The priorities at Hobart and William Smith Colleges


The NY Times features a long and horrific story on a gang rape at a college campus. Hang on, I shouldn’t call it a gang rape: a campus committee acquitted the football players who participated, despite all the evidence of what had been going on. Remember, there is no such thing as rape culture.

This is a terrible story — details below the fold, and you might not want to click on the link if it’s too raw for you.

In the early-morning hours on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in central New York, the friend said, he found her — bent over a pool table as a football player appeared to be sexually assaulting her from behind in a darkened dance hall with six or seven people watching and laughing. Some had their cellphones out, apparently taking pictures, he said.

Later, records show, a sexual-assault nurse offered this preliminary assessment: blunt force trauma within the last 24 hours indicating “intercourse with either multiple partners, multiple times or that the intercourse was very forceful.” The student said she could not recall the pool table encounter, but did remember being raped earlier in a fraternity-house bedroom.

The football player at the pool table had also been at the fraternity house — in both places with his pants down — but denied raping her, saying he was too tired after a football game to get an erection. Two other players, also accused of sexually assaulting the woman, denied the charge as well. Even so, tests later found sperm or semen in her vagina, in her rectum and on her underwear.

It took the college just 12 days to investigate the rape report, hold a hearing and clear the football players. The football team went on to finish undefeated in its conference, while the woman was left, she said, to face the consequences — threats and harassment for accusing members of the most popular sports team on campus.

Shockingly, the school’s response to this crime was to keep it entirely in-house — this was a matter that should have been handed off to the police, but instead the campus safety office passed it on to an internal committee of faculty and staff, who had no training or experience in these matters, which then interviewed the participants — the victim was not given a legal advocate — and passed judgment, completely clearing the football players.

At least the football team had an undefeated record. The message is clear: Hobart and William Smith Colleges need to recruit more rapists for the football team. Winning ball games is what college is all about, you know.

I’ve got to admit, though, I’m wondering why any decent human being would want to attend Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Comments

  1. says

    Decent human beings are like non-decent human beings, they’re good at making excuses.

    “It won’t happen to me.”

    “No one I know has ever been raped there.”

    “She must have been lying. If she was telling the truth they would have believed her, and charged those football players.”

  2. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    I can’t understand how it can be legal for the college not to call the police.

  3. Gregory Greenwood says

    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought @ 4;

    I can’t understand how it can be legal for the college not to call the police.

    Agreed – it is one thing to say as a simple turn of phrase that these football obsessed colleges and schools are a law unto themselves, but it is entirely another to see how literally true it is in this case.

    It is not just the repugnant rapists themselves that worry me, but the rape culture that surrounds them in so many schools and ‘football towns’ like this that seems to have created a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil culture around rapes committed by football players so strong that reported rapes are never taken seriously, or even worse where the mindset seems to hold that rape is one of the ‘perks’ of being a football playing student.

    Even more worryingly, it clearly isn’t just in the schools themselves, or surely the police force and district attorney’s office would be involved in what would on the face of it appear to be at the least a failure to report a crime to the responsible authorities on the part of the school, and perhaps even a criminal conspiracy to cover up a felony.

  4. Gregory Greenwood says

    This should be unimaginably horrifying, and it is in the sense that it is hard to conceive of what is going through the mind of someone who rapes and violates another human being like this while taking pictures of the crime and bragging to their friends, but the fact is that this abomination is so tragically commonplace that it is happening every day, we just don’t ever hear about most of it. This is the face of everyday evil.

    It is stuff like this that makes me worry about the future of humanity, especially when the athletes created by this monstrous culture of sexual entitlement are held up as avatars of all that is supposedly great about the US, while their victims have the choice of either suffering in silence or being excoriated and vilified if they come forward and tell the truth about what the darlings of the local community are really like.

  5. JohnnieCanuck says

    Beatrice,

    Sarcastically speaking, the college didn’t have to report it because they were able to determine that it never happened. Who reports incidents that never happened?

    Conspiracy? What conspiracy?

  6. carlie says

    Colleges need to switch to one simple policy: if it could be a crime, IT GOES TO THE POLICE. Judicial boards are for academic dishonesty, and fighting with suitemates, and violations of the campus drinking ban even though the student is over 21. SUSPECTED CRIMES GO TO THE POLICE.

    Not that the police are too much better, but colleges have to stop thinking they can handle this kind of thing. They can’t.

