University News

Along with letter, Phi Psi distributes false information

Contrary to claim that test was ‘conclusively negative,’ suspected lab errors render results inconclusive

By
University News Editor
Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Members of Phi Kappa Psi posted flyers across campus over the past week. The flyers link to the fraternity’s letter to the Brown community, which calls for the University to release all information related to its case.

Over the last week, Phi Kappa Psi has blanketed campus with flyers bearing a scannable barcode that links to a letter detailing evidence from its recent misconduct case.

In that letter, the fraternity falsely asserts that laboratory results were “conclusively negative” for a hair test on one of the two female students who reported being given the date-rape drug GHB at an October party hosted by the fraternity.

Multiple documents reviewed by The Herald show that neither the University nor an independent medical expert ever reached such a determination.

The toxicology report from the laboratory that conducted the test originally found natural, not elevated, levels of GHB in the hair sample. But several other documents have raised concerns about the test’s methodology, casting doubts on what conclusions, if any, can be drawn from the test.

Phi Psi declined to comment for this story.

After a University hearing in response to the GHB allegations, Phi Psi was disciplined in mid-January for fostering an unsafe environment and subsequently received a four-year suspension.

On Feb. 21, the University modified the sanctions, granting the fraternity the right to petition for reinstatement after two-and-a-half years in light of a urine test originally deemed positive but later found to be inconclusive.

In response, Phi Psi wrote a letter expressing frustration with the University’s lack of transparency and calling for the release of all evidence and documents related to its hearing. The letter specifically addresses the certainty of a GHB hair test, the results of which were never made public by the University.

The fraternity originally sent the letter to The Herald, which declined to publish it Feb. 23 without additional information to back up its assertions. The Providence Journal published the letter on its website later that day.

Members of the fraternity have distributed the letter widely in high-traffic areas around campus in recent days.

The Carlson Company, which produced the lab report, sent the sample to ExperTox, a Texas-based laboratory, to perform the test.

The University hired Guy Vallaro, director of the division of scientific services at Connecticut’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, to independently review test results related to Phi Psi’s case.

A major concern raised by multiple parties about the Carlson Company’s report was the process by which the hair was tested.

Since recently ingested substances appear in higher concentrations in hair closest to the scalp, measuring the strand of hair by section — a process called segmenting — is “essential” to reveal any spikes in GHB levels, Vallaro wrote Feb. 5 in his report to Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services.

“There is no indication that the hair was segmented prior to analysis,” Vallaro wrote.

A letter reviewed by The Herald describes interactions between Unab Khan, medical director at Health Services, and Ernest Lykissa, laboratory director at ExperTox, in early January. Lykissa was “adamant” in defending the accuracy of the test results and his procedures, according to the letter.

But in a separate Jan. 12 letter to Lykissa, Khan expressed doubts about the validity of those methods. “You are very confident that the results are negative even though the whole hair shaft was tested for GHB … instead of a particular area that would have corresponded to the time of the alleged event,” she wrote. “You mentioned that averaging the result of the whole hair shaft could give false negative results.”

Khan also raised questions about whether Lykissa recorded GHB levels for each segment, as opposed to the full strand, and whether the Carlson Company has the requisite certifications to “report segmented levels of GHB in hair tests.”

Khan could not be reached for comment by press time.

The Herald sought comment from Klawunn for this story early Sunday morning. She did not comment. On Sunday evening, the University sent a community-wide email addressing the hair test and other aspects of the case.

The University “received inconsistent accounts from the laboratory about how the test was conducted, leading to concerns about the reliability of the information from the laboratory,” the email stated.

The email also reiterated that “a failure to positively identify the presence of exogenous GHB does not prove that GHB or another drug was not ingested.”

– With additional reporting by Michael Dubin

  • TheRationale

    Just one more reason to have the real authorities handle crime. This entire episode is a fiasco.

  • BrownDunGoofed

    All those who have been effected by this should be angry not at each other, but at the Universities gross mishandling of this case.

    The hair test was in fact segmented, which Brown and those involved know. And the entire 13″ of hair was segmented and tested as is done with these GC/MS tests.

    The communications which confirm this were not shared with Brown’s independent medical expert. Brown creates ambiguity when it doesn’t fit their narrative. Why not conduct another hair test?

