WBUR

2 Williams College Fundraisers Suspend Activities To Protest Handling Of Alleged Assault

Lexie Brackenridge at her new college, Columbia University, on Monday (Courtesy Sara Romano)

Lexie Brackenridge at her new college, Columbia University, on Monday (Courtesy Sara Romano)

BOSTON — Allegations by former Williams College student Lexie Brackenridge that the school mishandled her complaint of a sexual assault there two years ago are beginning to have potential financial consequences for the western Massachusetts college.

Brackenridge first told her story on WBUR earlier this week, and Wednesday, she published it in The Williams Record, the independent student newspaper.

Williams has loyal alumni. Fifty-eight percent of Williams alumni contributed to the college last year, the third highest proportion of any college or university in the country. Williams achieves that high participation rate thanks to a network of 1,600 fundraisers called class agents. One of them is Ken Hillman. After hearing Brackenridge’s account of how Williams handled her complaint, Hillman said he feels betrayed by the college.

“Until I get a better understanding of what the college is doing to bring justice to the Lexie Brackenridge situation, I do not feel comfortable being involved in fundraising, giving money or participating in activities on behalf of the college,” Hillman said.

Williams “can’t discuss the details of any individual disciplinary process,” said James Kolesar, the school’s vice president for public affairs.

The student whose scheduled return to campus is upsetting some in the Williams community can’t discuss it either.

An attorney for Brackenridge’s alleged assailant said his client cannot talk because of a confidentiality agreement with the college. The attorney, Andrew Miltenberg, said his client continues to dispute the allegations Brackenridge made against him.

“Which we believe, quite frankly, are and were unfounded,” Miltenberg said. “In light of this, we’re very distressed that he’s now the subject of personal attacks to which he cannot accurately or even respond at all. I can tell you, however, that he’s extremely grateful that the school administration has embraced the entirety of the circumstances, and has given him the opportunity to continue his education and earn his undergraduate degree.”

Before he was suspended for three semesters, Brackenridge’s alleged assailant was a hockey player. He came to Williams as a freshman after a year in a junior hockey league in Canada.

Before Hillman starts raising money for the college again, he would like Williams to reexamine the hockey team’s increasing reliance on players recruited from junior hockey.

“The structure, recruiting policy and demographics of their hockey team appears to be an incubator for trouble,” Hillman said. “In looking at the roster of the Williams College [men's] hockey team, eight of the 24 members of the team list junior hockey instead of their high school. Those eight students have spent up to three years playing junior hockey in a minimally supervised environment. And I look at taking that dynamic and putting it into a small rural campus like Williams as a powder keg for trouble.”

“No group, including varsity athletes, is over-represented among those accused of sexual assault,” Kolesar responded. He said the school’s athletic director, coaches and team captains “are very much partners in the broad campus work on the prevention of sexual assault.”

“Athletes from a wide variety of sports are active and visible in this work,” Kolesar added.

Alumni are also coming to the defense of Williams.

Nick Fogel, of Cambridge, graduated just a few months before Brackenridge arrived on campus. Fogel said the college has been proactive in confronting sexual assault.

“I think the administration’s been pretty upfront about the challenges associated with changing the culture and in making Williams a safe and comfortable place and a place where people feel comfortable coming forward when things have occurred,” Fogel said.

But Anne Lindsay Fetter, another class agent who’s suspended her fundraising efforts in light of Brackenridge’s allegations, is critical.

“I feel she was, frankly, run off campus,” said Fetter, who was on the Williams ski team with Brackenridge’s mother. “Run off campus by a lack of support and harassment by the hockey team and nobody stepping up and saying this is unacceptable, and that’s just not right. She should not be the one that has to leave.”

Brackenridge transferred to Columbia University after her freshman year.

Earlier this week, Fetter publicly announced for the first time that she had been raped at Williams during her time as a student.

In 1984, Fetter says she was gang-raped by a Williams freshman and five of his high school friends. Fetter says after a night at a pub in Williamstown, they forced their way into her dorm room. She says the last man to leave, the Williams freshman, apologized and said: “We should not have done this.”

Fetter says she was so terrified and ashamed she stayed in her room and cried for four days. According to Fetter, she did not report the crime until she became pregnant from the rape and had an abortion. She said that when she finally went to the dean’s office with a friend, who corroborates her story, the response was inadequate and unsupportive.

“They basically quote-unquote told me I must have misunderstood,” Fetter said.

Fetter said the student she says raped her had a meeting with a dean and was allowed to stay for the next four years and graduate. She said she lived in fear of running into him for the remainder of her two years at the college.

“Current members of the administration learned of the sexual assault” on Fetter this week, said Kolesar. He said “all” are “horrified by what happened to her and troubled by the poor response she reports receiving from the college.”

“We can’t turn back the calendar, but this new information reinforces the importance of” ongoing efforts “to fight against sexual assault,” Kolesar said.

