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Days After U-M’s President Schlissel Starts Job, Feds Launch Title IX Investigation into Sexual Violence at Brown U. Where He Was Provost

by P.D. Lesko

In April 2014, Brown U. was in an uproar. There were protests about the “bungled” handling of a student rape hearing. Media described the protests as having provoked a “nationwide uproar.” Meanwhile on April 17 in Ann Arbor, U-M Regents feted Dr. Mark Schlissel and awarded him a $2 million lab. There was no mention in the media that Brown Provost Schlissel’s staff was embroiled in two high profile sexual violence complaints—one involving Brown football players—both victims alleging it took Brown months to respond. 

CAMPUS RAPE: THE President of the United States has put higher education on notice that the epidemic must be dealt with—about 20 percent of women on college campuses in the U.S are raped or the victims of attempted rape, according to a 2007 report published by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) is using Title IX (a law which bars gender discrimination at schools in the U.S.) to launch investigations into sexual violence on campuses across the country, including two in Michigan (U-M and MSU). On July 19 the DOE launched an investigation into sexual violence on the campus of Brown University, where U-M’s new president, Dr. Mark Schlissel, served as the Provost.

Such complaints are handled at Brown by the Office of Student Life (OSL) whose Dean answers to the Provost. As the Provost, Dr. Schlissel was directly responsible for deciding the outcomes of rape complaints brought by Brown’s graduate students and post-docs.

Schlissel

Dr. Mark Schlissel, former Brown Provost and U-M's 14th president

In a July interview with Ann Arbor media, Dr. Schlissel offered up his opinion on campus sexual violence: “(It) isn’t a Michigan-specific issue. It’s an across-the-academy issue. I have had to deal with it at other institutions and it’s not a brand new problem. The challenges in this area are making sure everyone knows our policies, that they’re implemented consistently and with integrity, and – maybe even more importantly – that we engage in a continuous education effort with all the members of our community….”

None of the news outlets that attended the media event reported on the DOE investigation on Dr. Schlissel’s former campus, the allegations of the alleged bungled handling of a rape complaint lodged by an undergraduate student at Brown,  widespread student protests or a Change.org petition which calls for Brown University to reform its policies which deal with the investigation of rape on its campus. There are 8,000 students enrolled at Brown and over 3,200 signatures on the Change.org petition. (Update: Since a piece was published by the HuffingtonPost.com about the sexual violence investigation at Brown by federal officials, the petition has been signed by over 8,600 additional people.)

At an April 23, 2014 Brown University Community Council meeting at which Dr. Schlissel was present in his capacity as Provost, students presented a petition titled “Stand up Against Sexual Assault at Brown.” The Brown Daily Herald, the student newspaper, reported, “The petition was released at 11 a.m. that day. In her hand, Emma Hall held over 300 physically signed petitions, and stated that the online petition before the meeting (at 4 p.m.) was approaching 2,600 signatures.”

Brown Officials Sort Out Allegations of Rape 

In 2013 Lena Sclove transferred to Brown University from Tufts. The summer after her first semester at Brown, on Aug. 2, she attended a party, where she met up with friends. Daniel Kopin, who would have been a senior at Brown in September 2014, “was a former friend of mine, and we had hooked up a couple times,” Sclove said. She added that they “decided we wouldn’t do it again.”

After the party, Sclove was allegedly “strangled and raped” by Daniel Kopin. Sclove told the Brown Daily Herald in April 2014, “I said no over seven times. I never said yes.”

Sclove reported the alleged rape to officials at the Brown Office of Student Life two weeks after the incident. Brown officials waited eight weeks to schedule a hearing.

Sclove told the Brown Daily Herald: “I had to see him (the alleged rapist) in the campus center, in the library, in the dining hall.”

Eight months, three hearings and one appeal later, University administrators decided to allow the student Sclove identified as her rapist to return to campus in September 2014.

According to reporting by The Huffington Post in May of 2014, “A disciplinary panel recommended a two-year suspension, which would have allowed Sclove to finish her studies without the assailant’s presence on campus. J. Allen Ward, Brown’s senior associate dean of student life, reduced the suspension to one year.”

