University News

Paxson responds to campus unrest over sexual assault policy

President sends campus-wide email stating that student accused of assaulting Lena Sclove ’15.5 will not return to Brown

By
Metro Editor

President Christina Paxson sent a campus-wide email Saturday afternoon responding to student outcry surrounding the University’s sexual misconduct policy. Her email came four days after a press conference in which Lena Sclove ’15.5 revealed the details of her sexual assault case and criticized the University’s response.

In her email, Paxson wrote that the University has “an absolute obligation to protect victims while also providing due process for the accused.”

Sclove’s alleged perpetrator, Daniel Kopin, a former member of the class of 2016 who was permitted to seek readmission to the University in fall 2014 after a one-year suspension, announced he has decided not to return to Brown, according to a statement released today by his attorney David Duncan.

Sclove’s press conference “raised questions about the adequacy of our processes for evaluating charges of sexual assault and about the severity of sanctions for students who are found responsible for sexual misconduct under Brown’s Code of Student Conduct,” Paxson wrote in the email.

“To be clear, sexual assault at Brown is not tolerated,” Paxson wrote, adding that the University is committed to “taking aggressive steps to ensure that our campus is safe for everyone,” through both preventing sexual violence and ensuring that the “procedures for handling cases are fair and sensitive.”

Paxson cited the review of the Code of Student Conduct, originally slated for completion in spring 2015, as an opportunity to revise the University’s sexual assault policy through student input and announced that the University is “accelerating that review.” The University will also use recent survey results on student alcohol use to implement programs “aimed at reducing high-risk drinking,” and will launch additional student surveys of campus safety this fall, she wrote.

Paxson also confirmed that “the student accused of the assault has decided not to petition the University for readmission” in her email.

Kopin “is deeply saddened by recent events at Brown University and has decided to withdraw his request to return,” Duncan wrote in the statement. He “maintains that his relationship with the fellow student involved in this matter was consensual,” Duncan wrote, adding that Kopin disagreed with the sanction imposed on him by the University but accepted the decision and “was fully prepared to return to school and to abide by any conditions placed on him by the University.”

“This case has now become highly sensationalized,” and has grown from “allegations and rumors that have been asserted as fact,” Duncan wrote.

A petition initiated and presented to University administrators at the April 23 Brown University Community Council meeting by Emma Hall ’16 has accumulated over 4,670 signatures online through a Google survey form and over 400 signatures on paper, Hall wrote in an email to The Herald. The petition calls on the University to suspend any student found responsible for sexual misconduct for two years or until the assaulted student has graduated — whichever is longer.

Sara Erkal ’16 launched the same petition on change.org — a website on which members of the public can sign petitions to support local and international causes and campaigns — and has garnered over 5,000 signatures.

The petition on change.org “has been received excellently both by the Brown community and the community at large,” Erkal wrote in an email to The Herald. “I’ve seen the petition slowly spread to all corners of the world,” she added, citing signatories from France, Turkey, Singapore, Bangladesh, Peru, Morocco and Norway.

“Despite the already existing petition, I decided to launch this one to garner as much media attention as possible,” Erkal wrote, adding that the Huffington Post linked to the change.org petition in its coverage of Sclove’s press conference.

Erkal and Hall have updated students on the progress of the petitions through a Facebook group launched by Sclove after her press conference Tuesday, entitled “Justice for Lena and Survivors Everywhere,” which now has over 2,100 members.

Student activists involved in the Facebook group held an open planning meeting Sunday to discuss current efforts and strategize public action to raise awareness for sexual assault policy reform at the University, according to the Facebook page.

  • Joseph Boths

    Paxson’s claims are false. She lies. Folks, file a complaint with OCR about Brown University’s blatant violation of Title IX. Yale and Dartmouth students and alums have done that successfully. Columbia students are doing so.

    • vervonto

      You GUYS, am to, are already living in fast last la la land. What are you really afraid of? No idea. But guessing? Many to list. America has not been totally taken over by the 1%. Yet. It’s the wrong time To even be sitting on the fence. From outside looking in murky at best. You GUYS, are better than this. I hope. It’s your sister?

  • Eugene Frederic

    How long has it been since the Ray Kelly protest thing? Remember, Paxson’s timeline for responses is not that of a normal person. She is always hoping to sweep things under the rug. There are two explanations for that. Her capacity to understand is very limited. Even on things that she understands, she has no courage for action.

