(KMOV.com) -- Students from Webster University took to the streets Monday to protest the university's response to recent sexual assault accusations. The students also want the university to do more in the future to protect assault victims both on and off campus.
Student protesters told News 4's Jasmine Huda that they felt the university had been essentially sweeping the allegations under the rug. Many felt Webster has not been doing enough to protect its students from sexual assault.
The university will not comment on specific cases of sexual assault, but did say in a statement that they take sexual assault, harassment and other sexual offenses seriously. The statement added that the university continues to revise and review its programs to maintain a safe environment for students and to ensure continued compliance with federal laws.
Some students do not believe the promises made in the statement, or policy changes made in September, are enough. Demands from student protesters include a zero tolerance policy when it comes to sexual assault and additional education during freshman orientation.
"We are kind of trying to get a public eye on this because we feel the only way the school is going to do anything is if their reputation is on the line," said Bridgette Kluger, a Webster University sophomore.
From a national standpoint, the blame in cases of sexual assault or misconduct is shifting from individuals to institutions.
“I would never send my child to a university that did not have any reports of sexual assault,” Senator Claire McCaskill said early this year.
Last year, Webster University only reported one sexual assault. McCaskill's office found that many colleges across the country are under-reporting sexual assaults.
Senator McCaskill, who has been working to address these issues for years, introduced a "Campus Safety and Accountability Act" which would hold universities financially accountable in cases of federal standards violations. The bill is currently stalled in committee.
Currently, Webster University has an on-call sexual offense advocate 24 hours a day.
News 4 will continue to track the progress of McCaskill's bill to increase the standards universities must meet in protecting campus sexual assault victims.
Webster University released the following statement about its policy:
Webster University takes sexual assault, harassment, and other sexual offenses seriously and has had strong programs in place for many years. The University continually reviews and revises programs to provide a safe environment and ensure compliance with changing federal laws. Webster University focuses on prevention, education, reporting, adjudication and support.
When complaints are filed at Webster, the University institutes procedures that assure due process and privacy of individuals. Sexual Offense Hearing Boards are comprised of trained students, faculty and staff who judiciously study the cases, hold hearings, and decide on appropriate sanctions, in compliance with policy and law. Webster’s policy provides for a range of sanctions based on the nature and seriousness of the act.
Occasionally, individuals who may or may not be aware of the facts of a case, or the FERPA requirement regarding confidentiality, will challenge the findings. In accordance with University policy, cases are assigned to a Title IX Coordinator or a Sexual Offense Hearing Board (dependent on choice of the complainant) which listens to all accounts and carefully applies due process for all individuals involved. Not all policy violations are classified as criminal violations, but students who file the initial accounts are also advised on how to report the incident to local law enforcement, if they wish to take those steps.
Webster University is committed to promptly and effectively responding to reports of sexual offenses and harassment and take appropriate actions to prevent, correct, and if necessary apply sanctions should the policy be violated. The University also is committed to on-going programming to promote prevention and education related to eliminating incidents of violations of this policy, including mandatory training for faculty and staff and continual educational programs for students. This semester, President Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble launched a Presidential Task Force on the Prevention, Education, Awareness and Programs for Sexual Assault and Other Sexual Offenses. This Task Force is pursuing ways to strengthen the institution’s role in information, training and education on sexual offenses and related issues. It will report back to the President in February, 2015.
For more on the policy, click here.
To report such an incident, click here