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Brown drops charges against student accused of serving drink with GHB

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

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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