Report: 294 cases of sexual assault on Minnesota college campuses

A first-of-its kind report details sexual assaults on Minnesota campuses. The report, released on Thursday by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, lists 294 cases of sexual assaults reported to colleges and universities in 2015.

164 reported cases were investigated by schools — about 56 percent. And about a quarter of all reported incidents resulted in discipline.

The data get a bit murkier when looking into the number of investigated cases that transitioned into a disciplinary process because some schools treat the entire process as continuous. However, Kathryn Nash, a higher education attorney who helped some schools prepare the data, estimates 40 to 60 percent of all cases where a victim urged the school to move forward, or the school moved forward, resulted in a student held responsible.

The report shows about 19 percent of all cases reported to schools were also reported to police.

“I’m not surprised by it because it’s a lot more challenging process for victims to go through a much higher burden of proof. It’s proof beyond a responsible doubt,” Nash, an attorney at Gray Plant Mooty, said. “And the schools use a preponderance of the evidence standard, which is more likely than not.”

Nash also pointed to state and federal laws that prohibit schools from reporting incidents to police without the victim’s consent.

The new report lists the number of reported sexual assaults at every school and university in the state, including:

47 University of Minnesota – Twin Cities              
21 College of St. Benedict/St.John’s University
20 Carleton College                                                        
20 University of St. Thomas                                         
19 St. Cloud State University                                       
19 Gustavus Adolphus College    

Nash cautioned into reading too much into the numbers at each school.

“I think it’s a wrong assumption to take a high number of reports and think that school is doing something wrong," said Nash. "In fact, high numbers of reports could mean they're doing everything right, that victims feel comfortable coming forward and making reports.”

Likewise, Nash said not to make assumptions about schools reporting zero sexual assaults.

“Zero, year after year, is potentially concerning. Because we know statistically these incidents are happening,” she said.

Nash, who trains students and faculty across the state and country, expects the number of reported sexual assaults to increase this year — not due to more assaults — but due to more reporting; she credits early mandatory training that started last August on Minnesota campuses.

Click here to read the report: