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Utah State launches sex assault investigation into music department

Utah State launches sex assault investigation into music department (Photo: RaeAnn Christensen, KUTV)

(KUTV) - Utah State University has launched a sexual assault investigation after several women came forward through social media and said they were sexually assaulted or harassed within the music department.

Emily Wood is currently a music therapy major.

“This school hasn't had a great history with addressing things like that,” Wood said.

Wood said her professors were quick to address the sexual assault investigation Friday morning, “They just wanted to affirm to us that sexual safety is very important to them, that there's no tolerance for sexual harassment or assault,” she said.

Tim Vitale is the Director of Public Relations and Marketing for Utah State University.

He said the president of the university, Noelle Cockett, met with faculty and students Friday morning via video conference because she was out of town.

“She wanted to get in get out in front of this, she wanted to make sure they understood she was at the helm and taking things very seriously," Vitale said.

This all comes after a public Facebook post started gaining attention. Whitney Griffith, a former USU student said back in 2009, she was raped by an instructor in the piano department.

After Whitney shared her story, others started to post about similar incidents.

“They were alleging some very serious concerns. So we took them seriously, began to look into them ourselves,” Vitale said.

Whitney went on to say she reported the incident, but her alleged perpetrator kept his job, “That is extremely troubling, we saw that also, that probably is the most concerning thing to hear,” said Vitale. "The review will show us who we need to look at, who we need to talk to, if it's a professor, an instructor, or other things. Processes that we followed or didn't follow," Vitale said.

USU's music department posted on it's Facebook page and said the instructor referred to in the student's post is not employed at USU.

Wood said being in the music department, her professors have always been upfront with the issue, “They make me feel better about it because they address it.” She hopes the university which has faced a troubling past with sexual assault on campus follows suit. “I got this amount of hope that the college is going to try harder to be better at addressing sexual assault since speaking up about it is one of the most important ways we can stamp it out,” Wood said.

University officials are encouraging anyone that feels they be involved to come forward.

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