Despite her experience, Fetter spent years raising money for the college, until this week.

She said she is still grateful to Williams and her fellow alumni for inspiring her to serve her fellow human beings.

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  • Robert C Gray

    1984 to 2014. Some progress at Williams,, but very, very clearly still not enough. The pressure needs to be ramped up on Williams, they still don’t really get it.

    • RMA

      Bob,
      Could you be more specific about your inside information. I can’t find all the specifics on the internet…those elusive facts. You sound like you have access to them. Please share.

  • sandynj

    “An attorney for Brackenridge’s alleged assailant said his client cannot talk because of a confidentiality agreement with the college.”

    Why would the accused have a confidentiality agreement with the college yet Lexie Brackenridge does not? Who is being protected here?

    • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

      They both have a confidentiality agreement with the college.

      • 1kenthomas

        Now why would the College do that? :)

        • Howard Carter

          Because it is how they roll…

        • RMA

          For many reasons, I personally do not believe schools should be deciding these types of cases. These are criminal, potentially felony, charges. They should not be handled by well-meaning amateurs. They should not be decided by a “preponderance” of the evidence. I seems that schools are taking the first tentative steps towards getting out of this “no-win” business by hiring outside experts to do the investigations. I applaud this.

    • Andrew T. Miltenberg

      Both have a No Contact Agreement. Ms. Brackenridge has violated hers.

      • sandynj

        Exactly. And if in her “civil disobedience” Lexie Brackenridge succeeds in raising awareness of the current social climate of Williams College and the issue of sexual assault at college campuses everywhere, then I am grateful to her.

        • Howard Carter

          If the player or the college sues that would be right out of the land of insanity…. but you never know.

      • Howard Carter

        Using the term “violated” to describe the victims actions in this case is particularly disgusting Andy- I respectfully request that you take this post down. We do not know who your client is- and having you as his hatchet man in public forum while he remains anonymous is particularly disgusting.

        • MrEatFirstAskLater

          Howard,

          ‘Violated’ is a perfectly good way to describe breaking an agreement. I hadn’t even noted the undertone that you picked up. As for ‘hatchet man’, Andrew M. is the man’s attorney and as such speaks with his voice.

      • Howard Carter

        Just so everyone has an idea of what Mr Mittenberg is posting about above as the attorney for the accused in this case- Williams had Lexie, at the time a minor (17), sign an indefinite non disclosure agreement without the presence of her parents or an attorney. Take away from that, what you would like.

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  • CCS

    Lexie’s story, as well as the fundraiser who just came forward with her story of being assaulted on campus in the 80s, both started with ‘a party where alcohol was served.’ It seems that anything college’s do to try and address the issue of sexual assault has to be done in conjunction with alcohol/drug education. Even the most responsible student is likely to find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation if s/he is under the influence and judgement becomes cloudy. ‘No!’ should always mean NO, but otherwise smart people do stupid things when drinking and each can actually perceive the situation in very different ways.

    • JRC

      “Fetter says after a night at a pub in Williamstown, they forced their way into her dorm room.”
      It doesn’t say that Fetter was out drinking, but that the men who assaulted her forced their way into her dorm room.

    • Anne L. Fetter

      JRC is correct. It is harsh, cruel, and judgmental to make such assumptions.

    • Howard Carter

      Uh…. no. No means no. I do not care how wasted you are or if you go to Williams.

      • MrEatFirstAskLater

        And not-nice people can do good things and live honest lives, and be innocent of cirmes that majority opines they committed.

  • 1kenthomas

    I wonder if Jim has the data; I very much suspect, he does not and cannot.
    The underlying assertion, may or may not be true– but we’d need the data, first, and Williams has hardly been proactive in acquiring it, as far as I know.

    • Howard Carter

      I doubt he does Ken, which is part of the reason making a statement like that is really foolish. It is easy to see right through it on multiple levels… the admin needs to stop reacting and get proactive. Maybe they are doing that internally, but knowing how much the school is reactionary and can never, ever, ever reflect on what it is doing wrong (that would mean admitting you were wrong)… I doubt it.

  • RMA

    Howie,
    You sound like you’re tweaking your next application essay. Good luck!

    • Howard Carter

      would never happen… they have not matriculated a single veteran since 9/11, and the highly critical old dude that lives across the street is not going to be the first one… not a chance in hell, RMA. Maybe if I played hockey.

      • MrEatFirstAskLater

        Ok, I like this one, Howard.

  • RMA

    Way-way-way good luck.

