University News

Hundreds march on U. Hall to protest handling of cases

Act4RJ delivers demands to administration, rallies community members to express solidarity

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, March 12, 2015

About 400 community members marched silently from Wriston Quadrangle, through University Hall and onto the Quiet Green Wednesday to protest the University’s handling of the widely discussed date-rape drug and sexual assault cases.

Demonstrators gathered in front of the Sharpe Refectory just before noon to trade in regular dollar bills for ones taped with the bright-red numerals “IX” in reference to Title IX. The protesters placed the marked bills over their mouths — an image that has become the de facto symbol of Act4RJ, the student movement that organized the event.

The crowd packed the space between Sears and Marcy Houses — the latter of which houses the fraternities Alpha Epsilon Pi and Zeta Delta Xi — where residents stood on porches and looked on. Sears House, formerly the home of Phi Kappa Psi — the fraternity sanctioned for hosting the October party at which two female students were allegedly served a drink spiked with GHB — flew the historical American flag that depicts an image of a rattlesnake alongside the words, “Don’t tread on me.”

As protesters taped the dollar bills over their mouths, event organizers distributed a leaflet that explained the purpose of the protest and contained instructions for participants. Protesters were asked to remain silent throughout the event. If questioned about the event, they were instructed to show the explanation on the leaflet.

Event organizers addressed the crowd by megaphone, reading a list of the two complainants’ grievances, along with a list of 10 demands the organizers and the two women collectively drafted. The organizers criticized the cancellation of a hearing for the student accused of administering GHB and the reasoning behind the finding of not responsible for the student accused of sexual assault.

The protest leaders expressed their intention to deliver the demands directly to the administration, noting the two women’s desire that all actions be directed at the University’s handling of the case instead of the alleged perpetrators.

“As a result of her incapacitation and memory loss from the date-rape drug, the survivor, due to her incomplete memory, could not provide a narrative to counter that of her assailant,” Katie Byron ’15, an organizer and a member of the Task Force on Sexual Assault, read from a prepared statement.

“Using the logic of the panel, to find justice, she needed to consume enough of the date-rape drug to both show and remember showing obvious symptoms of incapacitation,” Byron said, adding, “So no blacking out allowed.”

Byron said the hearing’s resulting reliance on the accused student’s account “contradicts the notion that consent is an action, not a perception.”

The procession was led by several event organizers and a pair of individuals carrying an unadorned mattress, reminiscent of Emma Sulkowicz’s protest at Columbia.

Maahika Srinivasan ’15, president of the Undergraduate Council of Students, held open the University Hall door as protesters filed in, past the offices of the president and the provost and out onto the Quiet Green.

Inside University Hall, event organizers taped the list of demands to Assistant to the President Kimberly Roskiewicz’s door, Byron told The Herald. Roskiewicz said she and other University Hall staff members were aware the protest would take place.

The protesters formed a circle on the Quiet Green, where organizers, assembled in front of the Van Wickle Gates, thanked them for their participation in the 45-minute event.

“This is a community that demands responsibility,” Byron said to a chorus of snaps.

Raizella Berman ’18 said she attended “in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault, and to protest (the) University’s mishandling of the issue.” Berman added that she was equally frustrated by the possibility that the Corporation ties of the student accused of spiking the drink influenced the hearing’s cancellation and by the outcome of the sexual assault hearing.

Charlotte Biren ’16 said the large turnout for the protest was important in encouraging the University to be transparent, especially in light of information released after a long period of confusion surrounding the case’s facts.

Emma Storbeck ’17 said she appreciated a large community showing to emphasize solidarity with the complainants, as opposed to malice toward the accused.

Organizer Jeanette Sternberg Lamb ’15 said she, the complainants and the other organizers were pleasantly surprised by the large turnout. While she characterized the event as a success, she added that it is too early to anticipate future actions by Act4RJ before the administration responds.

“I’ve been wanting to help stand in solidarity for a while,” Srinivasan said, adding that she has been working with the complainants to help effect institutional change.

Srinivasan said she can act as a bridge between concerned students and the administration.

“This protest was symbolically a way for students to ask for accountability from the University, and my being at the door was just kind of a symbolic offering that students should feel that they can ask for that and that I will help fulfill that in any way, shape or form that I can,” she said.

Though Srinivasan said it is too early to predict the administrative response, “they’re working to the best of their ability to respond to this situation in the parameters that they are limited to … especially when it comes to Title IX,” she said.

