Administrators released a statement Friday in response to a petition and email campaign to expel and fire a student employee at the Lerner Health and Wellness Center who was found responsible for sexual violence.
Officials said in the release they are aware of the petition and email campaign circulating campus and that they are reviewing current practices and other suggestions to improve transparency and communication in these cases. Caroline Laguerre-Brown, the vice provost for diversity, equity and community engagement, Peter Konwerski, the vice provost and dean of student affairs, and Rory Muhammad, the Title IX coordinator, released the statement and disclosed the number of sexual assault cases filed with the University over the past two years.
“The petition expresses a concern about the disposition of one particular case and makes a number of suggestions for improving the process,” officials said in the release. “Despite our current differences, we remain committed to working with the advocacy community because we believe that our students will benefit.”
Senior and sexual assault survivor Aniqa Raihan started a petition to expel her assailant after he received deferred suspension, the code of conduct recommends a minimum sanction of suspension for sexual violence. Raihan then worked with Students Against Sexual Assault to start an email campaign to fire her assailant from his job as a manger at HelWell and 100 students attended a protest Friday in support of the assailant’s removal from his position.
Officials said that cases pertaining to sexual misconduct are among the “most complicated matters” and encouraged students to bring forward new information related to this case or any other case. Administrators said they were concerned by the narrative this case has created.
“The narrative emerging from the petition and related activities suggests that GW has been reluctant or even unwilling to hold individuals accountable for acts of sexual violence,” officials said. “This narrative concerns us a great deal because of the message it may send to current and future survivors and our campus. Moreover, the narrative is not borne out by our record.”
Officials said in the statement that during the last two academic years, 16 reported cases of sexual misconduct resulted in formal complaints and 10 concluded after going before a hearing board. Of these cases, four resulted in the expulsion of the assailant, five ended in suspensions and one resulted in a deferred suspension, according to the release.
“While not every case will result in a finding of a violation, our record demonstrates that we are not reluctant to hold students accountable,” officials said. “We are absolutely prepared to remove a student from campus if our analysis leads us to that conclusion and our Student Rights and Responsibilities process is setup to support such a decision.”
Administrators said they appreciate student advocacy about sexual misconduct on campus, and acknowledged that advocacy groups contributed to the push for mandatory sexual assault prevention training and the development of new survivor support roles in the Title IX office.
“These changes are starting to bear fruit, and we are seeing an increase in the number of complaints, hearings and sanctions,” officials said.
Under reporting cases of sexual assault is a national problem and an issue on GW’s campus, administrators said. Officials said they are reviewing their processes and considering suggestions to improve transparency.
“The relationship between student advocates and university administration has some inherent tension, but we believe that that tension can be useful and productive and strengthens our commitment to ongoing self-critical analysis and improvement of our process,” officials said.