  • Justice4All

    In reviewing the comments posted here one has to wonder if Constitutional safeguards like due process and a presumption of innocence still apply to alumni of Williams College or should we just automatically lynch all men accused of rape? Rape is a felony crime in the U.S. with some of the toughest sentencing laws in the world for those who are convicted. Before all the pro-feminist, ad hominem attacks to this post are launched accusing me of being a “rape apologist” or “misogynist” or other such nonsense, I would ask you to Google the names and cases starting with the falsely accused Duke Lacrosse players; Brian Banks (ex-football player); Dez Wells (basketball player); Jordan Johnson (football player); Caleb Warner; etc… the point being that an allegation does not equate to guilt which is why we have a court system. Read what the media is saying about why rapes cases should not be adjudicated by college administrators at http://www.ncfmcarolinas.com/

    • rjmcmahon

      hmm, there are 90,000 reported rapes per year, likely 15% of all college
      aged women have been raped and a conservative estimate for the U.S. is 15M total, and how many college campus convictions?? But you found a
      few false allegations so this must not be a serious problem. Very sad
      indeed. Nobody has to call you anything as you’ve demonstrated that all by yourself.

      • MrEatFirstAskLater

        I call his argument valid. Constitutional protections pertaining to accusations are for the few outliers who find themselves simply accused.

        Neither you nor I know who is the victim and who is the perpetrator in this story, and that to me suggests someone at least is doing their jobs well.

        • rjmcmahon

          Agreed on protections, outliers or not. I haven’t seen any violations of the alleged offender’s rights per se.

          I think a major “conflict” here is does the alleged offender’s rights to confidentiality per the school’s disciplinary process and per FERPA apply to the accuser’s right to speech post adjudication?

          http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

          The accuser, alleged offender and others provide “confidential” information to the school during the evidentiary process so the school can adjudicate a potential code of conduct violation. After adjudication by the school the accuser is informed of the outcome per the Clery Act. The accuser also likely knows information about the alleged offender, such his name, group affiliations, etc. Can the accuser ever talk about it, and if so, are there any limits to her speech?

          The school’s current policy is that nobody can speak publicly as they’ve had all parties (including, I believe, any testimonial witnesses) sign confidentiality agreements with the school, agreements which have no expiration. I suspect these agreements are signed early in the complaint and evidentiary process. The 17 year old accuser in this instance had no legal counsel when she signed such a contract.

          Hence the conflict. Schools may be motivated to hide information because it’s in the school’s interest to present a safe campus to the students, to the parents writing the tuition checks, and to potential applicants. The current Clery Act statistics suggests this as schools are making no effort to give estimated stats on actuals but are only publishing reported. If these were burglaries where under reporting is not an issue this would be ok. But sexual assault has serious under reporting for a plethora of reasons.

          There are other issues as well such as type of sanctions, living arrangements, mandatory legal reporting or not, emotional support, privacy rights, etc.

          Again, this is my interpretation from the information given and you or others please do correct any mistakes. I want to get this right as I think it’s important to do so.

      • Justice4All

        A conservative estimate for the U.S. is 15M college women raped? That’s nowhere in the vicinity of reality. If that was anywhere near truthful than where is Obama on this crisis? 200 girls are taken in some far off African country and Obama jumps into crisis mode but allegedly 15M women are being raped here in the US and not a single additional police officer or military guards are deployed to college campuses? Are you really that gullible or just intellectually challenged? Here’s some real facts with verifiable data attached to it. http://www.ncfmcarolinas.com/#!Before-declaring-that-theres-a-rape-epidemic-in-the-US-has-anybody-bothered-to-check-the-actual-data-Apparently-not/c15kh/F969A002-16AC-4FC4-B89B-51A00DA59E0D

        • rjmcmahon

          Sorry, meant to say 15M women out of female population of 116M total. That’s ~13% which is lower than the 1/5

          http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/15/health/nearly-1-in-5-women-in-us-survey-report-sexual-assault.html?_r=0

          We can argue stats but the point is that sexual assault is one of the most under reported and least enforced crimes and the primary group that’s affected are females.

          I don’t think this is a party issue per se. At least I don’t see it that way. I think it’s more of a generational one. I grew up in a generation that was blind and/or played dumb to the issue, at least at the institutional level. I think it’s good that this generation of young women are leading the charge for change.

          I do agree with you that accurate stats would be helpful and that mine are merely guesses. The Clery Act is a step in the right direction but, by my opinion, isn’t good enough with respect to getting the numbers out on both sanctions as well as the under reporting. I think an independent third party could produce reliable stats and it’s obvious that colleges have a conflict of interest towards doing so which can be seen in the current reporting. One thing worse than bad stats is no stats and many are still claiming no sexual assaults occur on their campuses.

  • MrEatFirstAskLater

    It would have good for the reporter to include that fact that L. Brackenridge also was on the Williams Hockey team and continues to play Hockey at Columbia,

  • 1kenthomas

    It is not the law. It is simply not the law. What *are* you talking about?

    • RMA

      FERPA……..

