University President Ronald J. Daniels admitted in an email to the Hopkins community Wednesday evening that his administration responded inappropriately to an alleged sexual assault at the Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) fraternity house in March of 2013.
“The University should have recorded the incident in our Daily Crime Log and should have issued a timely warning to the community soon after the incident occurred,” Daniels wrote. “The University’s failure to have done so is unacceptable, and we are determined that this kind of mistake not happen again.”
The University community did not learn of allegations of a gang rape at the PIKE house until The Huffington Post published an article last May with excerpts from internal emails in which Hopkins officials debated whether to announce the allegations to the community.
That article also disclosed that a complaint had been filed with the U.S. Department of Education alleging University noncompliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The law mandates universities to alert their respective communities in a timely manner of crimes that pose a threat to students and employees.
Dennis O’Shea, the University’s director of communications and an original participant in the internal discussions surrounding whether to notify the community of the allegations, said that the administration decided against publicizing information after corresponding with the Baltimore Police Department (BPD).
“At the time of the PIKE incident, the University thought it should wait until the end of the [BPD’s] investigation, and we relied on [its] view that the alleged incident did not present a threat to the community,” O’Shea said. “We concluded also that [the alleged incident] occurred beyond the University’s geography.”
The PIKE house is on the same block of N. Charles Street as both Abel Wolman House and Steinwald House, both of which are official Hopkins buildings. The block is across the street from the Mattin Center, which houses academic, administrative and extracurricular functions, including the Office of Student Life.
In August, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) officially launched an investigation of the administration’s response to these allegations of sexual assault and possible violation of the Clery Act. While the identities of the complainants and exact text of the complaint have not been released publicly or to the administration, one of the complainants agreed to talk to The News-Letter on the condition of anonymity to discuss the present situation.
“We know these mass emails that tout Hopkins’s accomplishments are just PR stunts,” the complainant said.
The complainant also questioned the University’s need to hire a Clery Compliance Administrator — a new position that Daniels announced in the email, meant to ensure that the University follows the Clery Act.
“Given that the Clery Act is a very straightforward law that anyone can understand, and that the University [is] supposed to [have] been in compliance with [the law] since the 1990s, we should not have to spend our tuition dollars on yet another administrator — [especially] given that Susan Boswell, who was highly implicated in our complaint for dissuading survivors from pressing charges, now has another position,” the source said.
Daniels wrote that the University has investigated allegations made in the complaint that Boswell, who then was Dean of Student Life, dissuaded a student from moving forward with filing an official report by stating that a University disciplinary hearing would preclude the student from reporting the sexual assault to police.
“We have not been able to confirm those accounts, but we encourage any students with concerns about their rights and options under Title IX to contact the University’s Title IX Coordinator,” Daniels wrote.
Boswell did not respond to inquiries from The News-Letter by the press deadline.
She now holds a position as a special advisor to Vice Provost for Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger, with a specific focus on addressing sexual violence and gender equity issues.
“They just keep creating these administrative posts to deal with this problem, but who knows if they’re very effective, and who knows if [these positions] actually need to exist,” the anonymous complainant said to The News-Letter.
Daniels made a case that the University has implemented policies to prevent inappropriate responses similar to those the complaint attributed to Boswell.
“We have strengthened our processes for providing immediate resources to a student in crisis and to ensure that we respond to incidents of sexual violence expeditiously, fairly and sensitively,” Daniels wrote.
O’Shea echoed Daniels’s sentiments.
“We do believe that the action plan that we’ve laid out in our message today will address the kinds of concerns that this media report raised,” O’Shea added.
In addition to hiring a Clery Compliance Administrator, Daniels highlighted several steps that the University has been taking to improve its response to sexual assault allegations. These include establishing a hotline and website with sexual assault resources, hiring a “victim’s advocate” and forming several groups to recommend and implement policies to curtail sexual assault.
Daniels announced that the University’s 2013 Annual Security & Fire Safety Report, which includes statistics on reported crime on and around Hopkins campuses and which was released in conjunction with his email, contains the PIKE house incident.
According to this record, there were nine reported cases of non-forcible sexual assault, including six on-campus assaults and three off-campus assaults. In a footnote, the document states that the Counseling Center received 14 additional reports of sexual assaults where the locations of the incidents were unknown.
In the future, O’Shea said he is confident that the University will respond differently to situations involving sexual assault.
“If a similar incident occurred today, we decided that we would weigh the facts and circumstances differently and we would reach a different conclusion,” O’Shea said.
Editor's Note: This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.