  7. colnago80 says

    In all fairness, Hobart is a small liberal arts school, much like UM Morris except that it is private and is not exactly a football factory. On the other hand, I agree with the others who have posted comments here that something like this absolutely must be reported to law enforcement. The college is no better then the Raping Children Church,.

  8. Usernames are smart says

    ~ surely the police force and district attorney’s office would be involved in what would on the face of it appear to be at the least a failure to report a crime to the responsible authorities on the part of the school, and perhaps even a criminal conspiracy to cover up a felony.
    — Gregory Greenwood (#5)

    Yes, and by failing to properly report the crime, I wonder if the school was opening itself up with a civil suit. I hope the young woman takes the school’s, “investigative body’s”, (and any involved players’) ass to the cleaners.

    Maybe they’ll think twice in the future about handling things themselves that are clearly outside their own expertise, so the next time they’ll do the right thing.

  9. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    21. SUSPECTED CRIMES GO TO THE POLICE.

    I would agree with this for all crimes in which there are victims. However, universities (IMO) do the right thing in overlooking recreational pot use.

  10. plainenglish says

    “Not that the police are too much better, but colleges have to stop thinking they can handle this kind of thing. They can’t.”
    And to leave the matter in the hands of the police is hardly better than when it is left in-house. The police serve the State, the local community representing the State. They comply like football players with ‘the code’ and cover one another. Good ol’ boy football hero had a bit too much to drink…why make a big deal out of it. Research the woman’s history and blame her. We have to be the ones who do something, who cry foul and name names. Name the football players and tell it like it is: That allows for more open protest. Justice and the American way is John Wayne bullshit that we have long ago seen through….and if the police are involved, then they have to be watched and challenged to do their jobs, and again we have to name more names if nothing comes of their police ‘work’.
    One fun night after the game, and somebody’s life gets mashed…. blunt force trauma…. football brains.
    But that’s another subject. My hope is that the victim finds more than this blog to listen to her, to support and validate her, to stand with her through this fucking horror story. Anna was not even properly represented at hearings and thereby subjected to more assault and trauma. Sheesh.

  11. Jackie the wacky says

    I’m sure the team will be invited to speak at next year’s TAM and people will wear T-shirts rooting for them.

  12. Hugh Jidgit says

    I think reporting rules vary from state to state. It may be that the victim must report it to the police for them to be able to investigate. The school would probably fight reporting to the police using FERPA as a (pathetic and illegitimate) excuse. I expect that the school’s investigative process was sufficiently intimidating and ultimately demoralizing that the victim may not have wanted to report it to the police only to go through what would likely be another humiliating and degrading experience. As a commenter above suggested, I hope that she sues the institutions and names particular officials and the rapists themselves as codefendants (and I dearly hope that she wins.)

  13. says

    Horrifying. The problem, of course, is not rape culture, but a toxic football culture, which encourages coaches and other authorities to ignore any crimes or misdemeanors players have committed. Considering the scale of this particular crime, I’m pretty sure the players would have been acquitted of robbery and drug use, as well.

  14. says

    Enopoletus:

    Horrifying. The problem, of course, is not rape culture, but a toxic football culture, which encourages coaches and other authorities to ignore any crimes or misdemeanors players have committed.

    Sports culture is a problem, but so is Rape Culture:

    Rape culture is a phrase used to describe a culture in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender, sex, and sexuality.
    Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, or refusing to acknowledge the harm of certain forms of sexual violence that do not conform to certain stereotypes of stranger or violent rape. Rape culture has been used to model behavior within social groups, including prison rape and conflict areas where war rape is used as psychological warfare. Entire countries have also been alleged to be rape cultures

    Those football players denied that there was a sexual assault, despite the fact that the victim did not and likely could not have consented (remember her blood alcohol level). The fact that the college took it upon themselves to investigate her assault also points to them not treating it seriously enough. Likewise how swiftly they reached their decision. At so many levels, this crime was not taken seriously enough. That Rape Culture.

  15. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    This is a perfect example where the state via special prosecutors, should be able to override local prosecution of such cases, and get the case into a more neutral court a county or two over when conviction is more likely.

  16. says

    Hugh Jidgit:

    I expect that the school’s investigative process was sufficiently intimidating and ultimately demoralizing that the victim may not have wanted to report it to the police only to go through what would likely be another humiliating and degrading experience.