    • BrownDunGoofed

      There’s no closure or real justice for any of our peers.

      Perhaps if Brown hadn’t misinformed the community on the first test and independently ensured that the test was accurate, no one would (The survivors, the respondants, the fraternity) would have been traumatized and justice might have actually been served. Perhaps. Instead all we are left with is two ambiguous “inconclusive” tests, perhaps the two most important credible pieces of evidence in the entire case. Brown f–ked up and everyone involved in the case is furious.

  • ’16

    For God’s sake, Brown, just admit that you did a terrible job of handling this issue instead of pitifully trying to cover things up.

  • Gatada Lasdro

    Buncha liars at Brown. Wow. Feds, take notice.

  • BadTitle

    Your title contradicts what you state. The below, which is the gut of the information you’re providing shows that there is disagreement between Khan, director at Health Services, and Lykissa, director at the lab that carried out the test. Lykissa believes their test was accurate, Khan is skeptical. It is misinformative for you to conclude that Lykissa is wrong because of this, rather, you should state that the interpretation of this test is disagreed upon but not conclusively inconclusive.

    “A letter reviewed by The Herald describes
    interactions between Unab Khan, medical director at Health Services,
    and Ernest Lykissa, laboratory director at ExperTox, in early January.
    Lykissa was “adamant” in defending the accuracy of the test results and
    his procedures, according to the letter.

    But in a separate Jan. 12 letter to
    Lykissa, Khan expressed doubts about the validity of those methods. “You
    are very confident that the results are negative even though the whole
    hair shaft was tested for GHB … instead of a particular area that would
    have corresponded to the time of the alleged event,” she wrote. “You
    mentioned that averaging the result of the whole hair shaft could give
    false negative results.”

  • ’17er

    “The fraternity originally sent the letter to The Herald, which declined to publish it Feb. 23 without additional information to back up its assertions. The Providence Journal published the letter on its website later that day.”

    Shout out to the Herald for having better standards than the Providence Journal! hahahahah yes

  • ’17er

    honestly I don’t think Brown is messing up, and I’m not usually one who agrees with the administration. They’re being way more transparent than other schools would be and ultimately they cannot tolerate date rape drugs on their campus. It makes sense. What else would you have them do? Ignore the fact that a girl was sexually assaulted and has a narrative implying administration of a date rape drug at a phi psi party?

    • ’15

      The administration should investigate, yes. But it should not accuse itself when it does not have the facts to do so. And it should come clean about the results of the campus investigation regarding the alleged sexual assault. As others have said before, Brown has been ready-fire-aim on this… except it has not even tried to aim that well after the fact. This whole thing has turned into one big exercise of cover-your-butt for a few deans.

  • Guest

    Terrible reporting and so-called investigation by the BDH. A few comments:

    1. How come the BDH did not contact the lab that performed the actual hair sample test? If it wants to firnly state whether or not Phi Psi was accurate in their claim that the second test was negative (not inconclusive), surely a call to the Carlson Lab was in order.

    2. In reading all of the available documents associated with the case, one written by the Brown administration (!) to the parties involved in the case clearly states:

    ” Dr. Khan notes, ‘From my understanding, they took the whole 13 inches of hair shaft, cut it in small pieces, took a random sample according to the weight they needed and ran the test” – IN SUMMARY, THE HAIR WAS SEGMENTED FOR THE GHB TEST

    and later in the same letter to all parties involved:

