SMU among U.S. colleges facing federal sexual assault investigation
Southern Methodist University in Dallas is one of 55 institutions under Title IX investigation related to alleged mishandling of sexual assault complaints. The Education Department released the full list of colleges and universities on May 1. This is the first time the list of schools suspected of sexual violence problems has been made public.
SMU is one of only two Texas universities on the list; the other is the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburgh. Massachusetts is home to the most schools on the list: Six institutions are under investigation, including Harvard and Boston University.
In 2012, SMU president Gerald Turner commissioned a 20-person task force on sexual misconduct policies and procedures. The task force, composed of SMU students, staff and trustees, as well as representatives from the legal community, offered 41 recommendations, including the addition of anonymous reporting and free access to after-hours counselors.
Shortly before the task force was created in September 2012, two SMU students were charged with sexual assault.
Donald Samuel Cuba, 20, was arrested September 10, 2012, for an alleged act of sexual assault in an SMU dormitory. The incident occurred in February, and an internal campus panel initially found Cuba guilty before reversing its decision. Ultimately the case was forwarded to the Dallas district attorney's office, which filed charges against Cuba. A jury found him not guilty in May 2013.
John David Mahaffey, 19, was arrested September 25, 2012, and charged with sexual assault for allegedly forcing a male student to give him oral sex. Mahaffey claimed the act was consensual, though a conversation recorded by police suggested otherwise.
Mahaffey was indicted by a grand jury in November, but the Dallas district attorney's office dropped the charges in March 2013.
Following the news of a federal investigation, SMU released a statement characterizing its internal approach to sexual assault policies as "aggressive."
SMU applauds the U.S. Department of Education's efforts to eradicate sexual violence on college campuses and to provide universities with additional tools to combat sexual assault. Our goals are the same.
The matters under review by the Education Department have been investigated by SMU and predate our University task force review of sexual misconduct policies and procedures. The University has been aggressive in putting into practice wide-ranging new procedures to inform and protect our students, to provide prompt and effective resolution of complaints, and to hold violators accountable while treating all students fairly.
SMU continually reviews and updates its programs in comparison with national benchmarks, and we are pleased that the White House also has made these matters a priority for all American universities. No issue is more important than the health and safety of our students.