The boy had been found guilty of violating four sections of Brown’s conduct code, including “sexual violence involving physical force and injury.” Lena Sclove has said she will not return to campus until Brown overhauls its policies.

In May 2014 Sclove filed a federal complaint against Brown University. Sclove’s complaint accuses Brown of violating Title IX by allowing the assailant to return to campus and not adequately training adjudicators.

The complaint says Brown violated the Clery Act when school officials directed Sclove to “a health facility that was unequipped to preserve evidence of strangulation or assault, and failed to make clear that she could file both a student misconduct complaint and a criminal complaint.”

The complaint says Sclove was “left with the understanding that she could pursue a Brown student misconduct complaint or file a criminal complaint, but not both.” After learning she could file a criminal complaint with city police, Sclove did so in March 2014.

At Brown, the Dean of Student Life, whose office handled Lena’s Sclove’s sexual violence investigation, and has the final word on punishments meted out, reports to the Provost. In April of 2014, when Daniel Kopin’s suspension was reduced from two years to a one year suspension, the Provost was Dr. Schlissel.

Truthout, a well-respected nonprofit organization dedicated to providing independent news and commentary, reported in May 2014 that Lena Sclove’s public denunciation of Brown University had caused “a nationwide uproar.”

“A Nationwide Uproar” That Didn’t Reach Ann Arbor

On April 17, 2014 The Ann Arbor News published an article that outlined Dr. Schlissel’s attendance at a meeting of the Regents, his appointment to the faculty of the medical School and the award of a $2 million dollar research lab for Schlissel’s use.

Dr. Schlissel’s visit occurred three days after U-M’s student government task force released a report concluding U-M had bungled its investigation into allegations that Brendan Gibbons had raped an undergraduate woman.

At virtually the same time Dr. Mary Sue Coleman and her administration were being accused of allegedly bungling an investigation into a high profile rape complaint against a U-M football player, on Dr. Schlissel’s campus, Brown University, the same allegations were being made.

About a month after April 2014 student protests at Brown University calling for sexual assault investigation and handing procedures to be revamped, Lena Sclove filed a federal complaint against Brown for allowing the alleged rapist back on campus.

Lena Sclove wasn’t the only high profile student rape at Brown that didn’t get any coverage in the Ann Arbor media. On February 13, 2014, three weeks after U-M Regents hired Dr. Mark Schlissel, a freshman at Brown accused two football players of raping her.

Shortly after Lena Sclove went public in April 2014 with her allegations of a bungled handling of her own rape allegations, Brown University asked the two football players accused in the February 2014 alleged rape to leave campus. However, the two suspects remained on campus, and on the football team, for months after the woman came forward.

Schlissel’s Take on the Campus Rape Epidemic—Blames Alcohol and Obama

In a July 6 article about boosting sexual assault awareness on U-M’s Ann Arbor campus, Ann Arbor News reporter Kellie Woodhouse briefly touched on the Brown University controversy. She reported that Brown was not under investigation by the Department of Education.

In that article, Dr. Schlissel stated that: “Sexual assault on campus is evidence of a bigger societal issue, a problem that is ‘now being put onto the laps of universities’ by the White House.”

U-M’s new president went on to say: “The president stands up and says ‘I can’t solve this problem in the whole country that I control, but now we’re going to focus on sexual assault on college campuses.’ ”

The percentage of women raped or sexually assaulted on college campuses increased between 1993 and 2012, according to Department of Justice  data. The same is not true for rape in the U.S. Between 1993 and 2012, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics, the incidents of rape per 100,000 inhabitants in the U.S. dropped from 41.1 to 26.9.

A 2007 study was conducted for the U.S. Department of Justice called the Campus Sexual Assault Study (CSA). 5,446 women were interviewed and 20 percent of them reported attempted or completed rape since entering college.

The study says: “Data suggest women at universities are at considerable risk for experiencing sexual assault…and that a number of personal and behavioral factors are associated with increased risk. Universities may be able to take several steps to reduce the prevalence of sexual assault….”

