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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

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.



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