our policies and procedures."

He would not address specifics in the case that prompted the review.

"I cannot address any specific incident or provide any greater background on how that incident was handled by the campus," DiStefano wrote.

A communications major at CU, 20-year-old Sarah Gilchriese, told 7NEWS that she is the one who filed the federal complaint because of the way her sexual assault case was handled.

7NEWS does not generally name alleged victims of sexual assault, but Gilchriese is going public and gave permission to use her name in this story.

Gilchriese told 7NEWS reporter Marc Stewart that she was sexually assaulted by another student off-campus during the middle of February. She reported the assault to CU-Boulder's Office of Student Conduct in early March.  She said she also filed a report with Boulder Police.

She said during the 4 1/2 weeks the case was investigated by CU, the male student was allowed to remain on campus. 7NEWS obtained a the Boulder police report which detailed the night of February 15th.

In the report it states, "The Office of Student Conduct found [the student] guilty on March 22, 2013, however they did not sanction him until April 24, 2013."

University spokesperson Bronson Hilliard would not comment specifically on the case, but did say, "Once a student's been held responsible, they're off campus usually within a matter of days ."

7NEWS asked what could cause the delay but Hilliard would not comment. The University does not have a policy that addresses how quickly a suspension must be enacted; it only states an investigation could take 60 to 90 days.

“I saw him and he approached me and I stopped going to class for four weeks even though he was found guilty (by CU conduct board)," she told Stewart.  She said she had to get a protection order to keep him away from her on campus.

“Protect the victims in this situation," she said.  "I don’t understand why they allow these people back in their community.”

The student was suspended from CU for eight months, fined $75 and asked to write a paper reflecting on the incident, Gilchriese told Stewart.   She would not discuss the status of the police investigation.

In Wednesday's email, DiStefano said CU-Boulder will cooperate fully with the investigation and will adopt any suggested changes to its policies and procedures that Office of Civil rights might recommend.

"During the last decade we have strengthened our policies and procedures governing sexual misconduct. We have increased the resources for addressing complaints, as well as the resources for helping victims," DiStefano said in the email.  "I remain fully committed to ensuring that we make every effort to prevent and end sexual misconduct on the CU-Boulder campus."

Watch for more on this story on 7NEWS at 10 p.m. or refresh this page for updates.

This story was first reported by our partners at The Denver Post.

Read the complete email below:

Dear CU faculty, staff and students: 

Today, I am letting you know that the CU-Boulder campus is the subject of an investigation by the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) into a complaint concerning CU-Boulder’s handling of a sexual assault involving a student. To protect the privacy of students and as required by the Family Education Rights & Privacy Act – known as “FERPA” – I cannot address any specific incident or provide any greater background on how that incident was handled by the campus. 

We will cooperate fully with the OCR investigation and will adopt any suggested changes to our policies and procedures that OCR might recommend. We take these issues seriously, and our commitment to fairly investigate all known incidents, support victims and hold perpetrators accountable remains unwavering. 

During the last decade we have strengthened our policies and procedures governing sexual misconduct. We have increased the resources for addressing complaints, as well as the resources for helping victims. I remain fully committed to ensuring that we make every effort to prevent and end sexual misconduct on the CU-Boulder campus. 

Over the past two to three years, there have been significant developments in Title IX guidance from OCR, as well as updates to the Violence Against Women Act, which the University has made a significant effort to incorporate into our policies and procedures. While we feel that we have responded to these developments, I have ordered an external review of our Title IX compliance efforts to ensure that CU-Boulder remains a leader among global universities in combatting sexual misconduct of any kind within our campus community.

Sincerely,


Philip P. DiStefano, Chancellor
University of Colorado Boulder


If you would like additional information about our policies and procedures on sexual misconduct, and for reporting and managing issues of sexual misconduct, please contact one of the following campus resources:

For reporting the crime of sexual assault
The University of Colorado Police Department
http://police.colorado.edu/
303-492-6666

The Boulder Police Department
Dial 911 or 303-441-3333
https://bouldercolorado.gov/police

For confidential support, advocacy and counseling around issues of sexual assault
The Office of Victim Assistance: 
http://cuvictimassistance.com/
303-492-8855
NOTE: An extensive bulleted list of campus resources is available on the OVA’s website on the right-hand side of its home page.

To report an incident of sexual misconduct or sexual assault, or to obtain information on Title IX issues for faculty, staff and students 
The Office of Student Conduct
http://www.colorado.edu/studentaffairs/studentconduct/
303-492-5550

The Office of Discrimination and Harassment
http://hr.colorado.edu/dh/Pages/default.aspx
303-492-2127

To learn more about how the campus handles complaints of sexual misconduct, harassment and sexual assault, visit the following page under the heading “Guidelines for Filing a Complaint of Sexual Assault or Sexual Harassment”
http://www.colorado.edu/studentaffairs/studentconduct/

 

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