    The victim says this is why she didn’t go to the police (from the link in the OP):

    While the school explained to Anna that talking to the police was an important option, she said, she decided against it after a school administrator said it would be a longer, drawn-out process. When she changed her mind six months later, the district attorney, R. Michael Tantillo, said he had “virtually nothing to work with” and quickly closed the case

  17. unclefrogy says

    some times I think that maybe all them many years ago I made a mistake when in the face of what I had experienced of society in the US I took the advice of a former Harvard prof. to turn on and drop out.
    While that may have been way to simplistic an answer and led to much lost time it is times like these and stories like this one that make it clear again that dissociating with the majority culture was for me necessary. I see little to appeal in what I see and hear. It is still a harsh and at times brutal culture, arrogant and hypocritical, obstinately ignorant. seeing only what it wants to see.

    uncle frogy

  18. says

    It is obvious that in any case that the local law enforcement should be involved on campus, it should be mandatory for all colleges and universities, this ensures that people attending these places are receiving proper legal protection. Especially when a college like this uses the Vatican as an example on how to handle sex abuse and scandals.

    I sure hope she can bring forth a strong case against the university. I don’t agree that they have nothing to go with considering she was physically evaluated by a nurse. (I would be curious to know why the nurses testimony wouldn’t be considered for evidence of.) And given that a rape kit should have been used there should be plenty of evidence. (If no rape kit, then the college should be found guilty of criminal negligence.)

  19. Monsanto says

    Now we know why UMM doesn’t have a winning football team. With their screwed up priorities with alternative medicine, isn’t it time to do the same for UMM football?

  20. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It is obvious that in any case that the local law enforcement should be involved on campus, it should be mandatory for all colleges and universities, this ensures that people attending these places are receiving proper legal protection. Especially when a college like this uses the Vatican as an example on how to handle sex abuse and scandals.

    Actually, campus police, at least in Michigan, get their authority from a nearby law enforcement body, be it city or county. When I taught in Dah Yoo Pee, the campus police (all three of them) got their police authority as official sheriffs deputies detached to the university (and paid by the university, not the county). Otherwise they were the equivalent of mall security.

  21. says

    I have a relevant personal connection to this story. I once heard a woman ask the president of this college (interviewed in this story), Mark D Gearan, about sexual assaults in Peace Corps. He was at that time the Director of Peace Corps and I was working for them as a recruiter (I’d been a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal a couple of years earlier). He went on and on about how safe it was. Since then, many women have told their stories about being sexually assaulted in Peace Corps and how the admins both in the host country and DC minimized the crimes or even actively covered them up. It seems that administrators everywhere default to lies when anything traumatic happens to those in their charge. I wish I could say I was surprised.

  22. says

    scottruplin:
    I think part of the issue is that some people don’t understand what rape is. I know one of the regulars has posted a link to a study* that shows that when people (college student, I think) are asked specific questions about sexual assault, they answer in the affirmative, but when asked if they raped anyone they say no. A great many people fail to understand that non-consensual sex is rape. Additionally, a great many people fail to understand what consent is, and/or fail to make the attempt to gain it. Then there’s the people who don’t understand that one cannot give informed consent if judgment is impaired (such as through sufficient intake of drugs or alcohol).

    *Sadly, I don’t have the link. I hope someone does and will post it.

  23. Alverant says

    I don’t know if reporting this to the local cops would have helped. Since it’s a college town the football team is probably part of their identity. The team is probably considered local heroes and arresting them would have caused a stir. Remember the riots when that one coach got arrested for molesting players a few years back? Even if the cops did arrest them would a prosecutor go to trail and would a jury acquit? That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have tried, I just mean the result would have been the same except the justified indignation against rape culture would have been greater.

  24. carlie says

    Another small private college in the state, just a couple of hours away, has signs up in the bathrooms with a list of what to do if you’re sexually assaulted*, and they make it clear that they strongly encourage students to go to the local police first and then to the campus authorities. More schools should take that stance.

    *not that they expect the assaults to happen in the bathrooms, but it turns out that advertising in classroom building bathrooms gets a huge amount of attention compared to almost any other way of disseminating information on a campus.

  25. Trebuchet says

    I don’t know how it is there, but at my smallish state school, the “Campus Charlies” were pretty much the most powerful cops in the state. Part of the city police force (paid by the school), deputy county sheriffs (paid by the school) and deputy state patrol officers. Good luck getting ANYTHING prosecuted against a football player. Including the theft ring for which they got a STERN talking-to by the coach.

    Be sure to visit Ophelia’s post on this case as well:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2014/07/bent-over-a-pool-table/

  26. Phillip A says

    Shockingly, the school’s response to this crime was to keep it entirely in-house — this was a matter that should have been handed off to the police, but instead the campus safety office passed it on to an internal committee… completely clearing the football players.