  • ’15

    Universities are not courts, and it’s wrong of us to ask them to be. I agree that Brown should do what it can to protect its students, but we shouldn’t expect the ruling of a university committee, based on a university code of conduct (not the law), to take the place of real justice. The only institutions that can properly administer justice are courts, and the only standard of justice should be the law. I’m just as upset as anyone that a rapist could be returning to this campus (in this case, it’s still only alleged), but there’s only one way good way to stop rapists from returning: prosecute them. The university’s only responsibility, in my opinion, should be ensuring the alleged perpetrator is kept off campus until the REAL justice system has had its say. If a victim doesn’t take his or her case to court, then I’m sorry – you shouldn’t expect the school to do anything. Would you expect a summer camp to start trying its counselors for rape? Just because the university is bigger and more prestigious doesn’t mean we should give it more power to adjudicate than any other private institution.

    Best of luck to Lena. We all know she’s going through hell and I don’t want this to be construed as an attack on her. Stay strong.

    • Lothar Berliner

      You are right. But Brown University pretends to be able to adjudicate any way. They want to eat their cake and have it too. Paxson and the deans are not genuine. Yale and Dartmouth improved their practices remarkably after students and alums filed complaints with OCR regarding Title IX violation. Brown University must be subject to the same fate.

      There is a Providence PD office half a block away from the Brown University campus police office on Charlesfield Street. Why? Brown campus police has conflicting reporting lines. Do they answer to the public because they are supposed to be part of Providence PD? Or, do they answer to the Brown Deans? Just the juxtaposition of those two offices indicates that Brown University tries to control cases that may affect the reputation of its officers. Instead of facilitating justice, they obstruct, and they give mindless copped-out excuses. They do not care what happens to the victims, as long as they can cover their own butts.

      A summer camp or a university should participate with the plaintiffs in prosecuting rapists. They have a moral obligation not to sit the fence. But that is lost on Chris Paxson & Co.

    • Why a different standard?

      Should punishment for all offenses at Brown be through the courts? Why should they treat this differently than a cheating accusation? The penalties are similar. If a prof thinks a student is cheating, is the student presumed innocent unless he is found guilty in a court of law? Why should sexual misconduct have a different standard than any other campus violation?

      • bacuz

        Because rape is a crime. Are you stupid or do you simply sympathize with criminals?

        • Why a different Std.

          I am saying that the Brown process is separate from the judicial process. It does not replace it. Brown may decide to administer some punishment for all sorts of violations that may or may not make their way into the judicial system. Some are criminal and some are not. Some have suggested that the only standard for justice should be the courts. I am saying that I disagree, and that how it is handled at Brown needs to be decided by Brown.

          • johnlonergan

            It is clear from this whole sorry episode that Brown does not possess the ability to accuse, judge and punish any of its number for crimes.
            We’ve dealt with crime for hundreds of years. We’ve fought wars to assert our rights.
            Either accept that our public process of accusation, judging and punishment in this country is correct, or revert to vigilante justice. Brown is not only incompetent to be judge and jury, it is criminal in its failure to refer this case to the criminal justice system. Brown, and by extension its President, is complicit in not reporting this crime.

  • Joe Pilgrim

    Dear Brown students, See the weblink below. Stick it to Chris Paxson and Margarett Klawunn. Yale and Dartmouth students have done similar things successfully. Columbia students started their action less than two weeks ago. And now Harvard: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2014/4/29/civil-rights-harvard-sexual-assault-investigation/

  • alum

    The eyewitnesses all testified against Sclove during the hearings. That’s pretty important and has been forgotten in all this coverage. Either rape culture is more insidious on campus than we thought, or the alleged is falsely accused.

    • mula

      Very obviously you are an internal counsel for Brown University.

      • alum

        No I’m not, but thanks for playing the “Let’s Throw Around Wild Accusations” Game.

    • Alum ’09

      There are two separate debates here:

      1. How should (and also if they should)) universities handle determining guilt in sexual assault (which is where I think your criticism falls)?

