From Harvey Weinstein to Charlie Rose, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), recent workplace sexual misconduct allegations have dominated daily headlines.
Amid all the high-profile accusations, though, it’s easy to forget one environment no stranger to sexual assault and harassment–the college campus.
All across the country, students are accusing college and university administrators of violating Title IX, the 1972 law prohibiting gender discrimination at federally funded education institutions.
Earlier this month, Samantha Garrett, a doctoral student at the University of Southern Florida (USF), filed a lawsuit alleging USF allowed a fellow doctoral student found guilty of sexually assaulting Garrett to still interact with her.
The evening of November 12, 2016, Garrett visited Andrew Thurston, whom Garrett says then assaulted her “with use of physical force and violence” despite Garrett’s repeated pleas to stop.
Thurston then trapped Garrett in his apartment until the following morning.
Garrett alleges during subsequent days Thurston acknowledged what he did to Garrett and apologized, calling himself a “monster” and a “bad person.”
A few weeks later, Garrett informed a professor about the incident. Garrett was then directed to file a Title IX complaint.
After an investigation that appeared to have been handled appropriately, USF determined:
“Sufficient evidence to substantiate [Thurston had committed] non-consensual intercourse and non-consensual sexual contact.”
Thurston accepted responsibility.
He received a deferred suspension through May 4, 2018, allowing him to continue attending classes.
He was issued an unenforced “no-contact” order allowing him to continue parking in the same lot as Garrett.
He was permitted to be on campus the same time as Garrett; attend the same classes, meetings, and conferences as Garrett; and is free to enter classes Garrett is teaching.
As a result, Garrett reports academic struggles and health issues, such as:
“Chronic panic attacks, anxiety, poor concentration, hyper-vigilance, and other debilitating conditions.”
He is allowed to teach and hold private meetings with undergraduate students.
Thurston’s students have not been made aware of Garrett’s allegations, partly because Garrett has been “actively discouraged” from informing them.
According to lawsuit, even professors report having been discouraged from complaining about the college’s handling of the situation.
Yet Samantha Garrett persists.
She reports USF officials, including Senior Deputy Title IX Coordinator, Crystal Coombes, told her Title IX also gives rapists “the right to equitable access” to education settings.
Coombes reportedly even encouraged Garrett to withdraw from USF.
This is the third Title IX complaint at USF; the other two are under federal review.
There are 350 pending across the nation.
This is emblematic of an environment that condones sexual assault.
In 2011, former President Barack Obama’s administration sent letters to America’s schools underscoring their obligation to take sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus seriously.
In September, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced her department will review that policy, citing concerns it denies due process to accused individuals.
The Education Department has already begun rolling it back.
Speaking at George Mason University’s Arlington, Virginia, campus, DeVos stated:
“One rape is one too many, one assault is one too many, one aggressive act of harassment is one too many, one person denied due process is one too many.”
No wonder Andrew Thurston is getting off with no more than a slap on the wrist.
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