A student went to her professor to discuss her grades, and instead he sexually assaulted her. Now, nine months later, the school has failed her by allowing Professor Jeffry Mathis to remain in his job in the latest incident revealing the continuing pattern of colleges avoiding negative publicity.
The young San Jose State University student contacted local NBC affiliate KNTV to share her story after the university failed to take any action in the months since the assault. By continuing to turn a blind eye to the reality of sexual assault colleges and universities are conditioning students like this wronged girl to believe their voices — and bodies — are not equal.
The student is afraid of her identity being revealed, which is why she contacted KNTV anonymously.
She met with Mathis to discuss her low grade, which he explained he gave her because he suspected her of plaigiarizing. She denied the charge and explained her mistake in not properly citing the sources when he took advantage of her vulnerability.
She describes the incident holding back her distraught emotional state:
"He looked at me and touched me and said, 'How do you want to better your grade?' He kept coming closer to me and my body completely shut down. He continued to touch me and try to talk about the ways that I could better my grade."
She repeatedly asked Mathis to stop, that she 'wasn't the type of person' to better her grade through this type of means, but Mathis continued.
"Then he straddled me and sat on me," she recalled, "and put his hands up my shirt and under my sweater and was rubbing me. He blocked the stairs and said the only way I will let you leave is if I can grab your butt … But it has to be the way I want to grab it."
As he tried to reach for another body part, the student was able to break free and run away from the office. She contacted San Jose State University police and filed a report. Mathis was investigated for false imprisonment and sexual battery, but he lied that the contact was consensual.
Mathis admitted to the assault in an email to the student the day following the assault. KNTV produced a copy of the superficial email Mathis sent as the equivalent of hush money:
"I've been thinking about last night and I have come to the conclusion that I made a terrible mistake in how I handled that situation," he wrote. The email continued, "I will change your grade to a B- for free, because it is the right way to handle this."
The school has confirmed that Mathis was not charged despite the evidence of this email and was allowed to continue teaching at San Jose State.
By not pursuing a prosecution of or even firing Mathis, San Jose State has condoned sexual violence against their own students. One in four women are going to experience sexual assault in their lifetime, and by trying to ignore this San Jose State has allowed for that to worsen. As she says in the interview, "This is something I have to go through that I never thought I would have to go through," she said. "Especially in my college career."
Incidents like this have recently occurred at Occidental, Dartmouth, and countless other universities. Why are colleges trying to silence their students and make them feel unsafe? Why are sexual offenders allowed to continue scot-free despite evidence of their crimes?
Let's tell San Jose State they can't simply ignore the rights of their students and hope the ugly reality of sexual assault goes away. Tweet their official account @SJSU with the hashtag #PunishMathis and let's get this young student the justice she deserves.
Here's a sample tweet, but you can come up with one of your own:
@SJSU #PunishMathis NOW. 1 in 4 women are a victim of #sexualassault and you're making it worse by condoning it!