UT conference debates issue of campus rape

A conference at UT this Friday and Saturday looks to open a dialogue on rape and sexual consent (KEYE TV)

The topic of campus rape is being debated this weekend at a conference at the University of Texas. The UT System just spent $1.7 million on a research study that resulted in new guidelines for campus police to respond to sexual assault victims.

"I've actually had a few scary encounters," said student Kaitlyn Timmons.

Being female on campus, Kaitlyn Timmons says she is always focused on safety.

"Toward the beginning of the year I actually had a guy follow me late at night. And I had a really bad feeling about it. I came out of it safe luckily but it's really scary and it definitely should be taken very seriously," said Timmons.

UT System police now use a new blueprint for responding to sexual assault victims developed after a $1.7 million dollar research study. The findings may influence law enforcement's response beyond Texas college campuses.

"I think that's money well spent," said Timmons.

"It's money that isn't going to address the fundamental basic educational needs of the university," said UT Professor Thomas Hubbard.

Professor Hubbard organized the conference called "Theorizing Consent: Educational and Legal Perspectives on Campus Rape".

"Nobody is denying that it's a problem but there is an issue of priorities," said Hubbard.

Northwestern Professor Laura Kipnis shared her story of being investigated by her university after writing an essay about sexual paranoia on campus.

"They said I was creating a hostile environment or a chilling effect ... students staged a protest march on campus and marched against me holding mattresses and pillows," said Kipnis.

She was exonerated but says the investigative process on college campuses is overreaching and puts academic freedom in danger. "I think what's happening on college campuses is that it's creating a culture of witch hunts," said Kipnis.

The conference continues Saturday with rape survivors and advocates as well as university administration addressing the issue.

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