      2. When a student is found guilty by the university, what should the punishment be?

      1 gets into ideas of whether lawyers should be present, what level of evidence is sufficient (e.g. probable cause? preponderance? beyond reasonable doubt?), who should evaluate evidence, etc. This is where your criticism about witness testimony belongs as the concept of contradictory testimony is more an issue of proof of crime than of what punishment the crime merits.

      2 is more straightforward and what has really spurred this all forward. If the university believes one student assaulted another and the victim feels unsafe by the student’s presence, that should probably be enough to warrant removal until the victim is gone if not permanent expulsion.

    • Joe Onset

      I agree —

      I suspect the reason that Brown did not report the incident to the police is that the finding fell within the 50.01% threshold set by Title IX, as mandated by federal funding laws, but was not deemed sexual assault (as apposed to “s misconduct”, for example having sexual contact while under the influence of alcohol, which would count as the latter under the mandated federal guidelines. This explains why there was no referral to the police. Brown’s silence on the matter to the Press is there to protect both the accused AND the alleged victim, although she has chosen to go quite public, even naming the accused and stating the alleged crime as fact without due process of the law.

      My guess is that Ms. Sclove, has amplified and skewed what actually happened so as to have her day in the media. Her body language at her “press conference” and her demeanor of delight on camera and at her recent appearance on NBC’s Couric show suggest this may be the case.

      In sum, her story just is not believable — too many holes and inconsistencies, and, if you’ve followed all the threads of discussion and her statements, as I have, keeps changing from telling to telling. I know this sounds bad and is politically incorrect in the current climate on the Brown campus and elsewhere, because it’s one of the recurring retorts in many cases of true rape – which is, to be sure, problematic in general. I do support the on-campus safety of women, and feel strongly about it. Nonetheless, I think what applies in this case is that we must protect the privacy of BOTH the alleged victim AND the accused until he is found guilty of a crime by proper trial and adjudication. To do otherwise is to permanently stain a possibly innocent man, which is just as bad as ignoring the claims of a possible victim. Just as there are too many cases of true sexual assault (e.g. rape) on college campuses these days, there are also too many cases of falsely accused men. (Think Duke University, for example).

      Just some thoughts…

      • Concerned Alum

        I agree with the general direction of your comments. What concerns me most is what is the tendency to stretch the use of language for the sake of a cause. I suspect that some might feel that, even in the case where the facts don’t match the allegations, the aggrieved feel justified because even in that scenario, potential misrepresentations are for a good objective. In other words, the ends justify the means. Above all else, Brown University should be instilling an ethic of rigor and scholarship. And I resent the accusation that if you object to inflammatory tactics, you are branded a reactionary or worse. The irony is that by pushing the envelope, in the long run, the “activist” undermines their credibility and by extension, the item they supposedly cherish most, their “cause”.

        • Joe Onset

          Agreed. Brown students have succumbed to vigilante mob justice

          • Concerned Alum

            There is a crying need for responsible leadership. The fault doesn’t lie with the student body but without leadership, you will get this nonsense.

    • We can fix this

      If there were so many eye witnesses, why was there a finding of “responsible”? The group making that decision must have considered all of the evidence. Why are there always so many posters who are quickly blame the victim, and argue for a legal standard in rape cases? In contrast, I have never heard that argued for cheating, or any other campus infraction.

      The biggest problem here is getting the binge drinking under control.

      The second item needed is education for both girls and boys about avoiding high risk situations. When you get drunk and take a drunk girl back to your room and have sex with her, even if she says yes, she may not have sufficient capacity to give consent at that moment.

      Third, all students by accepting admission to the University, should agree that they give consent to be recorded, for purposes of safety, and compliance. Neither an alleged victim nor defendant should be precluded from submitting evidence based on a lack of consent to be recorded by the other party. This will increase convictions, decrease false accusations, and serve as a deterrent to both parties.

      • Joe Onset

        There were zero witnesses on behalf of Lena. There were two on behalf of Kopin. Doesnt that tell us something?

  • ’14

    “To be clear, sexual assault at Brown is not tolerated.”

    christina paxson is so full of sh*t

    • Concerned Alum

      Yes, ’14, Christina Paxson secretly encourages sexual assault. Any reading of her professional biography clearly gets you to that conclusion. At 60K/year, you can do better. It looks like you are at the tail end of your country club time. Time to grow up.

