WHAT OTHERS SAY: Zero tolerance of campus sexual assaults is a welcome stance

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:34 a.m. CST, Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The tragedy of sexual assaults against women on college campuses across America, including many crimes still not reported, is finally getting needed new attention.

Two recent developments are steps forward: One was promoted by President Barack Obama and the other supported by UM System President Tim Wolfe.

Obama last week launched a task force that will have three months to recommend how universities can better prevent and respond to rape and other sexual assaults, which are overwhelmingly carried out by young men against women.

Notably, Obama wants the public better informed about how safe colleges are, information that could damage the worst-ranked schools in the pocketbook if women avoid them in the future.

The report should include ways to make universities much more proactive in ensuring they and local police investigate and prosecute sex crimes.

The White House Council on Women and Girls this month released damning data that about one of every five university students are sexually assaulted during their time at school, yet only 12 percent of victims report the incidents to authorities.

The reportincludes a chilling summation of a problem that no school acknowledges on its informational brochure: “No one is more at risk of being raped or sexually assaulted than women at our nation’s colleges and universities.”

Wolfe said Sunday he would support the Board of Curators in hiring an independent counsel to review MU’s handling of sexual assault allegations by former Missouri swimmer Sasha Menu Courey, who committed suicide in 2011.

Wolfe’s tough stance should assure the public that all the actions taken in this case by MU officials are diligently scrutinized by someone outside the university’s control.

The university system must respond swiftly and appropriately if “any shortcomings with respect to MU’s handling of the matter,” as Wolfe put it, are uncovered. A university’s top job is to protect its students.

Wolfe properly also called for the four Missouri system chancellors to review their schools’ sexual assault policies. If these reviews are truly tough, they will find problems that need to be corrected.

Given the appalling number of rapes and other sexual assaults of women on university campuses, there is plenty of room for improvement.

Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.

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