New examiner reviews alleged sexual assault
On Jan. 29, a Brandeis first-year filed a Community Standards Report indicating that she had been raped about a week earlier at an off-campus party. She said that her CSR launched a University investigation of the incident by way of the special examiner's process, the first known utilization of the highly confidential practice since it was adopted in the 2012-2013 issue of the Rights and Responsibilities handbook.
This first-year told the Justice that on April 10, she was informed that the accused, another Brandeis first-year, had been found responsible and would be expelled. As of April 29, the Office of the Registrar declined to give the Justice any enrollment information.
As of April 24, the accused was still listed as enrolled in the University, scheduled to graduate in spring 2016, according to a staff member at the Office of the Registrar. University Registrar Mark Hewitt wrote in an email to the Justice that when a student is expelled, it usually takes a few weeks until that individual is no longer officially enrolled, due to formalities and paperwork.
The alleged victim said that the rape in question took place at a party thrown by the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity on Dartmouth Street in Waltham, and was committed by another first-year who was a member of the fraternity at the time. The Justice confirmed that a ZBT member had been suspended in a Feb. 5 article, but no connection could be made with the allegations of an assault taking place two weeks prior.
Dean Gendron, director of student rights and community standards, told the Justice that he could not confirm or deny any of the above information.
The special examiner's process governs the University's handling of sexual assault cases. According to Section 22.6 of the handbook, which outlines the process, any alleged violation of sections regarding "sexual responsibility" or "Equal Opportunity, Non-Discrimination and Harassment," will not be heard by the Student Conduct Board, but instead will be investigated by a "special examiner."
The examiner presents his or her findings to the Dean of Student Life, and the dean makes a final decision regarding the outcome of the case.
Dean of Student Life Rick Sawyer declined to comment on whether or not the special examiner's process was used this year. He also would not comment on the results of any such use of the process.
However, according to accounts provided to the Justice by both parties in this particular case, the process they experienced was in line with what Rights and Responsibilities describes.
Although Section 22.6 does not describe the special examiner position in detail, both the accused and the accuser told the Justice that the examiner in their case was a third-party attorney.
The accuser said that the University hired this attorney after she filed the CSR. She then was able to talk to the examiner and present her story, providing information in the form of "text messages, witnesses, so on and so forth."
The accused also was able to provide witnesses and other evidence, she said. "The third party attorney heard both sides of the story. There are only two people who know what happened."
The accused would speak to the Justice only on condition of anonymity. He agreed to answer a limited set of questions in an email to the Justice.
He wrote that he felt the investigation and the special examiner were "biased" and that he was "automatically accused."
"The process on paper is fair, but in practice it was not. I was not even allowed to eat in Sherman," he wrote, referring to the University efforts to keep the two parties separate.
He declined to say whether or not he was represented in the special examiner's process by anyone other than himself.
After the initial shock wore off, the first thing she did was call the police. It was the urging of her friends that convinced her to take action, she said.
"Had they not told me to call the police, I wouldn't have. I would have stayed in the dorm, I would have had to deal with that," she said.
"I knew I had said I didn't want it, I knew I told him I didn't want to, but I was just so shocked with what had happened that I didn't know how to deal with it," she added.
In the morning, she got in touch with her Community Advisor, who promptly helped move her to another dorm, she said.
A couple of days later, she completed what is commonly referred to as a "rape kit.," undergoing an examination to collect forensic evidence that may have been left behind from sexual contact.
The special examiner's process formally began soon after.
According to the Rights and Responsibilities handbook, the process starts with the statements phase, which lasts five to 10 days. In this step, the accuser and accused compose written statements and present any textual evidence, such as emails or text messages, to the special examiner.
The examiner discusses the process and the choice of an adviser with the accused, who has the option of accepting or denying responsibility at this stage.
The process then continues to the fact-finding phase, in which the examiner interviews witnesses, the accused and the accuser, in addition to examining other physical and textual evidence. Rights and Responsibilities describes this phase as lasting about 30 days.
After the examiner compiles his or her final report, the accuser and the accused both have the opportunity to meet with the dean of Student Life and discuss the examiner's findings.
In light of their discussions, the accused can accept responsibility or the accuser can withdraw allegations before the Dean submits his final decision. Either party can appeal the outcome to the University Appeals Board on Student Conduct.
According to the victim, a member of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance served as her adviser throughout the process. "The goal of the adviser is just to listen and take notes and support," she said. She described her adviser as "a very strong, intelligent woman ... I wanted to surround myself by strong, intelligent women."
Aside from the special examiner, herself, and her adviser, she said that no one else was involved in the hearings.
"I never had to look at him, I never had to be near him. The school did their best to keep us away from each other, because I didn't feel safe with him, I didn't want to be near him," she said.
Gendron confirmed this aspect of the special examiner's process, although not specifically in regards to this case.
"During the actual Special Examiner's Process, that is, as the steps in the process are being engaged the parties are never in the same room or engaged with the Special Examiner at the same time," Gendron wrote in an email to the Justice
"For what happened, the best outcome came from it," the victim said, referring to the expulsion of the accused."I've heard so many awful things about Brandeis and how they've dealt with [sexual assault], but they have been nothing but helpful and wonderful, and their main priority was making sure I was taken care of."
While the University took measures to protect the involved parties' identities, the alleged victim was more vocal about the case, often writing about her experience on public forums such as Facebook.
"I was not quiet about it," she said. "I made sure everybody knew, because I didn't know if the school was going to get rid of him."
The alleged victim said that she withdrew from Brandeis about a month ago, and plans to come back to campus in the fall or spring. She said that she expects a negative reaction or retribution when she returns.
"I'm afraid. I was really vocal about it, and I know a lot of people did not like that," she said. "I know there's going to be some person who's going to say something rude, because there is rape culture at Brandeis."
She declined to comment on the possibility of pursuing legal charges.
Still, she said, "I'm not going to let this happen again, especially at a frat party or a sorority party. I want people to report it; I want people to know that they're not alone in that something can be done."
-Robyn Spector, Jeffrey Boxer, Marissa Ditkowsky and Sam Mintz contributed reporting