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Brown Students Don't Trust The School To Fix Sexual Assault Policies

03/12/2015 09:32 pm ET | Updated Mar 12, 2015
Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman

Around 400 Brown University students demonstrated on the Providence, Rhode Island, campus on Wednesday in the latest sign of distrust in the administration's handling of sexual misconduct cases.

The students wore dollar bills taped across their mouths to symbolize what they contend was a conflict of interest in a recent investigation into an alleged date rape drugging. Just a day earlier, a smaller group had staged a similar silent protest at a Brown University Community Council meeting.

Two female students have accused a male student of spiking their drink at a Phi Kappa Psi party in October. But in February, following botched toxicology tests for a date rape drug, the university declined to hold a judicial hearing on the accusations.

Students have pointed out that the alleged drugger's father sits on the Brown Corporation, a board that among other responsibilities, sets the budget, makes strategic policy and chooses the university president and senior officials. Three students who spoke to HuffPost on the matter noted that they have no actual evidence of favoritism. The university has said that the connection played no role in its decision to drop the case.

But many students see the whole series of events as evidence that Brown has not progressed much in its efforts to improve the handling of sexual assault claims.

Since the university came under federal investigation in July 2014, Brown has launched a task force, hosted events around the issue and begun to implement reforms to its sexual misconduct policies.

"I think that it is frightening to consider that despite these efforts, any semblance of justice is still an impossibility for many student survivors," said Will Furuyama, a senior involved in this week's protests. "Because of the way the university has been handling cases of late, I think many students are rightfully fearful and distrusting of the university’s adjudication process."

Brown first drew scrutiny when former student Lena Sclove filed a federal complaint over its decision to reduce the sanction for a male student found to have committed sexual violence against her. The school shortened his two-year suspension to just one year. In another case, a male student whose assailant was expelled from Brown only learned after a HuffPost investigation that his attacker had previously been suspended for assaulting two other men on campus.

Frustrated with repeated stories like these, one group of students took action where they could. Starting next year, anyone in a fraternity or sorority at Brown will have to cut all ties with Greek life if he or she is found responsible for sexual misconduct. The policy was drafted by the student-led Greek Sexual Misconduct Committee.

"We're saying we don't want these people in our community," said Diego Arene-Morley, vice chair of the committee. "And while it may push them off into the broader community -- well, yeah, we're trying to send the message why are we allowing people we deem to be a danger to our community to be in our community at all."

The expulsion policy was passed unanimously by the council of fraternity and sorority leaders last semester, according to Maggie Johnson, public relations chair for that group. The policy received final approval from the university on Feb. 23.

"If the administration is going to take so long to change their ways, we kind of wanted to take it into our own hands," Johnson said.

Brown did not respond to a request for comment. The university has declined over the past year to make any official involved in the handling of sexual misconduct cases available to speak with The Huffington Post.

"If the university wants to listen, they have plenty of people to listen to," said Anna Reed, a student coordinator with Feminists at Brown. She said the students are "hanging in suspense," wondering whether the school will actually consider their views in reforming its sexual misconduct policies.

"[The administration is] giving their best to make people feel like maybe they're listening," Reed said, "but no, it's not transparent at all."

  • Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman
  • Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman
  • Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman
  • Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman
  • Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman
  • Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman
  • Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman
  • Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman
  • Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman
  • Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman
  • Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman
  • Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman
  • Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman
  • Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman
  • Photo courtesy of Danielle Perelman
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