    Now where have we seen this sort of behavior before? Golly gee, I can’t seem to remember.

  27. drken says

    @colnago80 #9
    UM Morris (like Hobart) is Division III, that’s like barely having colleges sports. It’s hardly a football factory. But, as you can see, that really doesn’t matter. Glen Ridge, NJ (look it up, but it’s pretty trigger heavy) is a town of about 8,000 people, with a median family income of 160,000 (thanks, Wikipedia). Not the sort of place that puts a high amount of emphasis on athletics. But, that didn’t stop them from rallying behind 3 of their High School football players when they were caught sexually assaulting a developmentally disabled girl in their basement. Of course, it would be misguided to blame football, it’s not like they try real hard when it’s just another student. It’s just when it is, there’s more pressure to keep things quiet and a greater likelihood of it attracting media attention if they don’t.

  28. malta says

    It’s hard to pick out which part of this story angers me most, but seeing the way that no one cared that the footballer players’ stories changed dramatically over time is incredibly aggravating. If a rape victim slightly changes a single detail, people rush to call the victim a liar. But somehow the accused can go from (1) I didn’t touch her to (2) it was consensual and they don’t get branded liars.

    I do actually think the university has a role to play in hearing those sorts of cases, though. You need a high level of proof to get a conviction (made even more difficult thanks to rape culture), but I think it’s reasonable to expel someone or kick them off the sports team based on being pretty sure they raped someone. The fact that the student is a probable threat to other students should be something the university could handle regardless of the outcome in a criminal case.

  29. mickll says

    Is aiding and abetting a crime even illegal in the United States?

    Or do the just make exceptions for those protecting popular jocks who are rapists!

  30. Terska says

    How is this not obstruction of justice? This really pisses me off. These people need to be in jail. The school sounds like a criminal protection racket. They all belong in prison and emptied of their assets. Why aren’t the accused being named? I really don’t know if I could restrain myself from resorting to violence if this happened to my kid. I won’t sleep well tonight after reading this.

  31. DrVanNostrand says

    @25
    My sister was in the Peace Corps and she would agree with that. The fact is that there is little chance that the local authorities will prosecute rapists in most of the places they go. Also, they’ll send you home if you’re raped, and PC volunteers care so much about their missions that they’re very reluctant to report it. I was too young to really understand the risks when she went there, but after hearing her accounts, it seems like a terrifying situation for women.

  32. knowknot says

    WHY isn’t / can’t the school be taken to court on this?
    This (and many others) should be a national issue.
    Shouldn’t it?

  33. unclefrogy says

    Knowknot don’t hold your breath. Yes they probably should be held accountable if not in law at least in the court of public opinion but unless there grows out of this incident a very much greater public out cry very little more will happen. If this does become a large national scandal they may be forced to do something, but it will only be for this case and will change very little for the 100’s of other incidents of a very similar nature.
    uncle frogy

  34. Rich Woods says

    @skeptifem #34:

    “too tired to get an erection”? they bought that? holy fuck that is dumb

    I strongly doubt it was a matter of them buying that, but more that they were relieved to be given half an excuse to drop the entire sorry business. We can only hope that comes back to bite them.

    What would it take for a proper investigation to take place now, assuming the victim is still willing to go ahead? Is it a completely closed case, once the DA has said he has nothing to work with, or can a private prosecution be brought? Would that need a campaigning lawyer? Does anyone know of one?

  35. =8)-DX says

    A statement from the principle rapist, during the hearing:

    “I come from a wonderful family with strong Christian values,” he said. “I have been blessed with a beautiful mother, grandmothers, nieces and amazing aunts.” And he added: “I treat women with the respect and honor they deserve.”

    The respect and honour they deserve. What a total piece of shit of a human being.

  36. davidnangle says

    This response from the rape school angers me: “…we believe we handled the circumstances fairly and within the constraints of the law…”

    How does a criminal accomplice get to decide (in its own favor) what’s within the constraints of the law? Sounds a bit Nixonian to me.

