University News

Brown drops charges against student accused of serving drink with GHB

Complainants surprised by decision made by administrators after urine test deemed inconclusive

University News Editor
Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The University will not proceed with a hearing against the Phi Kappa Psi member initially charged with serving a drink containing the date-rape drug GHB at a party held by the fraternity in October, according to multiple documents reviewed by The Herald.

In a two-sentence letter dated Feb. 21, the University informed the two female students who filed complaints against the fraternity member that the hearing would not move forward due to insufficient evidence after a second drug test was thrown out.

In her response later that day, one of the two women expressed surprise at the hearing’s cancellation, writing that administrators had previously said the University would hold a hearing based on the strength of witness testimony alone. The complainant also asked for a written explanation of the University’s reasoning.

Yolanda Castillo-Appollonio ’95, associate dean of student life and director of student conduct, responded March 2 to the two women that, in the absence of any conclusively positive drug test, there was not a strong enough case to proceed with charges against the student.

Castillo-Appollonio did not respond to emails and voicemails from The Herald requesting comment.

Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, told The Herald Tuesday, “All student complaints are handled carefully, and all evidence is considered.” She declined to comment on the specific case, citing “federal guidelines.”

Just under a week after starting to investigate the student’s role in the incident, the University brought charges against him Dec. 10, according to Castillo-Appollonio’s email.

After a hair test came back “inconclusive due to an error in how the test was run,” the University planned to proceed with the hearing given the complainants’ testimony and a urine test believed at the time to be definitively positive, according to the email.

But after an independent toxicologist — who conveyed his findings to the University Feb. 5 — found the urine test inconclusive as well, administrators decided that “there was not enough (evidence) to move forward against any one individual,” Castillo-Appollonio wrote.

The University announced that the urine test had been deemed inconclusive Feb. 21 — the same day it notified the two women it was dropping charges against the accused student.

Questioning the decision, one of the complainants cited the University’s findings from the Phi Psi appeal hearing, which indicated that the two women had experienced severely reduced motor and cognitive capacity as a result of having “imbibed a substance.”

“So why were the charges against the individual that served us the substance dropped?” the complainant asked in her email to Castillo-Appollonio.

The University offered the complainants a second hair test when the urine test was still considered positive, according to an email exchange between one of them and Castillo-Appollonio in early January.

“I agreed to get the hair test because I was told it would aid my case even though it was an incredibly difficult experience having a large quantity of my hair removed,” the complainant wrote. “It seems extraordinarily unfair to have to forego more of my hair because of mistakes committed by the University.”

After the urine test was deemed inconclusive, administrators canceled the hearing without checking to see whether the lack of physical evidence had made the complainants reconsider the option to undergo another hair test, the two women told The Herald.

Klawunn declined to comment on communications between the complainants and the University regarding the possibility of a second hair test.

Though the absence of any conclusively positive GHB tests led the University to cancel the hearing against the accused student, witness statements and other evidence were enough to uphold the ruling against Phi Psi as an organization, according to a March 1 campus-wide email. The fraternity was sanctioned with loss of recognition and on-campus housing for four years and was given the right to petition for reinstatement in two-and-a-half years.

“The final finding and sanction against Phi Kappa Psi did not rely on the results of any physical drug tests,” administrators wrote.

Klawunn declined to comment on this case in particular, but she noted that, in general, stronger evidence is required to prove that an individual is “responsible for a specific, intentional action.”

With additional reporting by Caroline Kelly

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  1. Greek alum says:

    Hold on a second. Was the phi psi member being accused of actually putting GHB in the drink or just for serving the drink that had GHB in it (ie he served the drink to the rapist who then put GHB in it)? If it weren’t Brown, I would assume it’s the former but given the punishment levied against phi psi I can’t say the latter charge is too ridiculous for Brown to pursue.

    • Miriam Staffansdotter Langmoen says:

      The former.

      • it was the person whom the complainants remember having served them the drink they had at the party that was being accused of putting GHB in the drink

        • Greek Alum says:

          So did the person who assaulted the girl never go anywhere near the drink or does Brown simply refuse to do anything about the student who actually raped the girl?