Topics:
  • Tom Bale ’63

    For me this protest reaches far beyond the particular trauma suffered by the two women complainants. Their experience is part of what appears to be a sea change pushing against the past tolerance of male aggression toward women in this country. Finally, maybe their voice will be heard along with so many other women who have been abused for centuries.

    At the same time I am concerned that the administration is being viewed as a pariah rather than a partner in dealing with an enormously difficult issue for which no university has had a solution that I am aware of. From what I know of President Paxson, VP Margaret Klawunn and others they want nothing more than to make sure Brown is a safe campus for all. One of the protesters in the article states the case very well: “they’re working to the best of their ability to respond to this situation in the parameters that they are limited to … especially when it comes to Title IX”.

    • Greek Alum

      If they want the campus to be safe, why not sanction a group that admitted in September that it had facilitated multiple campus rapes over multiple years (the QA), and why enact a campus policy in reaction to an unregistered party that encourages unregistered parties? The university has never cared about campus safety on this issue – only its image. See the McCormick incident for more proof if you need it.

      • Another Greek Alum

        Yes, the QA sponsored a party that may have resulted in multiple rapes. However, they did not serve alcohol at SPG or allow it to be brought into the building, and put many other precautions in place. They also always worked closely with the administration in organizing the event. You cannot blame them for the fact that rapes may have occurred after people left the party. In contrast, Phi Psi served alcohol in open containers at their unregistered party.

        • Greek Alum

          And they should be punished for an unregistered party with alcohol – the precedent for said offense is one or two semesters of social probation, not 2.5 year suspension with no guarantee of reinstatement.

          I don’t think either group (the QA or Phi Psi) should be punished but to draw this line in the sand that you shouldn’t be punished for students raping other students at your event but that you SHOULD be punished for the same thing if you serve alcohol at the event is absurd.

    • Troj Metel

      Grandpa Bale, Now come on. You slipped. You do realize that you cannot speak for two young women who experienced rape trauma. Therefore you have no basis for depending Chris Paxson and Margaret Klawunn. You just went out of your way to do so, and just presented yourself as an idiot.

      • Matt ’12

        What? He didn’t say anything to speak for the trauma of the two women. If anything, he admitted that there is a systemic issue of male aggression towards women that there might finally be a groundswell aimed at correcting it. Do you disagree with that statement? As far as what he said about Paxson and Klawunn, it suspends disbelief to think that they want the campus to be unsafe for women. So why should he not defend them? Even so, he hardly defends them at all. He simply states that Paxson and Klawunn need to be treated as partners in pursuing a safe campus. What disagreement do you have with that statement when they are the ones responsible for doling out the justice the protesters are demanding? By definition, Paxson and Klawunn must be partners in this. Anyway, in the future avoid disparaging comments like accusing a “Grandpa” of “slipping” or calling a commentator an idiot without making an argument. It is unbecoming of a forum dedicated to this school.

        • Serge Metel

          Suspend your belief about Paxson and Klawunn, and then see how the pieces fit together. You will be surprised then that things make sense. Paxson and Klawunn just want to keep their jobs. Therefore they are about to lose them.

    • Fraga123

      1 out of 2 women on campuses NATIONWIDE is raped every year.
      EVERY YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Hippiefreak

        50% ? That’s funny. If rape was everywhere, women would refuse to step onto the campus. Parents wouldn’t let them as well. Instead, women keep going to college more and more. Are you saying they choose to enroll where the rape is 50%? Are you saying rapists are that successful on campus? Are you attempting to attract more of them by saying the pickings are that good? Keep advertising your 1 out of 2 and eventually you will realize how you have helped sabotage your own cause. Keep advertising college as a rape-accommodating place where women keep flocking. I see college has failed at instilling critical thinking. You excel at histrionics.

        • Fraga123

          Hippie freak!

  • Havid Damburger

    White, upper-class, educated, women. The most privileged group of humans on the planet…

    • Chez Burgmeister

      u so dramatic. u gay?

      • Havid Damburger

        U so french and Jewish. U short n bald?

    • Pheonix ’01

      LOL. You said it!

  • Hippiefreak

    College students are so dramatic. Look at me. Look at my performance art. And now they snap instead of clap, as they now deem clapping is aggression. What a bunch of marshmallows.