  37. says

    The administration at my daughter’s small, ultra-progressive four-year college is similarly, and devastatingly, inept at handling “hearings” and “trials” concerning student behavior. Two of her friends (in separate incidents) were involved in cases concerning sexual harassment and/or assault. In each case, the school handled the investigations and hearings with a degree of unfairness and ignorance that just staggered me. In neither case was the student given adequate support, guidance, or information about the proceedings, and both of them ended up dropping out, having lost all faith in the school as the sort of place where they wanted to finish their education. One of these friends of hers is on the Asperger’s continuum and happens to be really challenged in stressful situations – he had NO support from the school, no advocacy, no guidance, and was at a complete loss. My daughter stuck by him every step of the way and in effect served as his advocate and spokesperson during the hearings; without her, I wonder what would have happened to him. She risked her own standing with the school to confront the administration and tell them, in frank language, that they ought to be ashamed of themselves. (I was so proud of her!!) (She and her friend became very close during that whole ordeal, and in the months that followed they fell in love, and have since become partners! :-) )

    As a parent, tuition-payer, and prospective donor, I was/am deeply outraged, and I wrote to the school to tell them so. I told them that I would not donate one penny, ever, until and unless they could get their act together on how they care for students in crisis. (Not that I have any money to donate, but they don’t know that.)

  38. says

    Someone should probably set up some kind of database for prospective students and donors, to let them know which schools have a history of doing this kind of thing, and avoid supporting them. Plus, who knows, maybe some of them will be ashamed enough of ending up on the list to change their behavior, if it’s public and flashy enough. At the very least, women would probably benefit from it when picking their school.

  39. davidjanes says

    but I think it’s reasonable to expel someone or kick them off the sports team based on being pretty sure they raped someone

    Not that I disagree with the principle, but practically speaking that puts you on the wrong end of a prolonged and successful lawsuit, in all likelihood.

  40. says

    Davidjanes @46, They don’t have to expel them, just suspend them pending investigation and (hopefully) trial. It would still stall their football career for a while, and maybe send a message to the empathically-challenged that putting a little more effort into sweet-talking rather than relying on roofies and alcohol would present less risk for them.

  41. qwints says

    Then there’s the people who don’t understand that one cannot give informed consent if judgment is impaired (such as through sufficient intake of drugs or alcohol).

    I certainly agree with you morally, but that’s not the criminal law standard in any US jurisdiction I’m familiar with. New York’s laws are particularly bad on this for a lot, and it’s worth explaining what’s wrong with them:

    1) Statutorily-required corroboration. NYPC 130.16 prohibits convicting someone of a non-consensual sex offense based solely on the victim’s testimony if the lack of consent was a result of the victim being “mentally incapacitated.”

    2) Voluntary/Involuntary distinction. NYPC 130.05 defines lack of consent to include being “mentally incapacitated” as a result of intoxication only if a person is drugged without their consent.

    3) “No means No” instead of “Yes means Yes.” For the most heavily punished crimes, lack of consent requires proving something beyond lack of consent (e.g. force, incapacity, etc.) For the lowest level felony, lack of consent can be proven if the victim ” clearly expressed that he or she did not consent to engage in such act.” NYPC 130.05 (d). The most someone can be convicted of if the victim didn’t “expressly or implied consent” is a class A misdemeanor, and then only if the defendant engaged in “forcible touching.” NYPC 130.52.

  42. wilsim says

    Posting this before I begin reading the comments –

    Please tell me the college’s “investigation” does in no way preclude the NY Attorney General or a district attorney from filling criminal charges against the alleged rapists?

    Can the victim file civil charges against the school?

    Does evidence of the crime still exist? Can it be tested for DNA?

    Any law scholars can weigh in?

  43. knowknot says

    - A surreal vision of the administration’s dealings in this (disaster? horror? crime? words fail me) troubles my imagination.
    – Wherein, the lead rapist spews the nature of his swell Christian™ upbringing, and then states that he was too tired to become Erect™ because he’d had a blustery day, or something.
    – After which the members of the investigating panel do not fall off their chairs, laughing cynically, because some kind of bizarre, virulent, and immediately communicable memory loss has caused them to forget ever having been “young,” when nothing short of a 24x24x24 three day forced march (for Jesus™?), with liberal use of tasers as an aid to wakefulness could posssibly have had any such effect.
    – Surreal, mostly because it is so ragingly unfunny, and incomprehensible.

  44. andymachinerun says

    You have information wrong here. Actually, the police were called by HWS campus safety in the early morning of the assault, and they were in contact with Anna in the months after as well. It wasn’t “entirely in-house” like you report. Anna decided not to pursue the case with the police, instead choosing the college’s alternate route which is legally required by Title IX.

    Read this to clear things up: http://m.fltimes.com/news/article_78e27ce8-0c2a-11e4-a547-001a4bcf887a.html?mode=jqm