Student Journalists Confront Otterbein University About Sexual Assault Privacy Policy

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UPDATED: Thursday May 9, 2013 8:29 PM

Sexual assault victims at one central Ohio university will no longer be forced to keep quiet.

Otterbein University senior Chelsea Coleman was surprised to find out that the university was requiring victims of sexual assault to sign away their rights to free speech.

“That is quintessentially what a student is being asked to do: sign this form, give up your right to speak, your right to talk,” Coleman said.

Coleman, an editor at the university’s paper, The Tan & Cardinal, was researching an article about some universities requiring sexual assault victims to sign confidentiality agreements prior to the judicial review process.

Coleman says she asked two university administrators whether Otterbein had such a policy, and she said she received conflicting answers.   

“You have the dean of student affairs saying, ‘No, there is no form,’ and one of his staff members in student affairs saying, ‘Yes, there is a form,’ and not only is there a form, but here is the form,” Coleman said.

The form states privacy must be maintained and the sexual assault should not be discussed.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, that requirement is illegal.

It is a violation of the Clery Act.

Otterbein University’s VP of Student Affairs, Bob Gatti, said in a statement that the clause in question has been removed from the Administrative Judicial Interview form.

He also said the university will be talking with attorneys to better understand the rights of the students and the school.

Coleman said she is thrilled with the change.

“It's exciting that finally I'm graduating, and I'm excited about that and I'm able to do something worthwhile for the university right before I leave,” she said.

The university's executive director of communication said the university started using the Judicial Administrative Interview form last year, and the guidelines included on the form were compiled by the university's student conduct office.

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