An in-depth look at sexual assault at Jewell in light of recent allegations

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Note: (1) A former version of this article was published listing two authors, this has been corrected. Christina Kirk and Madison Carroll were the lead authors of this article, Sofia Arthurs-Schoppe authored the section titled “What are Jewell Students Saying?” Correction made: June 18, 2019. (2) A previous version of this article was published relying on enrollment data from petersons.com. Infographic #1 has been republished using data from the Missouri Department of Education. Correction made: May 2019.

On May 3, a former student, identified only by her initials, A.P., filed a lawsuit against William Jewell College regarding a sexual assault that occurred during Homecoming week of 2017. In the suit, A.P. claims that she was sexually assaulted and raped by a fellow Jewell student identified only as Z.P. “as a direct and proximate result” of the College’s negligence. A.P. claims that the school’s “breach of its fiduciary duty” resulted in “ongoing emotional stress, pain and suffering, and her studies and education have suffered substantially.”

The above and following information detailing the allegations comes entirely from the official lawsuit filed by the plaintiff and her lawyers, a copy of which was obtained by Monitor reporters.

The lawsuit includes claims that the school failed to provide A.P. with sufficient mental health care and emotional support after the incident and that she was threatened with expulsion by school administration officials if she spoke to anyone else, besides medical professionals or a therapist, about the rape.

The first local news outlet to cover this story, after discovering the case among recent entries filed to the US District Court, was The Kansas City Star, which published an article entitled “A football player raped her. She blames William Jewell College for not preventing it” on Tuesday morning. After this news broke, papers throughout the country began to publish stories about the lawsuit – the story was eventually published on Newsweek, a national news organization.

According to the suit, on the night of the rape, A.P. and her assailant, Z.P., had each been drinking separately. They began a conversation in the lobby of Browning Hall, a first-year dorm, and Z.P. eventually followed A.P. up to her room to watch movies with her and her friends. That night A.P. told Z.P. multiple times she was not going to have sexual intercourse with him.

Browning Hall, the first-year dorm within which the alleged rape occurred.

Later that night – after falling asleep while watching movies – A.P. became aware of Z.P. raping her as she drifted in and out of consciousness. At one point A.P. recalls shouting “No! Stop! I don’t want this!” The lawsuit states that A.P.’s roommate heard and corroborated A.P.’s verbal dissent. The last thing A.P. remembers of that night is seeing Z.P. use her t-shirt to wipe semen off himself. The next morning, around 8 a.m., A.P. woke up alone and went to Liberty Hospital for a sexual assault forensic examination – otherwise known as a rape kit – and reported the rape to Liberty police.

The Liberty Police conducted an investigation after which the Clay County prosecutor declined to file charges, according to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, during Jewell’s Title IX investigation, they found that there was “a preponderance of evidence” showing that Z.P. had assaulted A.P. He was placed on Partial Interim Suspension which included him moving to an off-campus apartment and not being able to participate in school-sponsored activities. After violating this he was placed on Full Term Suspension – he was ultimately expelled from Jewell Nov. 14, 2017, the suit says.

The lawsuit claims that Jewell was negligent on several fronts during this incident. The first was not doing a thorough background check of Z.P. before he came to the school. This background check would have revealed that Z.P. was transferred to an alternative high school midway through his senior year after being charged with an “unauthorized sexual act.”

The suit claims that Jewell was negligent by failing to provide A.P. sufficient mental health care and emotional support following the assault. A.P. claimed that, following her attack, she was harassed through an anonymous messaging site and that men banged on her dorm room and said, “We are going to do you like [Z.P.] did you!” the suit says.

Z.P. was fined $2000, a tenet of his punishment, and that money was available to A.P. so she could seek mental health treatment. However, the lawsuit claims that she needed to seek permission from Dr. Andrew Pratt, Jewell’s anti-harassment coordinator and Title IX coordinator at the time, to use these funds and that the school would have access to her medical records in regards to her treatment. The suit also claims that if the money went unused for a limited amount of time the money would revert back to Jewell for its own discretionary use.

The lawsuit also says that Browning Hall had a knock and check policy, performed by Resident Assistants (RAs) and/or the Resident Director (RD), which the school failed to follow. The suit claims this policy is to ensure that no individuals are in the rooms who are not authorized to be there. The suit claims that the plaintiff put her trust and confidence in such policies but that they were performed only in the first week of classes.

The student handbook does not describe or make reference to a “knock and check” policy, and it is unknown whether a “knock and check” policy was included in the 2017 RA training.