    “Dr. Khan notes, ‘We had a long discussion of what happened. It appears that they did take the whole shaft of hair and tested it for GHB. When I asked why nobody had called us back if there were questions about the time of the event (as it was obviously indicated why we wanted the test done), he didn’t have a clear answer. But he remained pretty adamant, that they would have been able to see a spike in the level if there had been GHB ingestion.’ Chief Porter notes, ‘Dr. Lykissa was very adamant when discussing the accuracy of the negative GHB test results and of his testing process. He was also certain that his process would have detected an elevated level of GHB.'” – IN SUMMARY, THE LAB ITSELF SAYS THE TEST RESULT WAS NEGATIVE, AND THE ADMINISTRATION KNEW THIS
    The BDH surely had access to these documents if, as it claims, it has reviewed “multiple documents”.
    Phi Psi did not give out false information:
    1. The hair tested was segmented
    2. The lab – which the university, not Phi Psi, contracted for the test came back more than once stating clearly that the test result was NEGATIVE
    If Dean Klawunn or others decided to challenge away in order to lessen the impact of this finding, or to cast doubt on it since it does not fit their narrative, then the BDH should be looking into the administration’s handling of the case.
    We already know the administration suppressed the findings of the second test, whether it was negative or “inconclusive”. We already know the administration was incorrect when it published widely the results of the first woman’s test, saying it was positive when it was not. In short, the administration have been proven to be dishonest throughout this case.
    How do we know they showed the BDH all of the papers involved? Either the BDH was poor and selective in its reporting, or poor and lazy in its investigation.
    After the Sclove case and the BDH’s terrible management of its own editorial policies, this accusation is fuirther proof that the BDH lacks journalistic standards. Shame on them.

    • sjadler

      Pretty sure you’re off-base about what it means for the hair to be “segmented”.

      Yeah, the hair was cut into small pieces. But Vallaro’s point seems to be that you segment it by cutting it into pieces *AND THEN* you prioritize the parts closest to the scalp, which are more recent.

      This lab, on the other hand, cut the hair into pieces, but then took a random sample to obtain a certain goal-weight. This random sample doesn’t prioritize the closest-to-the-scalp parts, so it isn’t the *right type of* segmentation.

      So, yeah, the hair was segmented. But the analysis wasn’t done according to these individual segments; rather, according to an aggregated random-sample of some of the segments.

      • pick a name

        ex

      • josh

        Second that, the analysis technique is called “segmenting”, which apparently entails more than just cutting hair into pieces.

      • Guest

        No, I have seen the actual lab report. It clearly states that each segment was tested. I know you and other have not read the actual report, but if you did it would leave you in no doubt that the test was actually negative.

        • sjadler

          Even if that’s true, nothing here in this article indicates that. The quote from Dr. Khan is *not* enough to establish segmentation per Vallaro’s method.

          • Guest

            Sjadler,

            I have seen the actual Carlson report. This is why I know segmentation was done, with testing on all segments. Honestly, I am not confident Vallaro saw it given his incorrect statement. I do not blame him. Perhaps the deans never actually gave him the report, but rather only gave him Khan’s assessment which was later clarified.

            Either way, Phi Psi had a great reason and basis to state that test result was negative. Meanwhile, the deans once again are not being really up front with the true facts of all this case has. They can say what they want about incomplete or inaccurate info. But thus far, they have not once gotten anything really right, and everything Phi Psi has said has been shown to have facts behind it.

            And no, I am not a Phi Psi. I too believed Brown at first. Not anymore.

          • sjadler

            Fair enough, hard to tell if you were the same “Guest” since there were so many on this thread. I still think the first post could’ve been clearer, but if you’ve seen the Carlson report then I’ll defer to you on that point.

            Out of curiosity, how did you happen to get a copy of that lab report?

          • Guest

            Believe it or not, from someone in the administration who clearly has issues with this situation. Sorry I need to be anonymous, hope you understand.

          • Greek Alum

            Can you put it up online anonymously? Like on imgur or wikileaks or something?

    • Klaw Me

      It is not possible to characterize Klawunn’s mental capacity and not sound nasty.

  • ’16

    “false”. That’s a very strong description, when if fact there were some individuals at the
    labs who felt this way about the results. In fact, isn’t this article “falsely” accusing phi psi?

    Even so, the rapist the girl pointed out doesn’t even go to phi psi, shouldn’t that be examined?

  • Misdirection??

    My biggest concern is why the University has not been more transparent and has not focused more on the SEXUAL ASSAULT and the person who sexually assaulted the girls (who is not affiliated with Phi Psi according to reports). Why wasn’t he charged with anything? That, imo is the bigger issue, not Phi Psi hosting a party and what may/may not have been served there, since no experts seem to be able to agree on this.

  • Greg

    Innocence means nothing to the BDH feminist narrative. My Sons will not be going to Brown.

    • Croiss Poxsin

      If they were, they would become your daughters while at Brown.