          • This was a back-to-front approach. One woman alleged a sexual assault occurred by someone not from Phi Psi and not at Phi Psi, and many hours after she was at Phi Psi. She remembers going to Phi Psi but not much of what happened afterwards. Therefore, she concludes she was drugged at Phi Psi. Videos and eyewitness state that she was ok going in, but a bit of a mess going out of Sears House. She knows she only had one drink there, so she believes (understandably) that drink must have been drugged. One Phi Psi brother came forward and said, yes, he served the drink in question. But he states that he did not spike it with GHB – he had no motive to do so, and clearly did not ‘follow-up’ with any attempted interaction with the two women who shared the drink.

            The first woman does not press a criminal charge against her alleged sex attacker. She does not press a criminal charge against the fraternity. Rather, she uses the university administration process to go after Phi Psi even though it had nothing to do with the alleged sexual assault. The second woman who shared the drink joins the case against the individual and the fraternity.

            In the media, a ‘trial’ occurs without facts. She says she was drugged so, the narrative goes, she was drugged. The administration incorrectly announces a positive GHB test on the first woman when one was not present, so the narrative gets locked down. The administration never releases the “negative” result of the second (hair) test, but instead concludes that it was “inconclusive” and then goes about defaming the lab when it fact, the university itself selected that lab to use.

            Chaos continues.

            Honestly, it seems to me that if these young women want to keep accusing Phi Psi, they should submit themselves to a(nother) hair test. Have it done properly with all methods agreed and supervised. Then we can see if there was a spike in GHB levels. If both will not undergo such a test, then it brings into question what actually happened. Personally, I believe the first one thinks she was drugged. From the evidence, however, I cannot bring myself to this conclusion… especially since the Phi Psi brother accused of the drugging clearly did not do anything to the young women during or after their time at Phi Psi, sexual-wise. No motive – no follow-up – no action.

            No matter what the truth is, the administration’s handling of this whole case has been wild. Everyone deserves much better.

          • How about someone tell that girl to please go after her assailant, NOT phi psi

          • Alex Rapport says:

            *woman, not girl. And if you had read the article, you’d realize that she has tried to do that.

          • Equally Puzzled says:

            The man alleged of sexual assault is not the phi psi member alleged of spiking a drink… What happened to the sexual assault? It seems there was no objective evidence of a drugging

          • different guest says:

            This is exactly what I have been wondering this entire time…

          • puzzled by ur lack of rapport says:

            *womyn, not woman. And if you read my comment, you’d realize I was referring to the person who sexually assaulted her NOT the frat brother who served her drinks. If you had been following this story, the frat brother who supposedly gave her the drugged drink is the not the same as the one who assaulted her. Also phi psi is the place where she got the drugged drink (she claims), but is not the place where she was assaulted.

          • Greek Alum says:

            Is there a connection between the victim and the bartender? At this point I’m grasping at straws to try and think of any logical reason to suspect the bartender of wrongdoing. Eg he hated her and wanted to mess with her? The idea that this guy slipped a girl GHB for no reason just makes no sense. Like I’ve said on other articles. I actually do think the girl was drugged (GHB isn’t the only drug) but I would bet everything on the rapist having done it.

          • Greek Alum says:

            has anyone alleged a connection between the accused rapist and the drink server? Obviously there is a possibility that the server slipped it in to help his friend out later but you don’t seem to be implying that anyone alleges that.

          • From what is known, there is no connection whatsoever between the accused bartender and the accused sexual assault perpetrator.

          • Greek Alum says:

            Is there a connection between the victim and the bartender? At this point I’m grasping at straws to try and think of any logical reason to suspect the bartender of wrongdoing. Eg he hated her and wanted to mess with her? The idea that this guy slipped a girl GHB for no reason just makes no sense. Like I’ve said on other articles. I actually do think the girl was drugged (GHB isn’t the only drug) but I would bet everything on the rapist having done it.

  2. Trojan Alu says:

    These should give sufficient grounds to sue Maggie K personally.

  3. Hasn’t every prior article and email to the student body said that no member of Phi Psi was involved directly? From Russell Carey’s last email: “no member of Phi Kappa Psi was charged with sexual misconduct.” So how are there now charges against a member that can be dropped?