It is also important to note that the assailant was in his own residence hall, which would not make him subject to guest housing rules. RAs and/or RDs are also not on duty past 1 a.m., so if the incident occured past that time there would be no one making rounds.

Furthermore, the lawsuit asserts that Z.P. had been under investigation by the school less than a month prior to the rape for illicitly recording a cell phone video of two other students having consensual sexual intercourse in a dorm room. Z.P. recorded the video from outside the dorm room window and sent it to the male student he filmed. Z.P. also sent it to several of his teammates on the football team and shared it to Snapchat.

Z.P. proceeded to show the video to an RA or the RD of Browning Hall, whereupon the RA or RD reported him to appropriate school authorities.

The full extent of this investigation is uncertain, but the suit observes that Z.P. was not placed on immediate suspension and was permitted to participate in campus activities and remain living on campus in the dormitory both he and A.P. lived in – a ruling that A.P.’s suit claims facilitated her rape.

While the College is limited from responding to these allegations prior to filing their official response in court, the statement Jewell released to multiple media outlets is as follows:

“While federal privacy laws limit our ability to comment on the specifics of this case, the College believes it took the appropriate steps in this matter in compliance with the law. The safety and security of our students is our top priority. We have a zero-tolerance policy related to sexual misconduct and have a comprehensive Title IX program in place that guides our response to any incident or allegation. As part of our commitment to our students, we also have support services and counseling available, mandatory training for faculty, staff, and students, and a strong partnership with the Liberty Police Department. William Jewell College believes we all have a responsibility to work every day to eliminate sexual misconduct from our campus and maintain a safe and healthy environment.”

Cara Dahlor, director of marketing and public relations, responded to Newsweek’s article denying the allegations that college officials threatened to expel A.P. and called contrary allegations “categorically false.”

“With respect to the incidents referenced in the lawsuit, the College is confident that it acted responsibly and in compliance with the law,” Dahlor said.

Dr. Elizabeth MacLeod Walls, president of William Jewell College, sent a campus-wide email on the night of May 7 – approximately 15 hours after the KC Star broke the story – addressing the news media’s publication of stories covering the suit. MacLeod Walls asserted that the articles published were informed only by the case files of the lawsuit produced by the suing party, meaning content of the articles are based solely on A.P.’s allegations.

MacLeod Walls stated that many of the allegations were inaccurate and that Jewell administration plans to prove this as the litigation process continues.

“What I can say—and it is important to me personally that you know this—is the College acted not only in a manner consistent with the law, but we also acted effectively in our investigation of the assault, our support for the woman involved, and our swift response after weighing the preponderance of the evidence,” MacLeod Walls wrote in the email.

MacLeod Walls also stated that the College continues to stand with the former student,  saying that she “hope[s] … that this former student is moving forward with her life and today is on a path to success.”

However, MacLeod Walls iterated that their support for the well-being of the plaintiff does not mean the College accepts A.P.’s claims of negligence or allegations of being threatened with expulsion by College officials. She concluded the email by saying that she welcomes questions campus community members may have regarding the situation.

A similar email was sent from MacLeod Walls to the wider Jewell community, including parents of current students, May 8.

JEWELL’S CULTURE SURROUNDING SEXUAL ASSAULT

Despite the seemingly abrupt explosion of media reports  on Title IX practices at Jewell, criticisms of the policies by current students is nothing new.

In 2016, Jewell held two lectures at which members of the Metropolitan Association to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) spoke. They discussed sexual assault and what the community’s role in reporting sexual assault is.

The Jewell 2017 Student Senate brought in Dr. Andrew Pratt, then Title IX coordinator, to speak about reporting of crime on Jewell’s campus as the Senate felt that students were dissatisfied with the Title IX process. This meeting can be found on a livestream via the William Jewell College Student Senate Facebook page.

Pratt said that, over a time period of 30 months, 72 incidents falling under the jurisdiction of Title IX were reported to him, and 29 of these total reports were sexual misconduct student-versus-student. At minute 5:36 of the video, Pratt said that 10 of these 29 reports were of non-consensual intercourse.

In both the 2017 and 2018 Student Senate cabinet races, multiple candidates ran on platforms that promised to reform Title IX at Jewell. In 2018, the Title IX Office and the Office of Counseling Services (OCS) at Jewell worked to provide numerous programming events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). SAAM was recognized on campus again this year, with several events being hosted by OCS – an article detailing the programming can be found here.

One can primarily find the Title IX policies and procedures of Jewell in the school’s Anti-Harassment Policy and Grievance Procedures. This policy outlines different types of harassment and what the definition of consent is.

