FSU changes approach to dealing with sexual violence on campus

By Chris Parenteau - Reporter

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida State University's interim president is announcing changes to the way the school deals with sexual violence.

The university has been scrutinized for the way it handled sexual assault allegations against football player Jameis Winston in late 2012 and early 2013.

It's now added a full-time Title IX director and two sexual violence coordinators.

FSU Interim President Garnett Stokes said she's not sure what the Office of Civil Rights will find in its investigation into Florida State University. But she said that regardless of those findings, the school is doing all it can to eliminate sexual violence on campus.

"These are important issues," Stokes said. "They are important societal issues, and they are very critical here at Florida State."

The first step the school took was adding a full-time Title IX director, rather than having a few people share the responsibilities. That position, and the two sexual violence coordinators, will report directly to the administration, making sure everyone is on the same page.

"We are looking at what are best practices in prevention of sexual violence and in managing issues of sexual assault and sexual violence," Stokes said. "I think what we're going to see over the next few weeks and months, as we become a national leader once again in the way we approach these issues, you are going to see a lot of things unfold at Florida State."

The school faced a lot of scrutiny about the way it handled the investigation after sexual assault allegations were brought against quarterback Jameis Winston. State Attorney Willie Meggs found that there wasn't enough evidence to charge Winston with any crimes. Stokes said she couldn't comment on that investigation but said FSU has a very good track record of dealing with sexual violence cases.

"What we do is we push this agenda forward on our campus and we become vocal nationally in terms of what we are doing," Stokes said. "Because sometimes it's about making sure people know what is actually happening and filling in the gaps of what people presume is going on."

According to campus police records, in 2010 there were three forcible sexual offenses reported to FSU police, five in 2011, and five in 2012. Stokes said even those numbers are too high.

"The goal is to prevent every single sexual assault," she said. "That needs to be what we aim for. From my perspective, one sexual assault is one too many."

Stokes said she hopes to have these positions in place before students return to campus next month to start the fall semester.

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