    • Miriam Staffansdotter Langmoen says:

      the charges against the Phi Psi member were, if I understand correctly, for drugging

      • Correct – the charges were for allegedly drugging the drink that the two women shared. The person in question has stated he served the one drink but obviously says he did not drug it. Given that (1) there is no positive test for GHB available, (2) he did not pursue any sexual activity or other inappropriate activity with either female, (3) no eyewitness (I believe) has stated that he acted in any forward way with the women, it makes a case against the brother rather hard to hold up. He pursued no potential sexual motive, and there is no physical proof that anything other than an alcoholic drink was served.

        What is amazing is that somehow the administration uses the “preponderance of evidence” principle against the fraternity in regards to the alleged drugging, but not the individual. If preponderance of evidence indicates that he is not guilty, then the fraternity also would be not guilty. One would think the university would clear Phi Psi’s name for the drug charge once and for all then. Instead, it has merely “dropped the charges”.


      • Student '15 says:


        The case involves witnesses. I don’t think any of us can know what they witnessed (case material), but there are most definitely witnesses involved throughout the case, apparently enough for one of the two victims to be told that their statements merited even HOLDING a hearing.

        And does anyone else think that drugging another student is enough of a problem to merit a disciplinary response, regardless of intent for sexual activity? I think it’s very much an issue that should be addressed. Apparently the university doesn’t.

        • Except there is no true proof of drugging and apparently no eyewitness has said that the drink serving brother attempted anything with either woman that evening.

  4. #brownphipsi

  5. Can someone correct me, but at the end of the day isnt the university handing out draconian punishments based on nothing more than unprovable accusations at this point? As far as the last email said, the charges are being maintained due to “the conclusion that the two students consumed alcohol and/or some other drug”. Did the university forbid alcohol at on-campus events at the time?

    • The party was unregistered and alcohol was served to minors. During the investigation, the fraternity admitted to both of these things in an effort to be open and helpful to the investigation. Although the fraternity will technically be able to petition to regain recognition on campus in 2.5 years, the administration seems to have picked that duration of time because all of the current members will have graduated by then and will be unable to pick up where they left off. Effectively, the administration is destroying a fraternity with 100 years of history at Brown (JFK Jr. was a member of the fraternity) and service to the community for what surmounts to having thrown a fraternity party. It does seem extensive and undeserved to me. Seems like the current administration has an agenda. It’s unfortunate they’re being so non-transparent and continue to mislead the community as a whole.

      • lamentable says:

        their goal is to change the institutional culture of Phi Psi (while keeping the physical name and structure intact). phi psi as it is has a certain culture with regards to fraternity parties… They want to change that culture probably because of the changing attitudes about sexual assault and rape. The accusation, even if unproven, is a pretense to engineer a new culture at Phi psi. Once all the current members graduate, phi psi will likely resume with new students who have no contact with current members. They will be unable to pass down the current culture that’s likely been there since…. probably before JFK jr. Phi Psi in 3 years may have a new reputation… maybe it’ll be the new literary frat, or the nerdy frat, or the future-business-people frat… whatever it is it won’t involve partying/drinking/hookups.

        The old days of frat parties where bright eyed freshman eagerly dance and drink while possibly hooking up are on there way out. That’s not just Phi Psi or Brown, but all over the nation. Look in news sources (NOT the BDH) to see what’s going on in other schools and places regarding sexual assault and cultures that facilitate this.

        For example, see the case of U of Virginia where the frats were suspended after the rolling stones article, EVEN though it was a false accusation. Nowadays, if a girl cries sexual assault or rape, frats are going to get suspended even if unproven.

        • Wow, amazing generalization about Phi Psi. Not based on historical reputation at all. From before the current decade, Phi Kappa Psi (note the Kappa) was the nice-guy house. Good parties but actually much less dodgy than other houses, or certain other organizations on campus.

          • I’d have to agree. I always got the sense that it was the most accepting of diversity of all types among fraternities on campus

          • lamentable says:

            Okay, that came out very wrong… and it’s being interpreted not in the way I meant it. I didn’t mean to imply that PKP was like Animal House and all they do is party/hook up/drink. To me, they’re a preppy, well-dressed gentlemanly frat. When I mentioned party/hook up /drinking, I was referring to similar trends and efforts in other schools to address the sexual assault culture as a NATIONAL phenomenon…. like at UVA. In other words, this is NOT personal.

            theoretically, if someone accused Lambda Lambda Lambda of something similar, they too would receive a similar outcome. brown would also try to change their institutional culture with regards to partying/hooking up/drinking… EVEN THOUGH Lambda Lambda Lambda is a NERDY DORKY FRAT (and it’s not a real one). (Revenge of the Nerds, in case you didn’t get it)

          • accepting of diversity is not equivalent to fostering a safe environment for women.