This policy discusses the scope of roles for who is involved in the Title IX investigation process and explains the process in a detailed manner. In this document, the College defines retaliation as a “material, adverse reaction” committed against a member of the Jewell community.  

WHERE DO JEWELL’S SEXUAL ASSAULT STATISTICS STAND?

Analysis of data from the Clery Report – a publicly accessible annual crime and safety report mandated for US colleges and universities by the Clery Act of 1990 – reveals that William Jewell has a comparatively high rate of on-campus rape reports in relation to the number of students who live on campus.

Every institution is required to submit a Clery Report including self-reported data about each crime committed that was reported to the institution, including rape and sexual assault. Jewell’s report can be found here.

According to the Department of Education (DOE), the data reported in each school’s Clery Report is not independently verified, meaning its accuracy is not guaranteed. This means that some institutions could elect to obscure some of its crime statistics, leading to a false appearance of low rates of crime. Other institutions may have muddled or confusing report processes that lead to a disproportionately low number of reports represented in the Clery Report. There is a possibility that some institutions with higher numbers of crime reports simply have more open and accessible venues for reports than others.

In 2017, Jewell had the highest amount of rape reports per 1,000 people among all four-year independent and public colleges and universities in the state of Missouri.

5.9 rapes per every 1000 students were reported at Jewell in 2017. No other college in the greater Kansas City area had a reported figure greater than 2.6 – meaning that Jewell’s number of reported rapes is greater than 2x that of other local colleges.

A Hilltop Monitor reporter compiled an interactive graphic of the data about the number of rapes reported on the campus of every four year institution in Missouri, visible here.

To standardize the data, allowing figures to be compared equally regardless of the institution’s size, the following data was calculated by dividing the number of rapes reported for each college on the Clery Report by the number of students who live on campus at each college. This number was then multiplied by 1000 to represent the amount of rape reports filed per 1000 people.

*Note: Only students who live on campus were counted since some large commuter schools have only a small fraction of students who live on campus and thus would have skewed figures if commuter students were counted.

Infographic courtesy of Sofia Arthurs-Schoppe.

According to a three-year average of rape reports from 2015-2017, Jewell had one of the highest number of rapes reported per 1000 students in the state. According to the DOE, “individual statistics for Rape, Fondling, Incest and Statutory Rape were not collected prior to the 2015 data collection,” meaning 2015 is the earliest year from which figures can be determined.  

Representation of the average number of rapes reported per every 1000 students on selected college campuses over a three year period. Data obtained from Clery reports reliant on self-reported figures that are not independently audited for accuracy. Information concerning the number of students living on campus per college was collected from petersons.com. Infographic courtesy of Sofia Arthurs-Schoppe.

Compared to colleges with a similar amount of students living on campus, Jewell’s report shows a larger number of rapes reported per every 1000 students. In 2017, William Woods University’s Clery Report showed one instance of rape brought to campus officials, while Westminster College and Central Methodist University reported zero. William Jewell reported four. Each of these colleges has a similar number of students living on campus to Jewell (600-700 students).

When viewing this data, it is important to take into account that the numbers in the Clery Report are a representation of the number of rapes reported to school officials – not necessarily the number of rapes that took place on campus. This means that schools with atmospheres that discourage reporting sexual assault or schools that don’t have accessible venues for victims to report their assaults to campus officials could have many more rapes occur on their campus than are indicated in the Clery Report.

WHAT ARE JEWELL STUDENTS SAYING?

In the wake of the recent lawsuit, The Hilltop Monitor reached out to over 50 students to learn about their perspectives on the situation. The majority of these students were willing to respond to provide statements for this article, though many elected to remain anonymous.

Though we reached out to students from a number of different disciplines and campus groups, many of them echoed the notion that Title IX proceedings on Jewell’s campus need to be revisited and reformed. Several students felt their own cases – or cases of their friends – had been mishandled and that punitive measures were inadequate. On the other hand, several students commented that they believe Jewell’s Title IX process to be robust and comprehensive.

Former Student Senate President Jakob Miller, senior mathematics and economics major, is aware that many students are frustrated with the Title IX process and, despite being optimistic about recent changes to the policy, is disappointed in Jewell’s response to the lawsuit.

