SMU's sexual assault task force meeting for first time



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Posted on October 11, 2012 at 12:34 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 27 at 6:37 PM

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DALLAS – SMU's sexual assault task force will meet Thursday afternoon for the first time. The 20-member group will examine the university's response to sexual assault cases.  

On Wednesday, police issued a fifth crime alert for sexual assault, the third in the past six weeks. A student reported she was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance in the 3400 block of Asbury, off campus. The acquaintance was a SMU student.

"It's very, very scary," said student Kristin Leffingwell, responding to the string of alleged sexual assaults this year.

Last month, John David Mahaffey, 19, was indicted for forcing a male student to perform oral sex despite his pleas of "no" and "stop." 

Following recent cases such as these, the university has faced criticism among some who say previous cases weren't handled swiftly enough. The university’s student newspaper The Daily Campus published an investigation into how SMU handled alleged sexual assaults

The newspaper reported that the school employs an internal system of hearings and issues its own punishment without forwarding the case to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. The most severe punishment is expulsion, the paper reported. 

The university defended its policy, but last week announced the creation of the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct Policies and Procedures “to re-examine how the University handles allegations of sexual misconduct among students.” 

While the vast majority of individuals on the task force are associated with the university, there is a representative from the DA’s office present. In announcing its creation, SMU President Gerald R. Turner said its findings will be finished “on or before March 1, 2013.” 

"I think people have high hopes for what's going to happen," said student Jack Murphy about the task force.

The initial meeting is not open to the media, nor will administrators reveal where it will be held. 

It is made up of current and former students and staff along with a representative from the Dallas County DA's office. Here's the full list:

  • Kelly Compton, executive director of the Hoglund Foundation and SMU trustee  
  • Jim Burnham, attorney and former Dallas County assistant district attorney
  • Martin Camp, assistant dean for Student Affairs, SMU Dedman School of Law 
  • Karen Click, director of the SMU Women’s Center  
  • Dennis Cordell, associate dean of general education and professor of history, SMU Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences  
  • Jeanne Tower Cox, Dallas civic leader, SMU trustee and parent  
  • Monique Holland, SMU senior associate director of Athletics    
  • Anita Ingram, SMU associate vice president and chief risk officer  
  • Monika Korra, SMU student  
  • Ellyce Lindberg, chief prosecutor of grand jury/intake, office of Dallas County District Attorney
  • Steve Logan, senior executive director of SMU Residence Life and Student Housing  
  • Alex Mace, president of the SMU student body
  • Courtney Underwood Newsome, executive director, the SANE Initiative
  • Rick Shafer, SMU Chief of Police
  • Rachany Thi Son, SMU law student
  • Cathey Soutter, director of SMU Counseling and Psychiatric Services
  • Tom Tunks, SMU professor and former University associate provost
  • Vanessa Uzoh, SMU student and residence hall assistant
  • Lori White, SMU vice president for Student Affairs
  • Beth Wilson, SMU associate vice president for Institutional Access and Equity and executive assistant to the SMU president