      • ’14

        sexual assault at brown is tolerated.

  • Concerned Alum

    Sara Erkal ’16 wrote in her petition, ” On August 2, 2013, Brown University student Lena Sclove was strangled and raped by a classmate. “. The BDH article quotes Ms. Erkal that her petition has been well received. My understanding is that the charges are alleged and not confirmed. She may be opening herself up to a libel suit.

    • Alum

      “I should have thought that a pack of British boys — you’re all British, aren’t you? — would have been able to put up a better show than that– I mean–” – Lord of the Flies

    • Alum ’09

      To be fair though given that Brown found the guy guilty with a preponderance of evidence standard, it’s unlikely that there would be a preponderance of evidence that the claims are a lie (which is what you would need for a libel case). Additionally, if the petition doesn’t name the student (i haven’t seen the petition so I could easily be wrong, but the quote you pulled out obviously doesn’t), then there’s absolutely no libel case whatsoever as “a classmate” could be anyone.

      • Concerned Alum

        Brown found the guy had violated their code of sexual misconduct. If you look at the criteria defining that code, it does not necessarily add up to rape.

        • Alum ’09

          Rape is not only a criminal charge but also the act of non consensual penetration, the latter is spelled out by the misconduct code he was found guilty of violating.

          • Alum ’09

            (3a) “Sexual misconduct that involves non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature” and (3b) “Sexual misconduct that includes one or more of the following: penetration, violent physical force or injury.” Non consensual contact of sexual nature + penetration sounds like rape to me. The dude isn’t a “convicted rapist” but saying a student raped Lena (again, did the petition in question even name the guy?) hardly sounds like enough for a libel case given the circumstances.

          • Alum ’09

            I decided to double check for myself: http://www.change.org/petitions/brown-university-justice-for-lena-and-sexual-assault-victims-everywhere

            No name in the petition so I’m pretty confident it can’t be libel.

          • interestingstuff

            It could still be libel. “The perpetrator” is only one person in this situation, so you are still directly referencing the individual in question. I’d take out “crimes of rape and sexual assault” because a reasonable reader may read that as an actual prosecution found the perpetrator guilty.

            Truth is a defense, but here that might be hard. The truth is he was adjudicated by the school which has different standards than an actual criminal prosecution. The elements aren’t different for rape, but the standards of proof are.

          • Focus on the real problem

            To win a libel suit, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show that the defendants statement is not true. Unless the plaintiff magically had a video of the entire night that conclusively demonstrated that the defendant has made written statements about him that are clearly not truthful, there is no case here.

            Wouldn’t it be better to focus on the real issue of what can be done to stop these crimes from consistently recurring in the future, and making the campus a safer place for everyone?

          • This is part of the problem

            I agree, but I think this is one of the issues that leads to the real problem. I think throwing around these empty libel threats only further encourages victims to remain silent. Victims remaining silent only helps reinforce rape myth acceptance (like the myth that false accusations are commonplace).

          • Concerned Alum
          • Alum ’09
          • Alum ’09

            Got trigger happy with my posting of the link.

            I would trust the actual code of conduct wording in the document posted online as a reference rather than a correspondence letter. Whether or not the letter to Lena outlines what code 3a entails does not mean code 3a no longer entails non-consensual contact.

          • Allegra W

            Sexual misconduct can mean having consensual sex while under the influence of alcohol. This is not rape.

          • It Depends

            It depends on what you mean by “under the influence of alcohol.” If one party is too drunk to legally give consent, then it can not legally be consensual.

      • Allegra W

        Be fair. He was NEVER found guilty of rape and strangulation, but only of sexual misconduct. Do you know what that means? According to the 50.01% standard, if he had consensual sex when Lena has previously had so much as one beer, that counts as sexual misconduct under the rules. This is a far cry from rape and strangulation. Frankly, based on the ever-growing holes in her story that increase with each retelling, I’m beginning to wonder how much has been her imagination, versus what actually did happen that night.

