Students are divided along lines of gender, sexual orientation, involvement in varsity athletics and Greek-life participation in their opinions on both the sexual misconduct case and drugging case concerning two women who attended an October Phi Kappa Psi party.
Males, heterosexual students, varsity athletes and fraternity and sorority members were more likely to approve both of the University’s decision to cancel the hearing for the student accused of serving a drink with GHB at the party as well as the Student Conduct Board’s reasoning for finding a different individual accused of sexual assault not responsible, according to a Herald poll of undergraduates conducted March 16-17.
Among the most staggering differences on campus are those between males and females. The proportion of females approving the cancellation of the drugging hearing — 8 percent — is less than half that of males, 20 percent of whom approve.
Similarly, 15 percent of male students approve of the Student Conduct Board’s decision, compared to just 6 percent of female students. Nearly 50 percent of males disapprove of how the case was handled, but an overwhelming majority of females — 70 percent — disapprove.
Because sexual assault is typically labeled as a women’s issue, males may be less upset about these cases, said Emily Schell ’16, co-founder of Stand Up! and a Women Peer Counselor. She warned that some males’ apathy about issues of sexual assault can be harmful.
“This is a largely national trend,” said Maahika Srinivasan ’15, president of the Undergraduate Council of Students. “It’s not just something we see on our campus. Heterosexual women have a much higher rate of reporting to a university than any other population, but that doesn’t mean that they are the only targets of sexual violence.”
Students who approved of the Student Conduct Board’s decision were also more likely to approve of President Christina Paxson’s P’19 job performance.
While Paxson did not influence either the decision to cancel the alleged GHB server’s hearing or the Student Conduct Board’s decision, actions taken by other members of the administration may still shape students’ opinions of the president, said Justice Gaines ’16, a member of the Task Force on Sexual Assault.
While 37 percent of men approve of Paxson, only 31 percent of women approve. The converse is also true: More women than men disapprove of Paxson.
“There’s a sense, for some people, of betrayal,” Schell said, adding, “One of the reasons why that initial protest happened at the female presidents’ conference was to draw attention to this sense of hypocrisy — to say, ‘You are female, why are you not standing in solidarity with this?’”
Schell said she also disapproved of Paxson’s emails asking for student support for the administration’s handling of the cases. “Trust is something that’s supposed to be earned back,” she said.
This same sense of distrust is present among LGBTQ students on campus, Gaines said. Students who identify as LGBTQ are also more likely to disapprove of Paxson, according to the poll.
LGBTQ students may feel that Paxson is not attuned to their issues and has not made a great enough effort to understand their perspectives, Gaines added.
“When there are conversations centering around sexual assault, they tend to be very assuming of heterosexual dynamics,” Gaines said. “A lot of queer communities feel like they are not in these conversations in the first place.”
Fraternity and sorority members proved more likely to approve of the GHB hearing cancellation and Student Conduct Board decision. Just over 20 percent of students involved in Greek life approve of the cancellation, whereas only 12 percent of non-Greeks approve. Comparably, 16 percent of Greeks approve of the reasoning behind the Student Conduct Board’s decision, double the rate of approval among non-Greeks.
Nevertheless, nearly two-thirds of Greeks disapprove of the GHB hearing cancellation — slightly lower than non-Greeks’ disapproval rating of 73 percent but still a clear majority. Greeks and non-Greeks disapproved of the Student Conduct Board decision at an equal rate of 61 percent.
“Asking around, I’ve gotten more sympathetic views toward the University’s decisions from people within the Greek system than outside of it,” said Robbie Hogan ’15, a member of Delta Tau.
“A lot of fraternities look at this case and aren’t worried about what the University did but are more concerned about what the University is going to do to them next,” said Kevin Carty ’15, a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi and a sexual assault peer educator.
“In one camp, there were some people who thought (the alleged GHB server) really was innocent and that the University was pinning him to the case because they were already handling it poorly, and they needed a scapegoat to appease the community,” Hogan said. “In the other camp, a lot of the people who I have talked to in DTau feel that if he was truly innocent, there was no real reason that the trial wouldn’t have shown that. Personally, I believe he deserves the trial out of respect to the victims.”
Carty said several of his fellow AEPi members “think it’s too easy to bring charges (within a University process) — to gloss over information and find people guilty.”
Carty said he makes a point in teaching AEPi members about sexual assault that they should always be sure to receive clear consent. He also said that many members afraid of the University process for sexual misconduct hearings simply had not “thought about consent much before Brown.”
Yet there is a sense of “self-selection” within Greek houses, Carty added. Some people may join Greek life because “they think it’s an easy way to get away with something they are already doing because people are drinking and partying a lot. It’s a kind of inherited legacy.”
Carty also said “all-male groups make it easier to be misogynistic and homophobic. … As a whole, if you spend a lot of time with men, you’re going to be more likely to be sexist and to not take sexual assault seriously.”
Despite this, in recent years, AEPi has “experienced an upsurge” in members interested in sexual assault prevention, Carty said, adding that the house has become less sexist and members are readily participating in the sexual assault education program.
Athletes also reported a higher approval rating of the drugging hearing’s cancellation — 18 percent compared to non-athletes’ 13 percent. Differences between athletes and non-athletes were sharper on the Student Conduct Board’s handling of the sexual assault case, as 21 percent of athletes approve, while only 8 percent of non-athletes approve. Similarly, only 25 percent of athletes strongly disapprove of the Student Conduct Board’s reasoning, whereas 46 percent of non-athletes strongly disapprove.
“Sexual violence is an issue I am comfortable talking about, but it’s not something I talk about very much with my team,” said Maggie Jordan ’16, a member of the women’s varsity swimming team and a WPC. “But I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s something we never talk about,” she added.
Because the men’s and women’s swimming teams were a combined program until last summer, Jordan said there may be more awareness of gender issues on their teams.
“A lot of people aren’t in full knowledge or understanding of the issues at hand,” said Corbin Booker ’15, a member of the men’s lacrosse team. While he said the team participates in monthly conversations about consent and sexual assault with Men’s Health Coordinator Mark Peters, he added that the team has rarely discussed the cancellation of the drugging hearing and the Student Conduct Board’s decision.
Chris Smith ’15, a member of the baseball team, said that while sexual assault is important to him and his teammates, it can be hard to find the time to talk about these cases given the time they spend practicing, traveling for games and completing coursework during the spring season.
Athletes said their social circles can also restrict many of their conversations. “We are somewhat limited to who we talk to outside of class and outside of practice,” Smith said. He added that a few of his teammates were not aware of the full details of the two cases until one teammate offered an explanation following the March 11 campus protest, which put the issue on their radar.
“Most of us were pretty appalled at the reasons behind some of the decisions the University made,” Smith said.
Athletes were also more likely to approve of Paxson — 44 percent of athletes approved compared to 32 percent of non-athletes.
Through Athletic Director Jack Hayes, Paxson has “gotten rid of ineffective staff and hired new coaches … and is giving more attention to athletics than Ruth Simmons,” Jordan said.
Other athletes may simply question the administration’s decisions less. “We know that people have a very tough time making these decisions, but they are the people in charge,” Booker said.
“We all process it differently. It’s perceived that these issues don’t affect us as much because our immediate surroundings are the team,” Jordan said, adding, “That’s not to say that the broader campus culture doesn’t impact us.”
Srinivasan said it is important to recognize the involvement of all communities on campus in addressing the issue of sexual assault.
“If you look at the Act4RJ protest, there were 400 students in attendance. I stood at the door, and I watched people come in, and I could tell that there were people from so many different communities who were involved in trying to understand what was happening,” Srinivasan said.