Father Of Alleged Sexual Assault Victim Says KU Values Athletes Over Women’s Success
Amid continued uproar over the issue of rape on college campuses, the father of a University of Kansas student who says she was sexually assaulted by a KU football player accused the university of caring more for its athletes than “the success of women on campus.”
At an emotional news conference with his attorneys Thursday, Jim McClure said that just as damaging as the alleged assault of his daughter, Sarah McClure, “is the way she was treated by (KU) following the assault, where they did everything in their power to dismiss her and try to make it go away.”
McClure said he and his daughter, previously identified only as Jane Doe VII, had chosen to publicly identify themselves now that the school semester had ended and she was no longer fearful of her safety in Jayhawker Towers, the dorm where she was allegedly assaulted.
Sitting behind a photograph of his daughter, McClure said his goal was to make KU more transparent and responsive to complaints of sexual assault on campus.
“We need substantive change, not window dressing,” he said.
McClure, his wife and their daughter are joining a class-action lawsuit filed against KU in March by the parents of another student, Daisy Tackett, who says she was also sexually assaulted in Jayhawker Towers. The novel legal action alleges that KU misleads students about how safe its dorms are and seeks redress for violations of the state’s consumer protection law.
McClure said any damages that are awarded in the suit “we’ll donate to victims of sexual assault in Kansas.”
Both Sarah McClure and Daisy Tackett were student athletes and members of KU’s rowing team. Both have accused university administrators and coaches of indifference to their plight and have filed individual lawsuits against the university.
Asked to comment about Jim McClure’s remarks, Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, a spokeswoman for KU, said in a statement that KU “takes very seriously any and all claims of sexual assault and sexual violence.”
“To protect the rights of all students involved, federal law prohibits the university from releasing details on individual sexual assault investigations,” Barcomb-Peterson said. “The university thoroughly investigated Ms. McClure’s allegations, and as a result, the accused student is no longer enrolled at KU. We are confident the courts will agree that we’ve met our obligations to both Ms. McClure and Ms. Tackett.”
The accused football player agreed to be expelled from the university earlier this year. But Dan Curry, an attorney who represents the parents and students suing KU, said KU only took action and scheduled a hearing after the class action lawsuit was filed.
So far, no criminal charges have been brought against the football player.
KU recently moved to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the parents had no standing to sue. Another lawyer for the parents, Tony LaCroix, said that he was somewhat surprised by KU’s response.
“I was slightly surprised for the reason Mr. McClure mentioned today,” he said at the news conference. “This is a cultural problem and a safety issue on the campus of KU and to be dismissive of it in any context continues to be inappropriate.”
The accusations that KU has not dealt seriously with sexual assaults come amid controversy at other college campuses over how they’ve dealt with the issue and anguished discussion about whether athletes accused of assault receive preferential treatment.
A six-month jail sentence meted out to a former Stanford University swimmer for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman has sparked widespread outrage and led to a petition to recall the sentencing judge.
Sarah McClure, who is now living with her parents at their home in a Chicago suburb, is undergoing therapy three times a week, her father said. She plans to return to school at some point but not KU, he said.
McClure said his grandfather, Keith C. Foster, graduated from KU in the 1930s after putting himself through school. He said his name is inscribed in KU’s bell tower because he died in World War II.
“It’s a real disappointment that my daughter is no longer going to be here at school, and it was such a connection to a member of my family that I would have given anything to have met,” McClure said.
McClure has created a website, kusexualassault.com, “to tell our story,” he said.
Dan Margolies, editor of the Heartland Health Monitor team, is based at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.