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.