      There are several other exceptions to FERPA’s prohibition against
      non-consensual disclosure of personally identifiable information from
      education records, some of which are briefly mentioned below. Under
      certain conditions (specified in the FERPA regulations), a school may
      non-consensually disclose personally identifiable information from
      education records:

      to authorized representatives of the Comptroller General of the
      United States, the Attorney General of the United States, the U.S.
      Secretary of Education, and State and local educational authorities for
      audit or evaluation of Federal or State supported education programs, or
      for the enforcement of or compliance with Federal legal requirements
      that relate to those programs;

      to organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of the school
      making the disclosure for the purposes of administering predictive
      tests, administering student aid programs, or improving instruction;

      to comply with a judicial order or a lawfully issued subpoena;

      to the victim of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or a
      non-forcible sex offense concerning the final results of a disciplinary
      hearing with respect to the alleged crime; and

      to any third party the final results of a disciplinary proceeding
      related to a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense if the
      student who is the alleged perpetrator is found to have violated the
      school’s rules or policies. The disclosure of the final results only
      includes: the name of the alleged perpetrator, the violation committed,
      and any sanction imposed against the alleged perpetrator. The
      disclosure must not include the name of any other student, including a
      victim or witness, without the written consent of that other student.
      …………….The entire ACT is easily available on line!!!

      • Howard Carter

        Just like Ken said- it is not the law to have a confidentiality agreement with the perpetrator. That was a decision made by the school.

        • RMA

          Can you read? You can give out his name, the charge and the punishment. That’s it! I’m sure the newspapers have all gotten this information already–they choose not to publish his name because he “has not been charged with a crime”….or the cynical view, they know it’s a grey area and don’t want to pay lawyers. The media didn’t sign a confidentiality agreement.

          But hey Howie, you could just walk across the street and ask a member of the Williams student body–they all know his name. Or, if they’re all to creeped out to talk to you, you could look up an old roster and compare it to the current one. Bingo! You could be a hero!

          • Howard Carter

            RMA- I am a hero dude, ask anyone.

            But to get serious for a second, let me explain. I have members of my family and family friends who are that age that hang out with Williams students all the time… I know several students who drop by for dinner and such. I know young adults from town who go to the school as well. I am from here. My dad went to Williams. Getting this persons identity is not the issue for me. I am concerned about how the school handles this kind of thing. I am wondering if I need to be worried about a climate of silence. If one of the schools priorities in a case like this is to get people involved into a confidentiality agreement, that bothers me. It bothers me beyond just the cannons of normal decency, because it involves the safety my friends and family.

            I’d like to think this is an issue where Williams would look past CYOA and get on with the business of getting tough… but that is not the feel I am getting from the various administrators responses- and that really bugs me.

  • hbk123

    Finally, people are beginning to recognize that Williams College doesn’t truly care about students.

    Williams College has abdicated the role of loco parentis and operates and exists only to perpetuate itself as a business. A big business. The President, Deans, and most of the teachers only care about keeping their positions and not the well being of students. The lack of compassion by these academics for their students is astounding.

    The college’s endowment is one of the largest in the country and Williams is a really BIG BUSINESS and protects itself over protecting its students.

    Ethics and justice at Williams takes second place to staying successful at raising money.

    • dust truck

      This could be said about all higher-ed.

  • Howard Carter

    This is for Fred Thys and Andy Miltenberg- Was there a separate legal contract made between Williams and the young man and the girl? What exactly is the legal agreement made between the three parties here? I think there is some confusion about the colleges role in this. Did the school enter into a contract outside the scope of the law with the perpetrator and the victim that prevents them (especially the victim) from speaking about this case?
    JRC- We can read. What I (and I believe Ken) are wondering about is if Williams does this kind of thing often? Is it normal for the school to enter into private agreements with people who have been implicated in or been victims of crimes? That seems odd. Is it normal for the school to use the law in such a way?

    • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

      My understanding is this: Williams is required by FERPA to maintain confidentiality. Lexie Brackenridge and the man found to have been in violation of Williams’ code of conduct are not. Williams sent them a separate no-contact agreement that includes an agreement to keep the case confidential.

      • Howard Carter

        Fred- That does not really answer my question. Does Williams have a separate agreement that was written and supplied by the college that requires Lexie to remain silent about specific aspects of this? Yes or no?

        • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

          Yes. She may not discuss any details of this case with anyone, nor may the man found to have violated Williams’s code of sexual misconduct.

          • Howard Carter

            Is that normal practice? It seems odd that Williams would write a non-disclosure agreement for a victim in a case like this… what is the purpose of doing that? The school may not be able to discuss this particular case, but it can certainly discuss general policy… and what is gained by placing a victim under a contract of non-disclosure?

            My understanding is that by law the perp has to remain silent, but that the college and the victim do not- but that the college and the vic have entered a separate agreement compelling her to do so?

            Was she 17 when she entered that agreement? Is that legal?

          • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

            The student who filed the complaint signed an agreement with Williams not to discuss the case when she was 17.

          • rjmcmahon

            What legal representation did she have when she signed this? Where parents or guardians informed that she entered into such a agreement (regardless of the details of the agreement?)

          • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

            She did not have legal representation, but her parents knew of the Order of No Contact.

          • rjmcmahon

            Ok, seems like a school shouldn’t be entering into such indefinite contracts about potential criminal acts with a 17 year old without first making sure the 17 year old had a legal representative, a legal expert with the sole responsibility of seeing to her interests. Personally, I can’t see how it’s in any 17 year old’s interest to be “gagged for life” – hyperbole intended – nor how that serves the long term public interests.

          • rjmcmahon

            should say “alleged” criminal acts. (I wish disqus had an edit comment feature.)

          • MrEatFirstAskLater

            Good call, now let’s change ‘perpretrator’ to ‘accused.’

            For reference, I know several people who have gone through difficult divorces. Some have suffered the costly and life-changing effects of reports of sexual child abuse. They were proven innocent, but not without a great deal of harm to those innocently charged and those of us who found our sympathies for the ‘victims’ exploited.

          • rjmcmahon

            Didn’t use perpetrator but offender or alleged offender. I haven’t used alleged offender much because that would be specific to this case and I don’t have any specific data about this case other than what’s public information.

          • MrEatFirstAskLater

            ‘Offender’ equates with guilt. There is no guilt save for lying and possibly ‘sexual misconduct.’ Sexual misconduct sounds like an inappropriate sexual relationship – none of which exists for students so far as I know.

          • rjmcmahon

            I’ve been using offender to indicate a person who hs committed rape or sexual assault, a non-consensual sexual act. I’m not sure what you mean by “there is no guilt …”

          • MrEatFirstAskLater

            He was guilty of lying and according to the reporter, ‘sexual misconduct.’

            Rape an assault are not misconduct, they are crimes.

          • rjmcmahon

            I think the “sexual misconduct” was per the school’s code of conduct and a ruling by the school disciplinary committee which uses a preponderance of evidence criteria. A code of conduct is something that all students agree to when joining a university and student violating the code of conduct allows a school to sanction a student per that violation. My understanding was this alleged sexual offender was sanctioned with a multi-semester suspension per his “sexual misconduct.” At least that’s they way I understand it. Please do correct me if I’ve made any mistakes.

            This wasn’t a legal trial performed by the State so let’s not confuse the two.

          • MrEatFirstAskLater

            That’s more to my liking and nicely put. Otherwise, I sympathize with the lawyer’s dismay that his client is disparaged in the press and on blogs far beyond his community. Even violent offenders formally charged and tried do not suffer this sort of treatment unless the crime shocks the conscience.

            Thanks for the decent exchange.

          • Anne L. Fetter

            @MrEat First –> OK, now you are likely to say that “Parental Alienation Syndrome” (PAS) is real — it has no basis in reality — and no evidence whatsoever to back it up (I am a professional statistician and research methodologist). The founder simply created a pyramid of “expert witnesses” and in the process destroyed myriad families.

            I, for one, am becoming weary of your belligerence.

          • MrEatFirstAskLater

            I, for one, am becoming weary of your belligerence.

            And I am tired of belligerent and potentially slanderous insults and accusations that are cast about and backed up by a thinly reported allegation of misconduct. Count us even. I have much to say on this disturbance, so I can understand your irritation.

            But I do not feel any belligerence, and it is not present in anything that I have written. Now, if I went about calling people rapists, idiots, ignoramuses, cowards, and child abuse protectors, you may have grounds for saying that.

            Per PAS, I have no intention of refuting the existence of any form of abuse be it sexual, child abuse, or harassment.

          • Anne L. Fetter

            … are *you* accusing me of harassing you?

          • MrEatFirstAskLater

            No – I’m sorry if you are taking my posts personally – certainly not intended. But I am referring to numerous other posters who are insulting commentators with whom they disagree in very personal terms. Those posts are the ones I’d call belligerent.

          • MrEatFirstAskLater

            When a 17 accepts admission, she accepts the terms of the Honor Code and signs numerous other documents with legal weight. Further, while a minor may not enter a contract independently, they can enter institutions and agree to contracts that bind them with parental burdens. For example, student loans.

          • rjmcmahon

            Sorry, but I don’t think the honor code trumps basic speech rights. If I were the school I’d be very careful about entering into life long contracts binding possible alleged criminal acts to silence. I couldn’t care less what was signed by her after a moment of duress. This is bad policy and should be stopped immediately. I could see a gag order during adjudication but after that free speech serves the individuals as well as the public interest.

          • MrEatFirstAskLater

            Yet, look – she speaks freely to the press. He exercises his Rights and remains silent. I had no idea there even was a ‘gag order’. How could I tell?