In a July 2014 interview posted to the University of Michigan’s website, Dr. Schlissel had this to say about U-M’s approach to the epidemic of sexual assault on its campuses: “I’ve seen Michigan’s policies on sexual misconduct, and we have good policies and procedures that are in compliance with the most recent guidance from the Department of Education. What we have to do now is make certain that everyone understands those policies; that they’re applied rigorously, carefully and methodically. And, perhaps most importantly, we have to approach this with sensitivity to victims, but also a sense of fairness to both accuser and accused.”

His final sentence seems a nod, perhaps, to a piece posted to the website ofReason magazine in June 2014. The author suggests Lena Sclove’s account of her alleged rape contains inconsistencies and the media railroaded Daniel Kopin:

“…It’s not quite clear why administrators deemed Kopin guilty….According to Kopin’s lawyer, the decision not to expel Kopin from campus outright was an implicit acknowledgement that the case against him was weak.

“Of course, this has not stopped countless media outlets and a lynch mob of Brown students and faculty from declaring a miscarriage of justice over the fact that Kopin was merely suspended for one year (he ultimately dropped out).”

In his July 14 comment on campus sexual assault, Dr. Schlissel added: “And we have to deal with the alcohol culture on college campuses. Most episodes of sexual misconduct among students involve one or another party who has been drinking.”

The 2007 CSA study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice authored Christopher P. Krebs, Ph.D.; Christine H. Lindquist, Ph.D.; Tara D. Warner, M.A.; Bonnie S. Fisher, Ph.D. and Sandra L. Martin, Ph.D. concluded “7.8% of women were sexually assaulted when they were incapacitated after voluntarily consuming drugs and/or alcohol (i.e., they were victims of alcohol and/or other drug-enabled sexual assault).”

The DOJ report points out that “the vast majority of incapacitated sexual assault victims (89%) reported drinking alcohol, and being drunk (82%), prior to their victimization. This is much higher than the proportion of physically forced victims who reported drinking (33%) and being drunk (13%) prior to their assault.”

Attending a frat party significantly raises a women’s risk of being sexually assaulted, and this is reflected in the fact that 61 percent of the assaults reported by the women who took part in the DOJ study reported being raped off campus (like Lena Sclove).

The study goes on to conclude that “Researchers have consistently reported that a sizable percentage of women are sexually assaulted during their college years, with, on average, at least 50% of their sexual assaults involving the use of alcohol or other drugs by the perpetrator….”

U-M Presidential Hire Embroiled in Two DOJ Campus Sexual Violence Investigations 

Dr. Mary Sue Coleman left U-M in the midst of a federal investigation launched by the U.S. Department of Education into sexual violence and gender discrimination. That does not mean she is in the clear should the investigation turn up criminal conduct, according to DOE officials.

Just as the former president of Penn State University is facing legal scrutiny for his part in allegedly covering up the long-term sexual abuse of children by a member of football coach Joe Paterno’s staff, covering up a crime or impeding its investigation opens up college administrators to legal exposure.

The U-M investigation centers around the alleged rape of a female undergraduate by U-M football player Brendan Gibbons, an incident that lingered for three years before officials ruled that Gibbons would be “separated” from U-M.

The Michigan Daily, U-M’s student newspaper, broke the story of Gibbons’s “separation” from U-M—resulting in a feature story published in the New York Times about the coverage of local news by the student journalists.

Prior to Gibbons’s “separation” from the university, Michigan Dailycolumnists spoke out against what they called U-M’s “rape culture.” The student newspaper used Freedom of Information Act requests to piece together a story which raises important questions. Did U-M officials conspire to cover-up the allegations against Brendan Gibbons?

In April 2014, a U-M student government task force issued a report which concluded university officials had failed to meet the “recommended 60-day period of time between sexual misconduct complaints and school investigations.” The report also concluded that football coach Brady Hoke “knowingly issued false statements in December 2013 concerning the status of Gibbons.”

Rick Fitzgerald, a U-M spokesman, did not reply by press time to a request for comment. DOE investigations of U-M and Brown University are ongoing. The Ann Arbor independent has submitted FOIAs to Brown University for more information about Dr. Schlissel’s role in Lena Sclove’s case, as well as the February 13, 2014 alleged rape of a Brown undergraduate by two football players.

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