    • Helen Bergstrom

      Greg and Furious observer- since when did the right to consent and control over one’s body become a feminist issue? Also as far as sending your sons to Brown- consider teaching both your sons and daughters to respect other humans and their right to active consent.

  • /sarcasm/

    Wonderful job as usual, BDH.

  • Guest

    Where was the ‘University Distributes False Information’ article when they told the community there was a conclusive POSITIVE test? Oh thats right, as far as the BDH is concerned, the U’s word is law. Disgusting journalism.

  • guest

    Several points:
    1. Agree with Greg below- do not send your sons to Brown.
    2. BDH needs to qualify this article/headline unless they feel they have the expertise to interpret toxicology tests and vet the various experts and non-experts who have weighed in on the confusing and complicated tests results in this case. The Phi Psi letter contained no false information. Clearly there are disagreements regarding the interpretation of these tests, but are you 100% sure you are qualified to interpret scientific evidence? Are you confident in the various experts and administration personnel who have expressed their opinions regarding these tests? There is a complexity to this issue that you seem to have missed.
    3. This entire incident deserves an outside investigation to uncover exactly what mistakes were made by the administration if anyone is actually interested in true transparency.
    4. Why has there been no discussion about the initial charges of sexual assault which initiated the whole case? Maybe the BDH should look into that.

  • Greek Alum

    Anyone following this story has seen my name on nearly every article. My outrage over this incident and how Brown has handled it has actually always assumed two facts that are actually beneficial to the university: The girl was drugged and raped.

    Now, my outrage is the fact that Brown is clearly posturing in light of the title IX suit against it and does not care at all about making a safer campus or finding justice for the rape victim in question. My evidence to support this claim: no misconduct hearing for the student accused of raping the girl. No punishment for the QA after admitting that SPG facilitated campus rape for multiple years, and a revision to the campus alcohol policy that promotes the exact type of unregistered dorm party that the university says facilitated an assault.

    Given that we are talking about a SINGLE DRINK at a party and a rape that was committed somewhere else on campus by a student NOT A MEMBER OF PHI PSI. The amount of blame the university is placing on Phi Psi is preposterous. With zero evidence to support the claim that Phi Psi had anything to do with this/refute the claim that this unaffiliated student targeted this girl by slipping something into her drink and raping her it’s simply preposterous that we’re in a situation where Phi Psi has been shuttered and absolutely NOTHING has been done about the student named as the assailant.

  • sjadler

    Uh, isn’t it zero? I thought the BDH is financially independent for exactly that reason.

    • guest4

      Actually, the BDH gets a sizable amount of money from the administration including funding to provide free ads to student groups.

      • sjadler

        Interesting; the more you know.

  • Furious observer

    DO NOT SEND YOUR SONS TO BROWN. It is an unsafe environment for them!

  • Acad Emerg Med. 2013 Jun;20(6):562-9. doi: 10.1111/acem.12151.
    Dating violence: outcomes following a brief motivational interviewing intervention among at-risk adolescents in an urban emergency department.
    Cunningham RM1, Whiteside LK, Chermack ST, Zimmerman MA, Shope JT, Bingham CR, Blow FC, Walton MA.
    Author information
    Abstract
    OBJECTIVES:
    A recent study demonstrated the efficacy of the SafERteens intervention in reducing peer violence among adolescents presenting to the emergency department (ED). The objective of this study was to determine the efficacy of this ED-based brief intervention (BI) on dating violence 1 year following the ED visit among the subsample of adolescents in the original randomized controlled trial reporting past-year dating violence.
    METHODS:
    Patients (aged 14 to 18 years) at an ED were eligible for inclusion if they had past-year violence and alcohol use. Participants were randomized to one of three conditions (BI delivered by a computer [CBI], BI delivered by a therapist and a computer (T+CBI), or control) and completed follow-ups at 3, 6, and 12 months. In addition to content on alcohol misuse and peer violence, adolescents reporting dating violence received a tailored module on dating violence. The outcome of interest was frequency of moderate and severe dating violence victimization and aggression (baseline and 3, 6, and 12 months after ED visit).
    RESULTS:
    Among eligible adolescents, 55% (n = 397) reported dating violence and were included in these analyses. Compared to the control group (who received a resource brochure only), participants in the CBI showed reductions in moderate dating victimization at 3 months (inter-rater reliability [IRR] = 0.71; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.51 to 0.99; p < 0.05) and 6 months (IRR = 0.56; 95% CI = 0.38 to 0.83; p < 0.01). Models examining interaction effects were significant for the CBI on moderate dating victimization at 3 months (IRR = 0.81; 95% CI = 0.67 to 0.98; p < 0.05) and 6 months (IRR = 0.81; 95% CI = 0.66 to 0.99; p < 0.05). Significant interaction effects were found for the T+CBI on moderate dating violence victimization at 6 months (IRR = 0.81; 95% CI = 0.69 to 0.96; p < 0.01) and 12 months (IRR = 0.76; 95% CI = 0.63 to 0.90; p < 0.001) and severe dating violence victimization at 3 months (IRR = 0.76; 95% CI = 0.59 to 0.96; p < 0.05).
    CONCLUSIONS:
    ED-based BIs tailored to address multiple risk behaviors (i.e., peer violence, alcohol use, and dating violence) show promise for reducing moderate and severe dating victimization for up to 1 year following an ED visit.
    © 2013 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine.