“I’ve never had to experience anything related to the process of Title IX so it’s difficult for me to have an informed opinion on the matter. But I am aware of the students that have frustrations with this process. Most of which are attributed to the lack of transparency and personableness of those who coordinated the program in the past. Now that the leadership has changed under the program, I am hopeful students will become more trusting of the system. […] I am surprised by the accusations the law suit claims […] Time after time this school has faced bombshells like the HLC, ADPi shutdown, and journey grants, and in most of these instances the students receive an email. With this law suit, we deserve more than an email. We deserve a larger conversation where students can ask the questions that they feel are necessary” [sic]

Miller said.

Another student, one who elected not to partake in Jewell’s Title IX process, despite having grounds to, and who elected to remain anonymous when providing comments, said that the process has improved significantly throughout the past few years.

“As a victim of sexual assault on this campus I think the title IX system here has improved tremendously. In the past when my assault occurred, I didn’t feel as though I could speak out about it at jewell because people have said title IX Does nothing positive for the victim, so I stayed silent because I didn’t feel I really had other options. However hearing about this case, seeing that the student was expelled by the school, and watching the change in leadership for title IX occur, I think the school has taken great steps forward to try and improve the system.” [sic]

They said.

Despite the prevalence of students feeling silenced by Title IX facilitators, it is an established Title IX policy for all parties involved to keep information related to the case confidential while investigation is ongoing. The same student stated that it would be incorrect for the College community to draw conclusions about A.P.’s case or Jewell’s response based solely on the reporting of local news outlets.

“In terms of the lawsuit itself, I don’t feel as though we have adequate information to really know the truth about it. The publications that chose to write about the situation had contradicting stories, so it’s not very sure where the true facts lie. […] I’m surprised about the lawsuit because I feel as though the wrong people would be affected by it, if the lawsuit negatively impacts jewell it will negatively impact the students, many of whom are also victims of assault.” [sic]

They explained.

Anna Warner, senior Oxbridge: Literature and Theory major, has been privy to Jewell’s Title IX processes through the experiences of a friend and expressed dissatisfaction with the proceedings.

“I knew of a sexual assault case that happened to a friend of mine while we were both at Jewell. Being close to the people involved, I saw up-close Jewell’s inability to prioritize the victim of sexual assault. Title IX did little to help my friend, and the Jewell administration kept the sexual assaulter on campus with little punishment. I do not trust Jewell to take care of students that have suffered from sexual assault.” [sic]

Said Warner.

Talia Zook, senior communication, Applied Critical Thought and Inquiry, and Spanish major, echoed Miller’s concerns about the email sent from MacLeod Walls.

“I will give Jewell the benefit of the doubt in that, with my personal Title 9 case, I did receive justice. However, my situation was nowhere near traumatizing, and it had little to no affect on my life from that point on. Hardly anyone else on campus who has gone through the Title 9 process can say the same thing though. And I know this because most of them are friends. The President said it herself in her announcement defending Jewell, we are a community. Which, by the way, I did email her telling her it was very poorly written and in very poor taste. […] But we are a community, we live in a bubble, and we know everything about each other. For Jewell to claim that they/their actions in regards to success with carrying out/following Title 9 policies had NOTHING to do with the cause of her rape? Deplorable. It’s a 2 + 2 = 4 equation here. […] The letter the President sent out quickly shutting down any claims the student made gives everyone the green light to victim-blame this girl. […] there’s no doubt this announcement was sent to other victims on campus. How do you think they feel seeing that yet another student isn’t receiving the support they deserve for something that should have never happened on their campus? That announcement did nothing but further perpetuate trauma and let others know that if they choose to come out with their story, they too will just get shut down by the institution that is supposed to support them.” [sic]

Zook said.

Zoee Risdal, senior psychological science major, spoke about how Jewell handles Title IX cases well and inform students about these important issues.

“I believe that William Jewell does handle Title 9 cases well. They offer multiple Title 9 trainings, informative platforms for students, and have posters / flyers all around campus. They also have a lot of information about consent and how important informed consent is. Additionally, there are many places you can go to discuss a Title 9 incident around campus. Overall, I believe William Jewell is very proactive in preventing Title 9 incidents, but when they occur they are always more than willing to offer help and support.” [sic]

Said Risdal.

Another student voiced concerns about their Title IX case being mishandled by the school and how the very people who were supposed to help her silenced her.

