Texas A&M reveals new guidelines to handle reports of sexual assault on campus

There’s hope for change at Texas A&M University.

On Monday, university administrators revealed the findings of internal and external reviews of how they have handled reports of sexual assault on campus. A summary of the presentation is also available online.

“We’ve done a lot of inquiry. We talked to a lot of people who were involved in the process,” said Dr. Michael Young, President of Texas A&M University.

The investigations were launched after the university came under intense scrutiny when current and former students shared their stories. The survivors accounts had similarities. They said they felt betrayed when the university seemed to favor the accused athletes over the well-being of sexual assault victims.

“Based on my experience, I’m very reluctant to believe that this is going to be sufficient to solve all the problems in the system,” said Kirsten Covington, a junior and survivor of sexual assault.

Covington and other survivors formed the group 12th Woman. They were part of the review boards that came up with the recommendations.

“I was really happy to see that they’re put an emphasis on trauma informed care because that’s something we really lacked before,” said Covington. “And, I really like the sanctioning matrix they’ve created. I think it’ll lend a lot of clarity to people who are trying to go through the system right now.”

Administrators say the new sanctioning model is effective now.

“Students that are found responsible for the sex based violence, non-consensual sexual penetration — a minimum of a one-year suspension will occur,” said Dr. Daniel Pugh, the Vice President for Student Affairs. He added that students who are suspended for a year will not be able to represent the school in extracurricular activities again.

In a statement, the 12th Woman said:

The 12th Woman appreciates Texas A&M for including us in both the internal and external reviews. We were able to take our personal experiences and educate the university on where the discrepancies were case by case, as well as provide insight on how to better serve victims who have experienced the trauma of a sexual assault and how their procedures can provide a better, more seamless experience. We know that this is only the start of change for Texas A&M and we are excited to continue to work with them to change the environment and culture for the better. They can and should always continue to do more as they have abandoned this department for years. Our hope is that other universities see Texas A&M University as a leader and this ignites internal reviews at universities across the country. In addition, we will continue to work with Congress at the national level to implement laws that will raise the standard for all universities in regards to their policies, procedures, and sanctioning for sexual assault cases.

The group was upset that the university did not notify them of the time and place of Monday’s presentation. Covington raised the issue during the meeting and university officials apologized.