Sexual assault report calls for changes at Brown

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Brown University task force on sexual assault said Wednesday the school's current culture is unacceptable and must be changed to ensure the campus is a "safe and welcoming place."

The 17-member panel, formed amid increased national scrutiny of how colleges handle sexual assault complaints, released an interim report on the issue at the Ivy League school.

A federal task force earlier this year found that 1 in 5 female students nationwide have been assaulted on campus, but only 1 in 8 report assault. Brown has had several recent reports of alleged sexual assault.

"The current norms and culture of the Brown University campus are not acceptable, and as a community we must seek in word and deed to fundamentally change that culture in order to ensure that the Brown campus is a safe and welcoming place to learn, teach, conduct research, work and live for all members of the community," the Sexual Assault Task Force wrote to President Christina Paxson.

The task force said many members of the campus community expressed frustration with how long it takes to resolve complaints, which has "profound and negative impacts" on students. It also cited widely held beliefs that sanctions against perpetrators are too lenient and inconsistently applied and that criteria for these sanctions are vague.

Preliminary recommendations include handling complaints more quickly, reducing the "traumatic nature" of the process, providing the campus community with timely information about sexual violence at Brown and doing more to raise awareness about the problem.

The report also identified cooperation with law enforcement as a priority, and said a memorandum of understanding between Brown and Providence police is being developed.

A Brown student in April criticized the Ivy League school over how it handled her allegation that another student had raped her. In a separate case, two Brown students who played on the football team were accused of sexual assault, but prosecutors said in August a grand jury declined to indict them.

Also, last month, Brown reported that a student had tested positive for a date-rape drug after drinking at a fraternity party. Phi Kappa Psi, which was suspended, said in a letter to the campus newspaper at the time that none of its members had engaged in "such atrocious and criminal behavior."

The task force includes university administrators, professors, an associate chaplain and several students. The interim report includes the draft of a new comprehensive policy on sexual harassment and sexual violence. The final report is expected to be released in the spring.

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