          • rjmcmahon

            Read the information given by Fred Thys. I think he’s bound to journalistic integrity and has been doing a good job at providing specific factual information per this case.

          • MrEatFirstAskLater

            He has done a lousy job by writing a one sided report. He could not receive feedback by the male, therefore he should have redacted his writing to verifiable facts that do no simply expose a regular citizen to gossip. (Name of a hockey team, legal troubles of no great import.)

          • rjmcmahon

            The two sides to every story is a false dichotomy. There is only one story here and one set of facts. Neither you nor I know the facts so we have to extrapolate from our own experiences and our ability to discern the truth telling of those around us.

          • MrEatFirstAskLater

            Ah, infinite jest.

          • Carmen Sandiego

            Don’t you have to be 18 to enter into an agreement like that?

          • rjmcmahon

            Don’t know but it wouldn’t matter to me if my daughter was 17, 18, 25 or older when she was raped, going public about it or not should be her prerogative.

          • Carmen Sandiego

            I totally agree, silencing survivors of regardless of age should be illegal, I just mean legally, a contracted gag order couldn’t be upheld in court anyway if she was a minor.

          • rjmcmahon

            I think I need to read up on FERPA and the Clery Act but initial indications are that universities cannot require victims of sexual assault to abide by confidentiality agreements.

            http://www.splc.org/news/newsflash.asp?id=1843

          • rjmcmahon

            Ok, still not clear to me but the Department of Education stated to UVA that,

            “The University cannot require an accuser to abide by its non-disclosure policy, in writing or otherwise, as a pre-condition to accessing judicial proceeding outcomes and sanction information under the Clery Act.”

            Looks like the issue isn’t resolved well at this point. My instincts tell me a university taking a confidentiality approach to prohibit speech, particularly from the victim, post adjudication is a poor choice as it perpetuates silence when speech is needed.

            http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/05/14/following-criticism-otterbein-changes-sexual-assault-policy#sthash.PFCmsyTv.dpbs

          • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

            Williams says one of the reasons students express for not wanting to report sexual assault is the fear of social backlash and of rumors spreading on campus. The college says to try to create a safer space for students to report, it puts in place no-contact orders that require confidentiality before it starts any disciplinary process under its code of sexual misconduct. This requires the students not to discuss the allegation or the investigation with anyone.

          • rjmcmahon

            re”The college says to try to create a safer space for students to report,
            it puts in place no-contact orders that require confidentiality before
            it starts any disciplinary process under its code of sexual misconduct.
            This requires the students not to discuss the allegation or the
            investigation with anyone.”

            I could see a “gag order” during the disciplinary process but how long do they last? Also, are colleges required to maintain and report any overall statistics (not naming victims or alleged offenders) such that a third party could monitor its processes? If it all remains confidential indefinitely and there is no light of day shined on things this seems broken to me, particularly since many administrators may think it’s in the school’s best interests not to publicize crime on campus (as the Dartmouth example shows what can happen to their application pool.)

          • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

            The Order of No Contact and its confidentiality requirement has no expiration date and may only be rescinded by Williams’s director of Campus Safety and Security.
            Colleges are required to report statistics on reports of sexual assault.

          • rjmcmahon

            Report to whom? Are they made available to the public? I’d be curious to see and compare stats on a per capita female, per campus basis expected that all individual names be redacted.

            Do you know the reason for an indefinite confidentiality? This all seems a bit too similar to the BSA ineligible volunteer files where the difference between confidentiality and secrecy seems relevant towards properly addressing the issue. Child abuse and campus sexual assault seem similar enough such the lessons from one can be applied to the other.

            http://www.kellyclarkattorney.com/the-boy-scouts-secret-%E2%80%9Cperversion-files%E2%80%9D%E2%80%94background-and-update/

            Of all the many truths about child sexual abuse—it is a crime that often
            leaves its victims emotionally damaged for life, the child victims are
            not to blame for what happened, often it takes decades of time before
            these survivors can speak up about what happened to them as children—one
            of the most certain is that child abuse thrives in secrecy, and secret
            systems are its nourishment.

          • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

            Williams reports its statistics on its web site.

          • rjmcmahon

            Got it. Thanks.

            http://security.williams.edu/files/2013/08/CrimeStats2013.pdf

            Numbers are too low, not unique to Williams as other colleges are reporting similar low numbers. Some even say they have had zero rapes on campus. Hard to believe. I’d multiply by 10 to get a better estimate.

            Why no data on sanctions? Maybe the Clery Act needs to be beefed up a bit. I would think a college could report above and beyond the Act though. Just meets requirements usually doesn’t fair well in the long run.

            The trend, according to this, is 5, 7, 11. I read Williams estimated 50 in 2011 (the year 7 were reported.) If the numbers of 6 per offender are correct that’s roughly 10 offenders on campus.