    • Sara E

      Hi there, concerned alum! This is Sara Erkal, in the flesh. I too would expect better of a Brown undergraduate candidate! In fact, I would expect better than rape and strangulation. Wouldn’t you? It is my understanding that the perpetrator was found guilty by the school, indicating that he did rape and strangle the victim. If you are going to try to tear down and destruct our fight for women’s rights, perhaps you had best find something more powerful than nitpicking word choice. Furthermore, the perpetrator’s name was not mentioned in either petition. I never claimed to be changing the world nor did I make the claim to be smart. It’s interesting. If I’m not “smart,” how did I get into Brown, the same school you attended? What exactly is your goal in lurking around these message threads anyway? Your comments are all of the same flavor: negative and misinformed. Seems like you have your mind set on defending a perpetrator of sexual assault. Quite frankly, I would expect better of a Brown alum.

      • Concerned Alum

        I’m sorry you feel that way. I am actually of the opinion that if a rape occurred, criminal charges should be filed and the perpetrator should do serious jail time. In the meantime, due process should be respected.

      • Allegra W

        Sara – You are 100% wrong. Brown never found the accused guilty of rape and strangulation, as you state above. This is something that came out of Lena’s mouth, but has never been confirmed. Many who post on this subject never bothered to check the facts once the story went viral. This has nothing to do with women’s rights, which I do support. It has more to do with human rights, and the right of due process under the law. To convict someone of such terrible crimes on the basis of rumors and diminuendos. So get smart and read up on facts before you state them so emphatically.

        • Sara E

          This is from the first BDH article on this topic:

          ” The Student Conduct Board, a group of students, deans and faculty members charged with holding and reviewing University disciplinary hearings, found Kopin was in violation of four items in the Student Conduct Code: (2a) “Actions that result in or can be reasonably expected to result in physical harm to a person or persons,” (5a) “Illegal possession or use of drugs and/or alcohol and/or drug paraphernalia,” (3a) “Sexual misconduct that involves non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature” and (3b) “Sexual misconduct that includes one or more of the following: penetration, violent physical force or injury.” ”

          Sexual misconduct that involves “penetration, violent physical force or injury” is rape, isn’t it? RAINN essentially outlines what constitutes rape here: https://www.rainn.org/get-information/types-of-sexual-assault/was-it-rape. It seems to be in line with article 3b of the conduct code.

          You are correct – wrongly accusing someone of rape would be a terrible injustice. But all we (“we” meaning those that aren’t the victim/perpetrator) can know with certainty is that the Student Conduct Board found him guilty of those violations. And someone found guilty of those violations must be punished accordingly, in my opinion.

  • alum

    So far, most comments regarding sexual assault pretty much fall into one of the following categories:
    1) “Brown is not addressing this correctly. She was raped, and he must face justice.”
    2) “His side of the story is not represented! This is a lynch mob, and vigilantes have no right to enforce justice.”
    3)
    “Let’s compare this case to previous sexual assaults and rapes from
    years ago…” (even though the similarities might be sparse).
    4) “Let’s compare this universities with other universities…”

    But
    why hasn’t anyone stopped to question the culture from which this
    arose? Why not examine the hook-up culture without dating, without
    relationships, without courtship? Isn’t that what these two engaged in
    before the rape? Wasn’t the case below by “GuysGetScrewed” a product of
    this culture? Wasn’t Adam Lack a product of this as well? Has anyone
    noticed that these hook ups almost always occur in the context of
    alcohol or parties with alcohol? Why is everyone so oblivious to this?

    Maybe we should change “no means no.”

    Rather our new adage should be, “No AND Yes means no. Even if she is sober.”

    What’s
    wrong with a date with girl without alcohol and without going to bed?
    What’s wrong with just enjoying a movie, dinner at paragon, and talking?
    What’s wrong with dressing up and enjoying a clean evening? Is there
    anything wrong with spending the evening admiring her pretty curly
    blonde hair? What’s wrong waking up the next morning thinking about
    love?

    Is that so repulsive that the preference should be for
    drunken carnality with the odor of Jack Daniels and vomit? Should we
    unilaterally prefer waking up the next morning with that awful feeling
    of a hangover and that sinking feeling of dirtiness? Oh yeah, and you
    have to wash that stain on your shirt?

    Honestly, has anything good
    ever come out of any hook ups? Look back, and honestly ask, when has
    anything good come out of this… ever? Are there any BDH articles with
    guys or girls raving about how their grades went up because of hooking
    up? Has anyone discovered how their depression or anxiety issues
    heretofore undiagnosed is now suddenly cured because of hooking up?