7 Terrifying College Administration Responses to Allegations of Sexual Assault

Over the past few months, we have seen brave sexual assault survivors at colleges and universities across the United States file Title IX and Clery Act complaints, alledging that their educational institutions failed to provide them with necessary resources and accommodations. In the process, we have learned of horrifying inaction and comments by college and university administrators. This list of terrifying college administration responses to allegations of sexual assault is far from exhaustive, and doesn't intend to rank the examples given. Instead, it seeks to highlight the epidemic of unacceptable institutional failures that students have faced when it comes to reporting sexual assault.

1. University of Southern California: It isn’t rape if he "didn’t orgasm.”

University of Southern California junior Ari Mostov claims that after she was raped by a student with whom she shared all of her classes, campus authorities told her that her assailant didn’t commit sexual assault if he didn’t orgasm. Mostov also claims that after she reported her assault, university administrators were unwilling to change her class schedule to save her from having to see her assailant throughout the semester. 

2. Swarthmore College: Admitting guilt “was punishment enough.”

When Hope Brinn, a Swarthmore student, attempted to file a sexual harassment report with the college, an administrator repeatedly asked her what she did to provoke the male student’s behavior. The same administrator later told Brinn that the offender's admission of guilt “was punishment enough” for his actions. Brinn is currently listed as a complainant in a U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights investigation into allegations that Swarthmore failed to properly handle allegations of sexual misconduct on campus, and even retaliated against sexual assault survivors. 

3. Occidental College: Serial rapist to be readmitted after writing a book report.

This December, a known serial rapist will be readmitted to Occidental College so long as he writes a book report on sexual assault. The assailant admitted to assaulting Leah Capranica, now an alumna of Occidental, in 2009. A panel of three campus officials later found the assailant responsible for sexually assaulting a second student, Carly Mee, on two occasions, and expelled him for his actions. However, the assailant is due to be readmitted in December simply because Capranica and Mee have both graduated.  

4. Amherst College: “Pressing charges would be useless, he’s about to graduate.”

Former Amherst student Angie Epifano shared a harrowing first-person account of her rape, and the college's complete failure to provide a supportive environment for her after she reported her assault, in an op-ed in The Amherst Student. Epifano alleges that a campus sexual assault counselor told her, “No you can’t change dorms, there are too many students right now. Pressing charges would be useless, he’s about to graduate, there’s not much we can do. Are you SURE it was rape? It might have just been a bad hookup .… You should forgive and forget.”

5. Dartmouth College: "Possible disciplinary action" for students protesting sexual assault.

After Dartmouth students staged a protest against sexual assault, homophobia, and racism during an event for prospective students, the protesters received rape and death threats from their peers. Rather than offer counseling or support services to the student protesters, the administration responded by issuing a campus-wide email that equated the actions of the protesters with the actions of students who made rape and death threats, and said that, “the administration is following established policies and procedures with regard to any possible disciplinary action in both cases.” 

6. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Alleged retaliation against a sexual assault survivor.

In January 2013, three students and one graduate of UNC Chapel Hill filed a Clery Act complaint against the university for underreporting cases of sexual assault. In the Clery Act filing, one of the students, Landen Gambill, alleges that the university retaliated against her by charging her with an honor code violation after she publicly shared the story of her rape (which she did without naming her rapist). The honor code violation claimed that Gambill “intimidated” her assailant by publishing her story because she referred to her assailant as an “ex-boyfriend.” While the student in question was found guilty of verbally harassing Gambill, he was found not guilty of sexual misconduct, and was reassigned to a dormitory in close proximity to Gambill’s. 

7. Princeton University: Disturbing campus rape statistics never released.

In a 2008, Princeton University conducted a survey to “establish and quantify the extent to which Princeton University students experience assault.” Of the 809 female undergraduate students surveyed, 120 (or one in six) answered affirmatively to the statement, “A man put his penis into my vagina, or someone inserted fingers or objects without my consent.” The study's results weren't publicized until this year, when they were leaked to the Daily Princetonian. Amanda Sandoval, director of the school's Women's Center, told the college paper that she believed the results were not published because there was no “real benefit” to Princeton in releasing the statistics, and that, “in this news environment, people would make a big deal about it."

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Tracey Vitchers

Tracey is a feminist blogger for PolicyMic.com. Previously, Tracey wrote for The Huffington Post and Feministing's Community Blog. Her articles have been featured in Potentia Magazine, Feministing's Daily Feminist Cheat Sheet, and the Women's Campaign Fund newsletter. She has been quoted by MSNBC for her work with Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER) and was featured on The Sean Hannity Show for her coverage of the Occupy Movement in September 2011. Tracey holds a Bachelor of the Arts in Women's Studies and English from Williams College and a Masters of the Arts in Comparative Women's Studies from Utrecht University. She has worked with numerous nonprofit organizations in project management, business development, communications, and public relations capacities. In her free time Tracey enjoys hiking with her dog, assembling Ikea furniture, and drinking coffee. Tracey works in New York City, but lives in the woods of Pennsylvania.

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