Unfortunately I have had experience with it and it was anything but positive. I was made to feel like my situation was unimportant to all of the student life staff except for Kristen Wooldridge. Interim measures were put in place to ‘protect me’ but were never adhered to by my assailant. I repeatedly had to report him breaking the protection measures which he had agreed to and no punitive measures were ever taken against him that had any affect on his behavior/harassment of me. I repeatedly asked the staff to get help for him as I was made to feel that my reports could negatively affect his life and this never happened. Throughout the entire process I felt completely isolated and alone and had to sign paperwork stating that if I spoke about my situation to anyone that I ran the risk of expulsion. Therefore I felt that I couldn’t go to anyone for help/guidance. At one point I was blamed for an occurrence simply because I was told I was in ‘his domain’. Eventually I gave up on getting help from the Title IX Office because their ‘preponderance of evidence’ period went on for months during which I was continuously harassed by my assailant. This individual eventually became violent to myself and another student and left school by choice rather than expulsion. Following his leave from campus I never heard from any member of the Title IX committee nor did I ever receive counseling or support. And after all of this the result of my case was that he was not guilty as I could not prove anything due to there being no security cameras to support my claims.” [sic]

She said.

The student also spoke about feeling uninformed on the progress of her case.

“I was also not kept up to date on what punitive measures they tried to apply and at one point he was removed from the football team for a brief time and i had so many football players approaching me telling me that was too far that I went to the office to have them reverse the only punishment that he ever received. I am also not the only one who has been treated this way by the Title IX Office and we are so grateful that someone was finally able to step up and do something about it. We have felt trapped and not known what to do because the people who are supposed to help us are the ones who silenced us in the first place.” [sic]

She explained.

Ryan Hiatt, junior business administration major, stated that he was surprised by the allegations against Jewell.

I am surprised by the lawsuit filed against Jewell. It sounds like the situation was handled responsibly by Jewell, in conjunction with the authorities. I think that Jewell is in good hands with the leadership of Dr. MacLeod Walls and company. Jewell is an amazing place with a community of loving, joyous people, unfortunately like any place, sometimes there are bad people who occasionally cause problems in our community. It is all of our responsibility to keep our campus safe for everyone.” [sic]

Said Hiatt.

While Timothy Wise, senior communication major, asserted that issues in the Title IX procedures at Jewell have been widely discussed by students for years.

“In my time here at Jewell, I have had several friends and acquaintances who have had to go through the Title IX process and, having confided in me their experiences, it is hard to believe that the allegations of threatened expulsion are false.” […] “This recent lawsuit that has been filed against the college provides a unique exigency to talk about Title IX at this institution. Throughout my four years here at Jewell, I have always heard about how bad our Title IX work was. When I first came to Jewell, Title IX training was a constant joke, with the First Year orientation videos and lectures all seeming to lack any seriousness. Now, the reality that the college regularly threatens victims who report incidents with expulsion if they discuss the incident is a sad fact of life for the students. When the news of the lawsuit broke, it was a hot topic of conversation on campus, but the conversation was never about how surprised we were that it happened, rather it was a grim recognition that this was bound to get out eventually. […] Of the dozens of students that I have talked to on campus, from seniors to first years, not a single one was surprised to hear that the school threatened to expel someone who had just reported that they had been a victim of rape. Not a single student was surprised.” [sic]

Said Wise.

Another anonymous student who has been through the Title IX process echoed these claims.

I think that Title IX on Jewell’s campus is a broken system. While I realize the American legal system protects all parties until proven guilty, I feel that there have been many victims that do not get the justice that they deserve. From personal experience, the Title IX process is stressful, traumatizing, and frustrating to all parties involved, but especially for those who were hurt. It should be amended so that everyone, women especially, feel safe at their own school. I am not surprised by this lawsuit. In fact, I think this will lead to even more victims coming forward with similar stories of sexual assault and/or harassment on Jewell’s campus.” [sic]

They said.

Several other students submitted comments to The Hilltop Monitor, many of them suggested that the policies currently enacted at Jewell do little to support victims and lead to unsatisfactory verdicts.

However, several students did report that they feel well informed about the Title IX policies and are shocked by the lawsuit, specifically the claims made about Jewell officials threatening the plaintiff with expulsion.

Suggestions made by students regarding ways to improve the existing policies include appointing a full time Title IX coordinator with a background in law and/or social work, reducing the role of the provost in Title IX investigations and removing students and faculty accused of sexual violence from campus during ongoing investigations.

WHAT CAN STUDENTS DO

For students wondering what they can do in the wake of this lawsuit, the following resources are available.

Jewell’s counseling services are located in Yates-Gill Union room 216 and students may reach out to Tricia Hager at counselingservices@william.jewell.edu for support.

Information about Title IX laws and the rights of students can be found online on the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights page.

Jewell’s official Anti-Harassment Policy and Grievance Procedures can be found here

A former Hilltop Monitor article about the Title IX process written in 2014 can be found here.


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