Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Dorm reacts to SAHAS penalty

Residents of Bobb-McCulloch Hall voiced concerns Wednesday about Northwestern’s failure to notify them when the university’s in-house judicial body suspended a fellow resident in connection with the sexual assault of an undergraduate.

The University Sexual Assault Hearing and Appeals System unanimously found that the 19-year-old man had sexually assaulted a 19-year-old woman Jan. 29 in an Elder Hall study lounge. SAHAS ruled Feb. 29 to suspend the student for one year and require that he undergo psychological counseling before returning to NU.

But until his appeal was completed about six weeks later, the student remained on campus. And though he left Sunday, some residents are wondering why they were not notified of the situation.

“It’s scary to think that someone could be living next door to you and have been (suspended for) something like that,” said resident Molly Larsen, a Weinberg freshman. “It’s appalling that he wasn’t kicked out of housing.”

According to Northwestern’s interpretation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, SAHAS proceedings are kept confidential from students and external judicial systems.

Larsen said she “would have been more cautious” had she known about the situation, and that SAHAS punishments should more closely reflect those of the criminal justice system.

“If (the accused) had gone through the criminal justice system, the consequences would have been much more severe,” she said. “Just a year? Expulsion should have taken place. People get expelled for cheating on tests.”

Others said notification could unfairly implicate innocent residents. Bobb President Jessica Abo said the university has to proceed with caution when notifying residents of sexual assault incidents.

“The other student involved deserves respect and privacy because no one is guilty until proven,” said Abo, a Daily staffer. “Out of respect to my guy friends, to be suspected and be innocent would be the worst thing ever. Privacy and confidentiality were huge in this case.”

Abo, a Medill freshman, said that if the dorm had been informed of the possible sexual assault, “everyone would have freaked out.” But she also said many dorm residents have expressed safety concerns to her.

“Being president, I feel that it’s somewhat my responsibility to make sure people in this dorm feel safe,” she said. But Abo added that “this could have happened to anyone in any dorm or in any other campus facility.”

While the residents interviewed seemed calm, they also expressed concern — concern that justice was not carried out and that future assault survivors could face similar problems.

“It’s pretty terrible that the university didn’t do more to punish him,” said resident Brooke Stites, a Speech sophomore. “I feel worse for the girl it happened to. She had to see him (on campus), which is disgusting. The university didn’t consider her.”

Bobb resident Blaine Bookey said she was outraged that the student was not expelled from the university.

“My initial reaction was that this is ridiculous — just another facet of NU that is absolutely unacceptable,” said Bookey, a Weinberg freshman. “My safety was in danger.”

Bookey is working with Women’s Coalition to draft a proposal to administrators that calls for mandatory sentences for serious sexual assault offenses and for removal from campus housing during the appeals process.

“(The accused) is allowed to come back here and live in our dorm? That’s ridiculous,” she said.

Administrators have not said whether the student would be denied university housing were he to return to NU in 2001 because they cannot discuss details of each case.

Abo said she backed Women’s Coalition and their planned proposal, which supporters say they will fight for until changes are made.

“The administrators and whoever makes the bylaws of SAHAS need to know that we’re going to be here, we have a loud voice, and we have a lot of people behind us,” Bookey said. “We’re not stopping until it’s done.”

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Dorm reacts to SAHAS penalty