            The town has 2 police per 1000. Their stats show the reported rapes are happening mostly on college campus which seems reasonable for a small college town of 8000. I can see why there may not be confidence that the legal system will remedy the problem.

            Alcohol violations are 10, 46, 121. I would think there would be at least correlation if not causation between the two. What happened that there is a 12 fold increase here?

          • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

            The Dean of the College does report every year what sanctions she imposed when students violated the sexual misconduct policy: http://dean.williams.edu/policies/sexual-misconduct/april-8-2014/

          • rjmcmahon

            Thanks. To summarize for 2012-13 there were six reports. Three investigations where “preponderance of evidence” criteria resulted in sanctions; one expulsion and two multi-semester suspensions. The other three reports the affected students have chosen not to pursue either disciplinary or legal processes. No reports were brought to the legal system. (It’d be easier if this same information were in the crime statistics report but it’s good that it’s being published.)

            I still wonder how the under reporting can be remedied. Also, a form of mandated teaching of what consent is and isn’t might be good. Somehow those that witness or suspect rape occurred may need a reporting vehicle too, though that would have to honor the privacy rights of the students involved. Any actions by the University on any of the above?

          • Anne L. Fetter

            There is indeed such a site underdevelopment, hoping to launch in September. They are are a 501c3 and trying to obtain the needed funding to launch. Currently under construction: http://www.NoMeansNo.org. Their goal is to launch nationwide, and they have been endorsed by the White House already.

          • MrEatFirstAskLater

            Hard to believe. I’d multiply by 10 to get a better estimate

            Funny, I mentioned to someone else the good old chestnut, “there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

            If the original number has no foundation, there is no remedy available to fix it.

          • rjmcmahon

            I think the numbers are accurate for what they are measuring which is reported sexual assaults per possible disciplinary action. The 50 estimate is reported sexual assaults via a 2011 university survey. Both are likely under reported. My *guess* of a 10 multiple corresponds with personal anecdotal data, i.e. the number of cases I know about vs the number of reports.

            The low numbers are not expulsions but the total number of sexual assaults on campuses. I looked at some schools where I know there were sexual assaults and many had a big fat zero – no reports. (Great, even multiplying by 10 gives zero!) Hence, the “statistical lies” in this case are on the low side. Don’t exactly know how low but they are too low.

            I think it’s doable for a statistician to get quality numbers but most schools likely think the low numbers make their campuses seem safer. Particularly if there were 11 reports, 3 investigations (each affirming an assualt), 3 sanctions (2 suspensions, 1 expulsion) and zero legal actions. If the true numbers are something like 49 unreported rapes, 11 reported ones, 3 investigations and zero legal actions that by a legal standard would be 0 for 60 (or 60/60 from the rapists’ perspective.) Even the “harsh” action of expulsion can be perceived as passing the buck to someone else.

            The prison population is grossly biased towards young black males which I don’t think is a Williams demographic. That’s a whole other topic about social injustice.

          • MrEatFirstAskLater

            Ok, I’m not disputing rates of sexual assaults as high or low. But personal anecdotal data does not constitute materials for a statistician.

            By the time agendas are set and political territory staked out, I would be extremely suspicious of the statistician’s report when the objective is to nail someone on the head.

            When they liberated the Bastille, all they found was a lone madman who lost his room key. The prison population is not biased towards African Americans, it simply has ample space for the poor who are unable to sustain court fees. You should hang around Berkshire District Court someday and watch the accused walk free on bail. People bitch, but they are indeed innocent until proven guilty.

          • rjmcmahon

            The objective is obvious. Stop stigma, shame and stop blaming the victim, alleged or otherwise. Don’t use forms of coercion to silence an alleged victim of a crime. I hope we can agree to that.

          • MrEatFirstAskLater

            I agree 100% with those objectives. I just share some doubt as to who the victim is in this story. The doubt that I hold is not new or weird. Perhaps it derives from an early reading of To Kill A Mockingbird.

            I have great sympathy for the abused, but I hold that sympathy dear and will not tolerate seeing it exploited. There are no published facts that warrant my accepting the existence of an extreme event having happened.

          • rjmcmahon

            I think it may be a cognitive dissonance thing. To see the world as it is we first have to develop ways to manage suffering. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance Otherwise we do all kinds of nutty things to cope. Disbelief or denial is common tool used. So is shooting the messenger. That’s why when I see it at a group level it raises a big red flag. Not saying your are doing this but I truly can’t tell yet ;)

          • Howard Carter

            Fred- Thank you for clarifying… I appreciate it.
            Does Williams also put witnesses under civil gag orders too? Does Williams have data on how many witnesses, victims, suspects they have placed under these kinds of constraints?
            Could a person tell their family without breaking a gag order like this? A close friend? Members of law enforcement? A professor? Or would they be breaking the order if they did?

