Brown University students are protesting what they say is the ability of wealthy donors to influence the college's handling of sexual assault accusations.
Students taped dollar bills marked with "IX" in red over their mouths during a silent march on Wednesday to oppose what they say is the power of money to make rape allegations disappear. The "IX" stands for Title IX, the federal rule that obligates schools to investigate students' claims of sexual assault.
According to the protesters, the administration prematurely concluded an investigation of sexual misconduct because the father of one of the students at the center of the accusations is a donor and trustee.
Students and other advocates have also taken to Twitter with the hashtags #MoneyTalksAtBrown and #GHBGetOutOfRapeFree.
Two women accused the student, an unidentified member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, of spiking their drinks with the date rape drug GHB. While the university suspended the fraternity, they eventually dropped their investigation into the fraternity brother and another student, unaffiliated with the fraternity, who had been accused of sexually assaulting one of the women after saying it was impossible to determine exactly what happened.
The school denies any wrongdoing, but says it regretted using laboratories that were unable to provide conclusive evidence as to whether the date rape drug was present in the urine and hair samples provided. The results had initially indicated that the drug was present but the evidence was considered inconclusive.
The Brown Daily Herald, the university's newspaper, noted that the school also said it could not substantiate one woman's claims that she did not consent to sex because her memory of the event was incomplete. The woman said that decision set a "dangerous precedent" by failing to consider the memory loss that can accompany date rape drugs.
“This finding represents a gross misunderstanding of how consent works,” Katie Byron ’15, a member of the Task Force on Sexual Assault, told the paper.
“This is an atrocious Catch-22 that the University has put itself in where they say that because her memory was flawed, because she was incapacitated, that she can’t provide any sort of alternative testimony,” she continued. “But yet somehow, she was … still able to give clear and convincing consent. You can’t have both of those things.”
University spokesman Mark Nickel told Fusion the school "categorically rejects" the idea that family connections played any role. He said he is "not allowed" to comment on whether the two accused students remain on campus.
While Brown this year has begun using trained investigators to handle reports of sexual assault, students say the decision to drop the investigation signals the university has not done enough to improve. The school is one of dozens of colleges currently under investigation for its handling of sexual assault allegations.
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.