Citing a need for change, KU students and administrators hold sexual violence forum

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LAWRENCE, Kan. - This summer the University of Kansas joined 75 other colleges and universities named in a federal investigation on how campuses respond to allegations of sexual assault. Since then, KU has received national attention for how it punished one suspect in an on-campus assault.

Students say this behavior has been going on too long, and it needs to change.

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little opened a forum on Thursday discussing a hot topic on campus in the last several months- sexual violence.

"We have a responsibility to make this a community in which each of you can make decisions about your life including your sexual behavior,and no one has the right to make those decisions for you," Gray-Little said.

Among those on the panel at the front of the room were administrators who deal with these issues. They discussed current policies, the language used in sexual violence investigations, and procedures.

KU Chief of Police Ralph Oliver stressed the importance of victims reporting each and every sexual crime to spot habitual offenders, or predators.

"We don't know if this is a one-time incident from the single report or if it's five times and we have four victims out there who have not made a report," warned Oliver.

Students also often brought up the way sexual violence is discussed. They wanted to make sure the language stayed gender-neutral, that the victim was never blamed, and that the way consent is defined becomes clearer.

Megan Mapes, a senior at KU, says the university has a lot of work to do.

"It's a cultural issue that has to be dealt with through education, but that education has to be dealt with effective policy because ineffective policy allows people to exist outside of proper cultural norms," Mapes said.

Joe Lilek agrees.

"There's a culture here, certainly at the University of Kansas and at most American universities, that this sort of thing gets pushed under the rug, and it takes some sort of event, like an article being released that really sparks this sort of public outrage," Lilek said.

A majority of people FOX 4 spoke with from the forum did say they were happy that the university took this step to continue discussions on the topic. The Title IX coordinator Jane McQueeny says in 2013 there were 12 complaints of sexual violence.

Six alleged perpetrators were recommended for expulsion in those cases.