TULSA - University of Tulsa students demanded improvements to the school's warning system and greater transparency at a panel discussion meant to educate them about sexual assault.
The media was not allowed inside the event on Friday, but 2 Works for You obtained audio from the nearly two-hour meeting, which included representatives from the university; the Tulsa County District Attorney's office; Domestic Violence Intervention Services; the Tulsa Institute for Trauma, Adversity and Injustice and Tulsa police. Students who were there tell us about 50 students attended.
For the first 40 minutes, the panel introduced themselves and spoke about an annual survey regarding the university's sexual assault awareness programs and the federal guidelines that require them.
"There's a guideline that states that the university must provide a comprehensive program that provides you with information on sexual violence and sexual assault," said Yolanda Taylor, T.U. associate vice president for student services. of If we fail to do that, then we perhaps put ourselves in jeopardy of reducing or eliminating the amount of Title IV funding that students at the University of Tulsa can access."
Title IV is part of the federal Higher Education Act and is the major source of federal financial student aid.
Taylor also spoke about Haven - an online program the university requires every student to take to learn about sexual assault, stalking, relationship violence and sexual harassment.
After the panelists finished their presentations, students were allowed to ask questions.
One woman said, "On behalf of a lot of my friends and I'm sure a lot of people on campus, in light of recent events, it's been very scary. Being scared to walk alone from the library at night because you don't know what's going to happen, or having to buy an alarm for the door because you're afraid of someone opening it in the middle of the night."
Former T.U. student Luis Molina, a 19-year-old student from Mexico on a student visa, faces charges of rape by instrumentation, four counts of sexual battery, eight counts of peeping tom, seven counts of first degree burglary, larceny and attempted rape in the first degree. Tulsa police say they started investigating in February when a woman in a campus apartment reported waking to a stranger in her bedroom, touching her buttocks. In the months following the February attack, the university sent out a series of alerts notifying students of an intruder entering campus apartments through unlocked doors, but doing no harm.
At the Friday discussion, a female student asked why, when police were telling the media in May about a sexual assault on campus, university alerts to students still made no mention of sexual crimes.
"As far as the incidences [sic], um, we had no information, um, very vague descriptions," said a campus security officer. "As soon as we had someone on the radar, the individual was suspended and removed from campus."
Sgt. Jillian Phippen with the Tulsa police sex crimes unit said she's the one who told the media about two cases of sexual battery on campus in May. She said her investigators knew immediately they were not dealing with a typical burglar.
"That's the difference between making a police report with the Tulsa Police Department and making a report through campus security," Phippen said. "We have a straight line as to what our purpose is, and that's to find the facts and ultimately get information to the district attorney's office."
"I don't understand why we weren't more alarmed," said another female student. "The general population doesn't see that as a big deal but you guys should have made it a big deal."
Taylor countered, "I believe after the information was submitted, there was a notice that went out to the university that said, 'Please take more precautions.' I'm not sure that we could put, 'It's serious.'"
The university acknowledged to 2 Works for You, it did not mention sexual crimes in any of its notices to students from February to October 24 when they announced Molina's arrest. The university's online crime logs also do not indicate sexual crimes related to Molina's charges. Taylor said in the meeting she doesn't know if a supplemental log will share the information.
Near the end of the gathering, a young woman said she lived in a campus apartment that received an unwanted visit from an intruder.
"I woke up one night to hear my roommate screaming. And if you guys ever go to bed at night and close your eyes and think about someone else being in that room with you, it scares the sh** out of you."
The woman said she's been so frightened, she locks both her her apartment door and bedroom door, and often keeps a light on all night. She said people she told about the incident were much more afraid and took greater precautions than they would have taken with the email alerts alone.
"And I wanted to say that I walked in to this room today thinking that the university cared more about protecting their reputation than they cared about protecting the students," the woman said. "And I’m leaving here thinking the same thing."
A student who attended the meeting said the woman gathered up her belongings and left.
The panel is set to reconvene on November 9.
Molina is currently in the Bexar County, Texas jail without bond. He's awaiting extradition to Tulsa.