Paxson says Brown student sanctioned for sexual assault will not come back to campus next fall

Apr 26, 2014

Brown University President Christina Paxson, in a statement,  says the male student who was sanctioned for a sexual assault on a 22-year old female student will not be returning to the university.

The case became public after the woman involved, 22-year old Lena Sclove, held a press conference on the Brown campus last week to speak out about the university’s handling of an assault and rape that she said was committed on her by a fellow male student.

Sclove said she was speaking publicly because she was upset and frustrated with the university’s handling of her case. She said that she was raped last August 2 at about 2:30 a.m. after leaving as party with a male student with whom she had had a romantic relationship with in the past. Both had been drinking. She told Providence police in February that the man pinned her against a telephone poll and choked her.

He walked her to his apartment, where he again choked and raped her. Sclove contacted the university’s rape crisis hotline and was told to go to Brown Health Services and she later reported the incident to the Brown Office of Student Life.

The matter went to the Student Contact Board, which notified Sclove on October 18 that it had found the male student ``responsible’’ for three offenses, including ``sexual misconduct that includes one or more of the following: penetration, physical violence or injury..’’ and he was suspended until the fall semester of 2014, according to reporting by the Brown Daily Herald and the Providence Journal.

Ms. Sclove obviously did not believe that the sanction for such behavior was fair. And she wanted the right to attend the university and get her degree without having to confront the student who allegedly assaulted her.

In her letter to the Brown community, Paxson said, ``to be clear sexual assault at Brown is not tolerated.’’ However, citing privacy provisions, Paxson said she was not allowed to speak publicly about the circumstances ``of any specific case.’’

However, she did acknowledge that the ``student accused of the assault has decided not to petition the university for readmission to Brown next fall.’’

``We are committed to taking aggressive steps to ensure that our campus is safe for everyone and as part of that, policies and procedures designed to keep our campus safe must be open to continuous review. Such a review was already planned for the upcoming academic year. We are accelerating that review and it will include significant input from students,’’ stated Paxson.

What should be the takeaway from all of this? First, there is scant reason that any student who has been raped or assaulted by a fellow student should trust the university to fairly and adequately investigate such a case. Colleges are not equipped to undertake these investigations and there are too many incentives for Brown administrators to cover up such assaults because they fear the media spotlight and criticism that such incidents inevitably bring.

Campus police may be great at directing traffic at graduation, but they are not law enforcement authorities with much training or experience in dealing with sexual assault. Brown may have counselors and student life administrators who deal with such situations, but they are not law enforcement experts.

Without the advantage of the man’s side of the story, it is difficult to know where the truth lies here. But if Brown officials found Ms. Sclove’s  accusations credible,  as they apparently did, the punishment meted out was little more than a slap on the wrist.

This is the message: Women students who are sexually assaulted should go directly to the Providence police. They are experienced and trained in investigating such cases. And they don't have any stake in Brown's reputation.

The best way to deter such conduct by male students might be to have a perpetrator prosecuted by the state attorney general’s office and sentenced to serious time at the ACI. Students ought to be aware that violating the law means more than getting kicked out of school for a bit. Once word got around the Brown campus that a man who did something like this is sitting in state prison, more students might think twice before committing such a violent and horrible act against a fellow student.