K-State refuses to investigate sexual assault, lawsuits filed


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Two students filed lawsuits Wednesday against Kansas State University, home of WSU President-elect Kirk Schulz, alleging the university failed to properly investigate reports of sexual assault.

The two women, Sara Weckhorst and Tessa Farmer, reported being raped in 2014 and 2015 at two separate fraternities. The university refused to investigate on the grounds that the incidents occurred off-campus, though at events hosted by university-recognized fraternities, according to court records.

Cari Simon, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, argued that as universities nationwide are grappling with how to properly respond to the epidemic of sexual assault, KSU handled the situations inadequately.

“The response that K-State took, at least to these two women’s rapes … was to bury their heads in the sand with a callous indifference,” Simon said.

Weckhorst and Farmer alleged the neglect of the reports violates their rights under Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in order to ensure equal access to education.

Despite months of pleading, the plaintiffs’ requests for investigation have gone unanswered, according to the lawsuits, leaving them in fear of encountering their assailants on campus.

“Ultimately it ignores the experience of victims and what it means to try to get your education alongside the person who sexually assaulted you,” Simon said, “and how traumatic that is and how that really does impact your access to education.”

The issue has gained national attention from End Rape on Campus, a survivor-led advocacy organization, which highlighted the situation as an example of failure by universities in handling sexual assault.

The organization has called on KSU to revise its policy to include off-campus conduct.

According to a New York Times article, Kansas State spokeswoman Cindy Hollingsworth said in an emailed statement that “Kansas State University does not discuss litigation matters in the media, nor do we publicly discuss individual reports of discrimination, including sexual violence.”

The statement said KSU has a strong policy prohibiting discrimination, which includes sexual violence and addresses off-campus conduct. WSU sexual assault policy applies explicitly to both on- and off-campus conduct.

Rankin & Associates Consulting conducted a survey of the Kansas State campus climate and presented a report in April 2015 of the findings. Sexual assault, whether on- or off-campus, and its handling by the university were among concerns generated by the study.

“It is extremely common and those who are raped are told they are blowing it out of proportion and shamed for it,” one survey respondent wrote. “K-State does a lot to try and bury how often rape happens on its campus.”

The U.S. Department of Education is also investigating the cases, Simon said. A 2014 document from the department states that under Title IX, universities have an obligation to respond to reports of sexual assault, regardless of where the incidents occur.

“K-State’s interpretation of its sexual assault policy deliberately turns its back on one of the most dangerous aspects of its campus life,” court records state, “conveniently writing fraternity rape out of its responsibility.”

Simon said as long as rapists are not held accountable for off-campus conduct, universities are sending the message that perpetrators need only bring victims to other locations.

While President-elect Kirk Schulz is not named in the lawsuits, several executives have been listed as involved in the cases. Among these is Dean of Student Life Pat Bosco, as well as two assistant deans.

Schulz said in an April 4 interview that no university has developed a surefire method for dealing with sexual assault, but he intends to emphasize education and student dialogue when he arrives at the university.

Court records can be found on dailyevergreen.com. The consultant report is available at http://www.k-state.edu/2025/initiatives/climate-survey/