Student Alleges Brown University Let Her Attacker Return to Classes While She Was Still There

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April 24 2014 11:52 AM

Student Alleges Brown University Let Her Attacker Return to Classes While She Was Still There

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Anti-rape protesters.

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Kate Dries at Jezebel reports on some troubling accusations that a Brown University student is leveling at the school: Brown allowed a man that its Student Conduct Board found responsible for sexual misconduct to attend the university alongside his victim. Last summer, Lena Sclove says she was sexually assaulted by a friend of hers, Daniel Kopin, that she had hooked up with in the past. She reported the assault to the university and later to the police. 

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Sclove alleges that the university mismanaged the problem from the beginning, setting the hearing date for Kopin a long two months after the alleged assault, during which time she had to go to classes living in dread that she would run into him. Eventually, they did have the hearing, as reported by the Brown Daily Herald

The Student Conduct Board, a group of students, deans and faculty members charged with holding and reviewing University disciplinary hearings, found Kopin was in violation of four items in the Student Conduct Code: (2a) “Actions that result in or can be reasonably expected to result in physical harm to a person or persons,” (5a) “Illegal possession or use of drugs and/or alcohol and/or drug paraphernalia,” (3a) “Sexual misconduct that involves non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature” and (3b) “Sexual misconduct that includes one or more of the following: penetration, violent physical force or injury.”
Following the board’s analysis, the case was referred to Ward, who made the final disciplinary decision, Sclove said. Kopin was suspended from the University for one year. He is set to return in fall 2014.
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This decision is baffling. Regardless of how serious you believe the penalties for sexual assault should be, the issue here is one of basic student safety. Brown believes Kopin sexually violated Sclove. So why on Earth would they think it's OK, ever, to put Sclove in a situation where she runs a high risk of running into him on campus while she attempts to finish her degree? "I still had two years left to finish my degree and was not going to be safe with those sanctions," Sclove wrote in her letter appealing their decision. No doubt! The primary job of a university is to create an environment conducive to learning for students. By exposing a student to daily fear of encountering her attacker, Brown is neglecting this most basic responsibility. 

Sclove may not feel supported by the Student Conduct Board, but luckily the students of Brown—who have a personal stake in having a school that takes safety seriously, after all—are rallying to Sclove's side. Sclove had a press conference with supporters backing her, and the school has already responded to student outrage:

In the hours following Sclove’s press conference, Margaret Klawunn, interim dean of the College and vice president for campus life and student services, sent out a campus-wide email announcing that the University’s sexual assault policy would be a focus of discussion at today’s Brown University Community Council meeting.
“Brown University takes issues of sexual assault and sexual misconduct with the utmost seriousness,” wrote Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, in an email to The Herald.

Let's hope they fix the problem, but it's hard to have much confidence. After all, letting someone you believe to be sexually violent come to your school where his victim is also a student defies basic common sense. It's going to take more than some promises to do better in the future to repair that. 

Update, June 4, 2014: This post has been updated to clarify that Brown University’s Student Conduct Board found Kopin to be “responsible” for sexual misconduct. The University has not alleged that Kopin committed rape, nor has Kopin been charged with a crime. Kopin has published a statement on the matter, available here

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