      • Let’s stick to the facts in this discussion. Evidence is required to sanction or discipline a student or an organiztion. Likewise, evidence is required to indict and/or convcit an indivuidal under the applicable law. In addition, the unversity needs to be mindful to maintain confidentiality of the claimant in this type of case. If the fraternity violated rules about organizing and holding a party, then it should be sanctioned in some way–and it appears that Brown is holding the fraternity accountable. In addition, if any student or other non-student guest at the party attempted to (or did) commit a sexual assault, then they should be punished through an investigative and legal process. However, if there is not conclusive evidence (or any witnesses) to support sexual assault charges, then no charges can be brought. Let’s remember what occured at Duke several years ago when several lacross players were accused of sexual assault, and they were suspended even before the legal and investigative process had concluded. Later it turned out that the supposed vicitm was lying and the prosecutor fabricating evidence.

  6. wheres the article on the university saying NOTHING!!!! about the alleged sexual assault…. wow BDH wow…..

    • have you considered that perhaps the university cannot comment on the assault out of the need for confidentiality for the victim of assault or that the bdh does not want to write about the sexual assault without the consent of the woman who was assaulted, who perhaps doesn’t want the story of one the worst nights of her life to be a topic of campus gossip?

      • Greek Alum says:

        The BDH doesn’t have to disclose any names. There was already either a BDH or Community email saying that no individuals were being charged with misconduct for the actual rape. Unless this has changed, just goes to show how backwards Brown is with regards to this whole situation.

  7. ShadrachSmith says:

    Fraternities are the natural prey of Feminist Star Chambers. They will eventually destroy them all and the facts don’t really matter in that process.

  8. I love college! says:

    This is so awesome!

  9. Disgusting says:

    The University should be embarrassed for how they handled this. Twisting the truth, hiding evidence, and acting recklessly.

  10. female student '17 says:

    Those of us at Brown who agree with you are afraid to say anything. I, a female student, am disgusted with the mob mentality and complete lack of respect for due process at this school. I have been tempted to transfer, but I get the sense this same madness is happening on campuses all over the country. It is horrifying to say the least.

    • Please speak up. Go to President Paxson, the Dean of the College, the Office of Student Life and speak up. They will be very receptive. Do not let this mob mentality take over the campus.

    • but you aren’t horrified that at least 1 in 5 female college students will be sexually assaulted during her time in school? hmm…maybe check your priorities a bit?

      • Sexual assault, whether on a campus, on the street or after dinner and a movie, is horrifying, disgusting and unacceptable. However, accusing, villifying and condemning a man of drugging a woman when there is no motive, proof, or witness that he’s guilty is equally horrifying, disgusting and unacceptable in my book. Maybe you should take a step back and think about whether your priority is justice or simply having someone to blame, regardless of what the truth is.

      • female student '17 says:

        Maybe you should check your statistics a little bit.

        • aww..cute. thanks for your “statistics,” but i’ve spent the last 4 years researching issues around gender/sexuality and it’s clear you have no idea what you’re talking about. but go on with your bad self. keep on being complicit in your own dehumanization.

          actual statistics can be found here*

          • Ahh, a gender studies major and a reference to ms. magazine! We’ve got a REAL intellectual here folks.

          • “Aww, cute”? wow – bully much? So, anyone that doesn’t agree with your “statistics” or viewpoint is apparently fair game for your condescension and ridicule? Take note – anyone can get on the internet and find statistics that fit their ideology. Here are a few articles that COMPLETELY debunk the 1 in 5 statistic:





            and finally, the ACTUAL US Dept. of Justice’s 12/14 report:


            Please note in the DOJ’s report, page 5, Table 2, it reports the rate of rape/sexual assault in college-aged women, aged 18-24 as 6.1 per 1000!! Now, I was by no means a math major but I don’t believe that comes anywhere close to 20%. probably closer to less than 1%. But, by all means, keep the fear alive and keep quoting that Ms. Magazine blog!

