Many students have reacted with frustration and anger toward the University following new revelations in the date-rape drug and sexual assault cases.
Several people expressed concern that the Phi Kappa Psi member accused of administering GHB to two female students Oct. 17 may have benefitted from his father’s status as a Corporation trustee. Others criticized what they called disturbing reasoning behind the Student Conduct Board’s finding that a different student was not responsible for sexually assaulting one of the two women later that evening.
The hashtags #MoneyTalksAtBrown and #GHBGetOutOfRapeFree have appeared on social media in recent days, catalyzed by a protest Thursday and the creation of the Facebook page “Act4RJ - #moneytalksatbrown,” which has garnered over 900 likes in three days.
But others have expressed frustration with this campaign and what they described as conflation of the two cases — some students believe the student who was accused of spiking a drink with GHB is the same individual who was accused of sexually assaulting one of the women.
#MoneyTalksAtBrown “just makes no sense and is counterproductive to the actual issues going on,” said a student who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of backlash from peers, who added that community members are “incorrectly connecting dots, forming connections between things that aren’t really there.”
Several students with knowledge of the situation, who also asked for anonymity, said the Phi Psi member who faced charges for spiking a drink with GHB has recently been harassed on campus.
The accused student spent the weekend away from Brown because he felt campus was no longer a safe environment for him, they said.
Some students, including Undergraduate Council of Students President Maahika Srinivasan ’15, have spoken out against the University for its handling of the cases.
Srinivasan, who is one of several students whose profile picture now bears the “MoneyTalksAtBrown” slogan, questioned the relationship between the accused student, his father and University governance. Given the information currently available, she said it is "too murky" to say whether the University resolved the conflict of interest.
“I don’t necessarily think there was any intervention on the side of the family to be able to say that he should be exonerated,” Srinivasan said.
“I do think that as an individual he had far, far more resources, and there, money had a huge role,” she said. “He had two lawyers. (One of the women) doesn’t even have a lawyer.”
But other students criticized this line of thinking. “There’s no evidence at all that his dad having money is even connected to the charges being dropped,” one of the anonymous students said. “So it’s really people taking two things, sticking them together and creating a sexy hashtag out of that. And there you have a movement.”
The role of evidence in the case has also emerged as a point of contention.
Srinivasan said requiring physical evidence for a hearing “doesn’t make sense.” The student’s hearing was canceled due to the lack of physical evidence in the case, The Herald reported Wednesday
The standard of evidence to hold a hearing should be student testimony, said Sadhana Bala ’17. “The fact that there was no drug potentially present in the urine sample … is too high a standard that needs to be met, so the trial should not have been dismissed.”
Sexual assault is “absolutely not okay,” but neither is convicting someone with no evidence, one of the anonymous students said.
In regard to the sexual assault hearing, several students criticized the SCB’s decision and voiced concerns about the definition of consent and the value of victims’ testimony in University hearings when drugs or alcohol are involved. The SCB found that the complainant’s limited memory of what transpired prevented her from rebutting the accused student’s testimony that she gave consent, The Herald reported Friday.
The University showed “flagrant disregard” for what consent was, Srinivasan said.
“She was drugged. How can you expect a testimony from her?” said Malwina Skowron ’18. “That to me is what stands out the most. … There’s a real disconnect between the policies (administrators) set out and how they enforce them.”
Title IX legislation precludes administrators from speaking about the specifics of individual cases.
Several students conflated the Phi Psi member accused of spiking the drink and the one accused of sexual assault in conversations with The Herald. The student whose father serves on the Corporation was not accused of sexual assault.
“There’s a lot of confusion about who is being accused of what,” said one of the anonymous students.
Another of the anonymous students said the conflation of the sexual assault and drugging cases has led to misleading social media posts, citing a Facebook post that read, “Because having a rich and influential daddy means you are free to rape at this school.”
Other students interviewed said they were not familiar enough with the cases to form an opinion, and still others questioned the absence of focus on the two complainants themselves.
“The losers in this case are not really the frat, or whoever else is being put under the spotlight right now, but the victims more so,” said Brittani Taylor ’18. “Out of everybody, they received the least amount of justice.”
- With additional reporting by Susannah Howe and Joseph Zappa
A previous version of this article included a quote from President of the Undergraduate Council of Students Maahika Srinivasan ’15 expressing her view that it is impossible to confirm or reject the possibility that the case involving the student accused of putting GHB in a drink was swayed by his father’s membership on the Corporation. Srinivasan meant that, given the information currently available, it is unclear whether the University resolved the conflict of interest.