Strengthening Advocacy

Dear Campus Community:

As we continue the conversation and work toward strengthening the collaboration with students regarding the University's efforts in combating sexual misconduct, two points of particular frustration expressed in the open session continue to resonate with me. Students expressed concern about a lack of transparency regarding University investigations and disciplinary actions involving campus sexual assaults and rape, along with challenges in coordination with local police during active criminal investigations. These are two issues that I will commit to formally review, and the University will work toward developing mechanisms to resolve these frustrations.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal privacy law that protects individual student records, including disciplinary investigations and outcomes. The law is intended to protect the privacy of all students, including those who may have been found responsible for violations of the disciplinary code. Although the University is not allowed to release individual information, we can explore ways of releasing aggregate information in the form of regular reports about disciplinary violations and sanctions. In the interest of transparency, this would allow students to have more information about what types of misconduct have occurred and what steps the University has taken to address these matters without releasing individual student information.

In regard to coordination with local law enforcement, I have tasked our Police Chief to better formalize our relationship with the Sex Crimes Division of the Memphis Police Department as well as similar divisions housed in other local law enforcement agencies. In the coming months, a formal plan will be developed, including a memorandum of understanding defining responsibilities and detailing data sharing by local law enforcement to facilitate quick action allowing for enhanced campus safety. University Counsel is also working to establish a relationship with the District Attorney's Office so that the University can gain information to assist in its investigatory efforts while the criminal process is proceeding.

As always, I will continue my work with the legislature in regard to enacting legislation specific to campus sexual assaults and rape. I will also be reaching out to a number of national organizations in an effort to build broad consensus for change. I will keep you updated as we move forward.

Regards,

M. David Rudd
President | Distinguished University Professor