            And awww, aren’t you cute with your four years of research. Here’s a little tidbit for you – 4 years of research and an internet connection does not an expert make.

          • and what expertise do you have, parent q? you’re right, though. i’m CLEARLY the bully. you’re likely a middle aged rando sitting behind your computer attacking someone who is defending a survivor of a drugging and sexual assault, but yeah i’m obviously terrible. gotta love rape apologist parents <3 <3

          • female student '17 says:

            Welcome to Brown, where students cannot use logic to argue, so they instead resort to character-attacks and low-blow insults.

          • even as a fellow brown student who shares your overall beliefs, i think your statements here are off. debate people with respect if you want them to engage with your arguments. you’ve simply resorted to ad hominem attacks and namecalling.

          • Rape apologist parent? Wow, good thing I have thick middle-aged skin. I’m not going to continue this any longer but I want you to know I don’t think you’re a terrible person at all. You’re obviously very passionate about this subject and concerned about the females involved – as you should be, and as I am. Just please don’t become so blinded by your passion that you don’t stay open to looking at all the facts. I am not questioning whether there was an assault or not (I actually believe there was) but I AM questioning whether the server that has been accused and apparently villified had anything to do with it. I don’t think he did. We can agree to disagree but you should look into that aspect a little deeper. You might be surprised by what you find. Good luck to you in the future.

    • I completely understand being scared to speak up. It’s a witch hunt at this point and speaking against the mass hysteria is not the popular thing to do right now. But if you could somehow organize with the other students that are not thinking like sheep, maybe you could make a difference. Protest the protests…offer support to the frat and accused bartender…. Get involved somehow. I’m guessing there are many more students that feel the same but are afraid of how they’ll be labeled if they speak against the mob. But being in support of due process does NOT mean you are anti-women’s rights. It just means you are for equal rights for EVERYONE.

  11. your lack of sympathy and compassion leads me to believe you’ve never had to go through the aftermath of a sexual assault. and i am glad you haven’t. but this is not a mob mentality. none of the victims or members of the “mob” you mention have released the names of the accused. the accused still go to brown. they are probably just fine. they haven’t had chunks of their hair removed, they don’t have nightmares or ptsd, they don’t walk around campus afraid. no actions have been taken against them. and no – being wealthy and male does not make you guilty. being a wealthy male who uses daddy’s connections to get his criminal activity brushed under the rug, however, does make one guilty. there is nothing to gain from reporting a sexual assault/drugging unless it actually happened. and even when it has actually happened, sometimes, as in now, people will question you and accuse you of making things up and provide you no solidarity whatsoever. 3% of convicted rapists see any jail time. there is no need to worry about the accused men being treated unfairly – every system in power was designed to protect them.

    • I am certainly not questionning if there was a sexual assault. I am only questionning the validity of the accusation that there was a drugging at at the frat party. From what I understand from what’s being reported by BDH, the assault occurred well after the females left the party, and the assault was in no way connected to the bartender or anyone from the frat. Isnt it even remotely possible that the drug was given to them at another location? By another individual? Isn’t that even something to consider or look into? I’m sure there are surveillance cameras all over campus…has anyone looked to see if there was contact with anyone else? Seems that it would be easy enough to look into. And please don’t assume that I have no sympathy or compassion because I certainly do. You don’t know me or what I’ve been through. But I do know the very real effect that GHB has on a person, first hand. And I know that it will cloud your thoughts and memory and timeline to the point you dont know which way is up anymore.

      As for your comment about this guy using “daddy’s connections to get his criminal activity brushed under the rug”, I don’t believe any criminal activity has been proven. That would be the guilty until proven innocent mob mentality I spoke of before.

    • female student '17 says:

      Where is your evidence that he used “daddy’s connections”? You’re assuming that because he has a father with power then he MUST be guilty. Again, you are presuming guilt without knowing the facts.
      If this girl said she was raped, and this man she accused were to be found responsible, you would (presumably) be satisfied with the conclusions. If he were found NOT responsible, you would claim he pulled strings to manipulate those in power and that he is still guilty. What if he wasn’t guilty? Nope, for you people, he MUST be guilty, whether or not he’s found responsible! Your assumption of guilt is extremely frightening.

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