    • Nota Hickpax

      John, This is over the heads of Brown University President and deans. They will simply use the existence of these analyses as their excuses for doing crass, dumb, and selfish things.

      • The points of posting these articles from NEJM are:
        1. Rape and sexual violence is experienced by male and female teens (4 and 7%, respectively).
        2. Our legal system has been dealing with rape and sexual violence for a long time–certainly much longer than Brown students or the administration.
        3. Those who think that our legal system is to “lax” on addressing male and female sexual violence can better spend their time working to improve our legal system, rather than attempting to create a parallel legal system which is much more flawed in its attempts to protect the rights of the accused and the rights of those violated.

  • Physical and Sexual Dating Violence Common Among Teens

    By Kelly Young

    Edited by David G. Fairchild, MD, MPH, and Jaye Elizabeth Hefner, MD

    Roughly one in five teenaged girls and one in 10 boys who’ve dated within the past year say they’ve experienced dating violence, according to a JAMA Pediatrics study.

    Roughly 13,000 U.S. high school students completed questionnaires as part of the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

    Of the girls who’d dated during the past year, 7% had experienced physical dating violence alone, 8% had experienced sexual dating violence, and 6% had experienced both. Among boys who’d dated recently, the prevalence was 4%, 3%, and 3%, respectively. Risky behaviors, such as drinking and attempting suicide, were more common among those who reported being victims of dating violence.

    The authors write: “Because TDV [teen dating violence] victimization was associated with a constellation of health-risk behaviors, it is possible that implementing TDV prevention programming may also affect the rates of these behaviors.”

    – See more at: http://www.jwatch.org/fw109927/2015/03/03/physical-and-sexual-dating-violence-common-among-teens?query=pfwTOC#sthash.Eca4Nx6D.dpuf

  • Guest

    BDH you reposted the story from Monday, but it is hard to see if there are corrections. Let me provide one to you:

    * Phi Psi had a physical document from the university-ordered lab test showing a clearly NEGATIVE test result. To fix your erroneous statement in the article: “the fraternity CORRECTLY asserts that laboratory results
    were “conclusively negative” for a hair test on one of the two female
    students who reported being given the date-rape drug GHB at an October
    party hosted by the fraternity” as the lab results as documented were conclusively negative, based on what was provided to the university itself. The results were conclusively negative, according to the lab.

    * Phi Psi understandably then issued a communication that said this test was negative, which would in effect clear them once and for all from all accusation of drugging the two women.

    * The administration then, and only then, issues a statement that this test was inconclusive based on a further assessment by other parties. It may or may not have told this to Phi Psi.

    Thus, Phi Psi was telling the truth that it knew at the time when it issued its letter: that a negative result was found on the hair test.

    Maybe the results are inconclusive, at this point who knows? But Phi Psi had a documented proof that there was negative result which the administration was not reporting to the public, so they understandably did so themselves.

    For the BDH to state that Phi Psi was providing false information, implying it was on purpose, is awful reporting and editing. To fix this, the BDH should massively overhaul the article and change the title, not just repost it.

    Shame continues on this newspaper.