University News

PC student files civil rights complaint against U. in assault case

Student alleges that U. mistreated sexual assault case as ‘misconduct,’ not as Title IX civil rights violation

By
Metro Editor
Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A female Providence College student who accused two Brown students of sexual assault last year filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Saturday against the University for allegedly mishandling her case, the Providence Journal reported Tuesday.

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights will now look into whether or not the University handled the PC student’s case appropriately and complied with federal civil rights laws, wrote Wendy Murphy, the PC student’s attorney, in an email to The Herald.

The PC student alleges in her complaint that the University did not treat her inquiry as a Title IX civil rights violation, but rather as one involving “general misconduct,” the ProJo reported.

When a case is handled as generic misconduct, civil rights standards of Title IX do not apply, Murphy wrote. While federal standards mandate that plaintiffs in civil rights cases must receive equal redress for wrongs suffered regardless of race or national origin, these standards do not apply to cases treated as incidents of misconduct, Murphy wrote.

The lack of consistent standards makes violence against women harder to prove, she added.

This discrepancy leads Murphy to advise her clients to report assaults and other violent crimes “as a civil rights harm based on anything other than sex,” she wrote.

The PC student alleges that last November, two first-year Brown football players sexually assaulted her in a Brown dorm room. The student did not file a complaint with the Providence police until February of this year.

The undergraduates were ordered to leave campus in late April, and one of them withdrew from the University before the beginning of the current school year, The Herald reported at the time.

In August, a grand jury chose to not indict the two accused football players due to a lack of evidence, so they will not face criminal charges. After the grand jury’s decision, a third Brown student, who remains on the football roster, was implicated in the case after police filings of cellphone records and emails showed the third student’s communication via text message with the two accused players.

One of the accused, a former undergrad, requested last week that the Rhode Island Superior Court seal his records.

This is not the first federal civil rights complaint that the University has received this year. Lena Sclove ’15.5, a former undergrad who reported being raped by another student last year, filed Title IX and Clery Act complaints against the University in May, The Herald reported at the time.

In response to Sclove’s civil rights complaints, the University released a statement that said its policy “is not to discuss individual cases or details of ongoing reviews.”

The University will “face criticism, (civil rights) complaints and relentless lawsuits until they fix their segregationist policies and explicitly treat women with the full equality they deserve,” Murphy wrote to The Herald.

The University has not yet received notice from the Department of Education about the PC student’s new complaint, wrote Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, in an email to The Herald. While federal law prevents the University from commenting on disciplinary actions involving students, administrators will “cooperate fully if asked” by authorities, Quinn wrote.

  • Alumnus

    As the varsity football team takes the field this Saturday, the question remains, Which among them are the rapists? Which among them are the “student” athletes who drugged a Providence College first-year, kidnapped her to a Brown dorm room, raped her, posted photos of her rape online, and published the fact of her rape in a text message that was, many weeks ago, released by the Providence Police Department? Why has Brown been prevaricating? Why has Brown been protecting the rapists SINCE LAST WINTER? Why has the BDH refused to do the gritty reporting that regional news media have been doing? Today’s BDH article is a study in bland minimalism. Nowhere in the article is there mention of the excellent Providence Journal article that went to the AP wire at lunchtime Tuesday, October 14. Nowhere in the BDH article is there mention of the Brown associate dean’s grotesque letter, dated October 7 and published for the world to see by news media, which informed the date-rape-drug victim that Brown had NOT YET BEGUN AN INVESTIGATION. The dean’s letter (online at ProvidenceJournal.com) tells the victim, “It has been determined that an inquiry into this incident will be conducted.” “WILL BE CONDUCTED” — a YEAR after the rape, SIX MONTHS after the University first interrogated the football players, THREE MONTHS after Providence Police detectives released this horrific text message: “NO INVITE JUST WALKS IN AND STARTS RAPING HER.” Unfortunately for Brown, the victim has hired a wonderfully aggressive, very smart, very activist, very media-experienced attorney, Wendy Murphy, the sort of activist one used to find at Brown, before the BOE concentration and the iPhone were invented. I hope Wendy Murphy wins this one because I don’t recognize my university any more.

    • Brown Bro

      Let’s hope that the plaintiff also sues Christina Paxson, Margaret Klawunn, and the Brown University football coach, personally.

    • Also concerned

      I agree but I have a question since I have not followed this coverage. With what seems like pretty clear evidence from what you posted, why didn’t the grand jury indict?

    • Alum

      I ask this with all seriousness: If a court of law couldn’t even prove that there was probable cause that these students raped her, how is the university supposed to show a preponderance of evidence (i.e. more evidence than probable cause requires) that they did?

      • Amul

        Read up. (They taught you how to do that at Brown, right?)

        • Alum

          They did. What I’m reading above is a random anonymous internet commenter. http://www.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/content/20140826-brown-university-football-players-joked-about-raping-woman-court-records-show.ece This article substantiates what was texted (and appears to indicate a 3rd student assaulted the girl, not the 2 who were arrested), but unfortunately, no one has disclosed the true details of the proceedings. I imagine other things were presented that clearly outweighed the text messages. What are those things? What are we not being told? Is this a blatant failure of justice or is only one side talking to the press? There’s a reason Sol Wachtler’s said that prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich if he wanted. Why couldn’t the providence DA get an indictment of these students?

          Did you read my question before you’re snarky, unhelpful response: What makes anyone think that if the providence DA and police department couldn’t make a case for probable cause with the evidence presented above that the PC student/university will be able to present a preponderance of evidence of the same claim? This isn’t a case of a failed conviction or even a decision by an individual or two not to prosecute, this was a grand jury of roughly ~20 people and fewer than 13 of them believed there was even probable cause (that’s presented as less than 50% chance in contrast to the university conduct hearing which is >50%) that the two students raped the girl.

          • India Snark

            You read only the things that you wanted to read. Your opinion had been formed prior. I believe that must ring familiar, from a Brown class of yesteryears?

          • Alum

            Care to provide me things to read then? From what I’ve read, it sounds atrocious that there was no indictment…but there wasn’t an indictment. So what do people think the university – which has a conflict of interest and would rather say the students didn’t rape the PC girl (regardless of whether that’s true or not) is going to do differently to provide more evidence than the DA needed to? Or more likely: what did the DA do wrong that they failed to get this indictment?

            Have I written anywhere that the girl wasn’t raped or that the PC student shouldn’t file a suit? No. I’m asking people to answer why they think any of this is going to help given that the indictment – which of all the things we’re talking about is the easiest to get – failed. No one seems to want to answer that and instead seems to be resorting to ad hominems. Is it just rape culture? Is it so ingrained that the DA responsible for such crimes can’t even argue it properly? Is it so pervasive that a jury is unable to admit that there’s probable cause that it happened and that these two students did it? If so – why will the university behave any differently? Why would the people handling the law suit behave any differently?

          • Nocolo Lining

            Look for things yourself to read and to think about based on all the feedbacks. No need to spponfeed you, right? One other comment: come down from the ivory tower.

    • Travis Bickle

      “Which among them are the rapists”. I think you mean — which among them are the ACCUSED rapists.

  • James de Reeve

    Didn’t Chris Paxson quip just a few months ago about being out in front of the Ivy League on this rape thing? She is just shameless with her verbal diarrhoea.

  • ’15

    98% of Title IX complaints end with no violations found:
    http://chronicle.com/article/Promise-Unfulfilled-/146299/

    This is a last-ditch effort to win in the media after losing in a grand jury.