DA meets with SMU president to discuss sexual assaults




Posted on October 1, 2012 at 6:13 PM

DALLAS — The president of SMU met with Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins Monday morning to talk about how the university handles sexual assault allegations.

The university's student disciplinary system has been under intense scrutiny after two students were arrested this semester on sexual assault charges.

One case took eight months for an arrest; the other, just two days. Watkins wants to know what accounts for the difference.

"I can't give you an explanation of why it took more time in the first case than the second case," the district attorney said, "but I will tell you that at this point, there has been a recognition that there needs to be an open dialogue, that we need to be on the same page."

Universities are required to follow Title 9, a federal law that requires investigations of students who are accused of crimes through an internal student conduct system.

A panel of students and faculty will determine whether that student is expelled or not. That can take months.

"Therein lies the conflict," Watkins said. "If a person commits a crime and it's reported to the police department, we would expect those cases as soon as the investigation is over, they would be submitted to the district attorney's office."

Watkins said his staff will participate in a task force that will examine how the university handles sexual assault cases.

In a written statement, SMU President R. Gerald Turner said:

"We are pleased that the SMU Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Policies and Procedures will benefit from participation by a member of the District Attorney's Office. This collaboration will be essential as we re-examine policies and procedures."

Watkins said the key is timely prosecution, while protecting victims and the rights of those accused.