  • Icafir Watcher

    Grandpa Bale, There is something disingenuous and overreaching about a Brown ’63 claiming to know the level of trauma suffered by two young rape victims. You just went out of your way to defend the indefensible, i.e. Chris Paxson and Margaret Klawunn. Why are you such an eager beaver about it? Do you realize how stupid that makes you look?

  • rick131

    The problem is so many women lie and exaggerate, you do not know who to believe.

    • Pheonix ’01

      Seriously. If females would stop lying about rape (at least 8% of all accusations by the most conservative estimate), then this wouldn’t even be an issue.

      • upsidedowncake

        Those numbers are so variable, especially considering the great number of sexual assaults or rapes that go unreported.

  • Fraga123

    The sooner the administration discards Patriarchal concepts like “due process” and “innocent until proven guilty”, the better!!!!!

    What is wrong with society?!

  • Concerned Parent

    If there is anything that the alleged date rape drugging incident at Phi Kappa Psi makes clear is that the University needs to involve trained investigators, lawyers and forensic experts when students accuse other students of committing serious crimes. GHB is a Schedule I controlled substance and drugging a person without their knowledge is a serious criminal offense. It is unclear why the University did not involve the police from the outset. University administrators are clearly not equipped to handle these kinds of cases.

    The University’s first mistake was misinterpreting the initial urine test. If they did their homework they would have known that urine testing for date rape drugs is problematic because of the speed with which the body metabolizes many such substances. They should have also known that certain levels of GHB are normal for everyone. It is highly unfortunate that the University acted so quickly based on the initial test results. Under the Clery Act they had a legal obligation to go public with what they believed to be a criminal act that endangered other students. However, if they had qualified their statements about the test results from the outset and refrained from taking final action against Phi Kappa Psi until they had the results of the hair testing, they could have avoided a lot of this mess.

    Unlike the urine testing, the hair test should be conclusive if done properly. Hair testing is highly accurate even if done months after the fact. According to the University, the results showed no exogenous levels of GHB. The cloud of doubt on these results, which the University has done as much to create as anyone, is that the lab may not have done the test properly by segmenting the hair sample. The man who conducted the test has claimed he did segment the hair, but for some reason the University has doubts. However, the hair testing can be done months after the fact. The test does not become less reliable over time. What puzzles me is why the complainants have not insisted that the University re-test their hair. I would think the University would require it as well.

    It is clear that students believe that the University needs to do a better job handling sexual assault/rape cases on campus. Unfortunately, the facts of this case seem to have fallen victim to the ensuing campus debate. The University has made limited information available but has otherwise hidden behind the privacy rights of the parties under Title IX. Other parties have selectively leaked information that supports their particular agenda. The result of this piece meal presentation of information is that many students have confused the alleged drugging incident with the subsequent but separate alleged sexual assault/rape incident. In addition, many students have fixated on the fact that the accused was wealthy and had a father on the Corporation. They have assumed that this is why there was no hearing. The irony is that the University did the accused a huge disservice by not holding the hearing while at the same time casting doubt on the conclusiveness of the hair test. If he is in fact innocent, they have denied him the opportunity to prove it. Now half the campus thinks he drugged and date raped someone and used his money and family connections to get out of it.

    The current situation reflects poorly on the University as a whole. The Daily Herald needs to step up their journalistic game. Get above the politics of the debate and get to the truth!

  • Tom Bale ’63

    Matt ’12 – You bring up an issue that has concerned me about the “disparaging comments” that some of the students use. I’m not sure why the BDH chooses to print them. If it is free speech that could be dealt with by asking the respondent to remove the offensive language in order to be printed. I do enjoy reading the multiple issues presented by the BDH, but, as you say, “it is unbecoming of a forum dedicated to this school” to treat this trash as if it is on the same level as the thoughtful discourse presented by the “Concerned Parent” below.

    • Grandma

      Sure you love the discourse presented when Paxson asks a spokesperson to announce that Paxson considers asking another spokesperson to announce that Paxson may announce the solicitation of opinions about Paxson appointing members of a committee to consider announcing that a spokesperson be asked to announce Paxson considering an appointment of members of a committee to appoint a committee to consider studying rapes on campus. And because this is a sensitive issue, the first spokesperson cannot commit on behalf of Paxson to a time frame as to when the second spokesperson will be asked to announce anything. Thoughtful discourse indeed, Grandpa.

  • Concerned Alum

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/415269/cinematic-railroading-jameis-winston-stuart-taylor-jr Suggested reading for those who want a balanced perspective on issues related to how universities and colleges handle/mishandle campus assault charges.