  • rjmcmahon

    I suspect some issues here are:

    o local police aren’t staffed to handle the volume
    o many in law enforcement don’t treat rape without indications of violence as a serious crime
    o the legal burden of proof is difficult (most rapist are not convicted)
    o under reporting is a huge problem that the legal system can’t address well
    o the legal system isn’t funded or staffed on the emotional support side

    I do think many colleges would want to punt these cases to the legal system washing their hands of the issue. Didn’t Williams respond like such? A statement like that suggest to me, “We think we’re incapable of adjudicating and enforcing these class of crimes, society will accept us as incapable, it makes us look bad regardless of outcome due to the negative publicity, so let’s hire somebody else to do it.”

    I think making colleges accountable towards the environment they provide as part and parcel of writing the $60K checks.

    • MrEatFirstAskLater

      Ok, I apologize now if I’m trailing you…

      The DA Capeless is wrapping up a notorious murder trial, depraved and unimaginable murders that many here feel he engineered just to have a strong case against a local thug.

      He keeps a busy docket of trumped up gun charges and petty drug crimes, and most definitely has his eye out for a case involving rape, a large college, and hockey players. It is likely fortunate for him that he did not get to put his hands on this case as it could well wind up the poison apple of his career.

      As for the police, they certainly have space in a cruiser to haul an accused thug in for a booking. Otherwise, people show up in police departments, me included, aggrieved and injured and have not had anyone there to emotionally support me as I write up my complaint.

  • Cara
  • Cara
    • Howard Carter

      Goof for her!
      The only part I do not like is the confidentiality agreement. When a felony is involved, the victim should not be under a gag order to not discuss who her case. At least not indefinitely- and certainly not when it comes to going to outsiders to seek counsel. Such a thing could stop a kid from speaking with a professor, coach, a relative, a friend or a member of law enforcement.

      Schools should also be required to call the police in cases of rape, and have a trained officer interview the victim to see if she wants to press charges.

      • DBCII

        I certainly agree with a lot of what she is saying. However, this is a criminal accusation and should be handled by the police. This event should be investigated by law enforcement, who are paid and trained to handle this, and the findings should then be used by the school to make a decision on what should happen to the students involved as it relates to their future involvement with the school.

        • rjmcmahon

          Hi DBCII,

          I’ve read Williamstown has two police per 1000. I’m extremely doubtful they have the resources to investigate all complaints properly as well as do their “regular” police work. Also, I think the accuser should have the option to request a school enforce their code of conduct regardless of her decision to take the issue to the State’s legal system. I could agree that some form of mandatory reporting be required, similar to what is done for child and senior abuse, but in these class of crimes I think an accuser’s rights to privacy is paramount. And those privacy rights include deciding to speak publicly which is a great service to the public at large.

          • DBCII

            Having spent four years in Williamstown, I assure you they have the resources to handle a complaint like this. Nothing happens in Williamstown, so their “regular” police work includes answering noise complaints and waiting outside the “Purple Pub” for someone to pee outside. A case like this would take priority over everything they do.

            My senior year, a kid was walking on Spring Street and said someone leaned out of a car window and pointed a gun at him and he heard three loud pops, like gun shots. The driver and the passenger of that car were both students. The police were able to track them down, break into their dorm room, and arrest them in handcuffs an shackles (I actually think that was for only one of them, the other they found in the library.) They made a huge deal out of this and had a thorough investigation only to find out that one of the students had a toy gun (one of those with a bright orange tip so you know it’s not real) in the front seat of his car and the passenger had grabbed it and thrown it in the back seat. The gun didn’t have caps, the window wasn’t down and the kid made up the whole thing. However, the W-town PD had the resources to track this kids down, haul them off in shackles and carry on a weeks long investigation because they had nothing better to do. I assure you, they can investigate a sexual assault case.

          • rjmcmahon

            Ok, you know more than me about the local police in Williamstown and if they will treat sexual assault investigations sufficiently. If the under reporting is remedied it won’t be one case per year. The 2011 survey estimate was 50 and that may be under reported as well.

            Being a parent of daughters going to college soon, I wouldn’t allow my daughters to select a school that passed all its campus sexual assaults to the local police and walked away from their own due process. I want a school that has processes and the skills to properly enforce the student code of conduct which includes handling cases of sexual assault. I also want them to have the option to take the case to the legal system, parallel options so to speak. That’s just my opinion.

  • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

    It is an Order of No Contact.

  • Mark Hammel

    While those preaching collectivism conjure up an ever-shifting mirage of illusions, those who understand individualism recognize that civilization is best understood through the motivations, decisions, and actions of the individuals comprising it.

    • MrEatFirstAskLater

      Yes and no, Mark.

  • http://www.wbur.org/people/fthys Fred Thys

    The no contact agreement contains a confidentiality clause.

  • DBCII

    What exactly is a “non-traditional student?” You have no idea what the academic record is of a single one of these players, or any other student athlete at williams.

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