Last spring, the Baltimore Police carried out an investigation of several members of Johns Hopkins frat Pi Kappa Alpha (aka Pike) for an alleged rape of a Towson University student. This is shocking on a number of levels–but the thing that’s getting me (and many other people) all riled up is the fact that a federal complaint filed by Johns Hopkins students alleges that the university apparently knew all about the investigation, but didn’t do much about it.
Those, at least, are the facts reported by the Huffington Post, which is itself working from a federal complaint made by several Hopkins students, who argue that the university failed its student body by not alerting Hopkinites about the investigation. The university publishes security incident reports that detail crimes both petty and not; even though it warranted a BPD investigation, the gang rape never made it onto the security bulletin. Furthermore, the university didn’t take action even after being notified that Pike was holding parties, even though it was supposed to be suspended from hosting social activities during the investigation. A fight at Pike earlier this year resulted in a stabbing. The alleged victim of the gang rape also accused then-Dean of Student Life Susan Boswell of discouraging her from making a formal report.
“We are deeply concerned about the culture at JHU as both ourselves, and several survivors, feel unable to fully disclose our names or experiences publicly for fear of retaliation,” the students write in the complaint. “Despite this, we have filed this complaint to ensure current and future JHU students are safe on our campus.”
After Boswell started questioning whether the university had broken the law by not notifying students earlier, other administrators sent emails that appeared to be mostly concerned about the potential for PR backlash: “My concern is the criticism we will take for not acting (and for not already having acted) if we acknowledge that there are allegations out there,” for example.
Baltimore prosecutors have declined to press charges against frat members due to insufficient evidence. The university is apparently conducting its own investigation. Here was its response to the HuffPo’s inquiries:
At the Johns Hopkins University, the welfare of our community is of the utmost concern, and we are committed to ensuring a safe and healthy campus environment. We have policies and practices in place to ensure compliance with the Clery Act and to provide support and services to students who are victims of sexual violence or other crimes. We provide public notice to our community of serious or ongoing threats, and we offer students confidential counseling and resources, including information about a student’s option to pursue either or both criminal prosecution or internal disciplinary action. We also continuously review and reflect upon the effectiveness of our efforts to address sexual violence, and recently established a Sexual Violence Working Group comprising faculty, students and staff to examine current efforts and recommend new initiatives to counter sexual violence.
This news broke on the same day that the U.S. Department of Education announced that 55 colleges and universities nationwide were under federal investigation for their improper handling of sexual abuse allegations. Johns Hopkins is not among them; the only Maryland school on the list is Frostburg State University.