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Education

Rape At Hopkins Frat Party Raises Questions About Campus Sexual Assault Policies

John Hopkins in cloudy weather taken by callison-burch via flickr
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On December 3, Baltimore City Police announced in a press release the arrest of two Reiserstown men in conjunction with the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl on November 2 at the Johns Hopkins Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house on 29th and St Paul Streets. Both the victim and the alleged perpetrators were not affiliated with the University.

This case is the second high-profile sexual assault headline involving Johns Hopkins this year. The University became one of 76 schools under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education last spring for failing to comply with the Clery Act, which requires schools to report sexual assaults. That stemmed from the mishandling of a Towson University student’s report that she was gang-raped at the Pi Kappa Alpha - or PIKE - house in March of 2013. 

PIKE has been suspended until the end of the school year for a separate underage drinking issue from May 2014.

After the mishandled charges surfaced in the spring, Hopkins began to take steps to reform their sexual assault policies by creating a dedicated Clery Compliance administrator, initiating a campus wide sexual assault hotline and creating a sexual violence advisory council comprised of students, staff and faculty.

Although contacted fraternities declined to comment, administrators shared email communication that was sent to the students. In the wake of the alleged November 2 rape, Johns Hopkins moved to ban fraternity parties, although the school relented after protests and now allows "closed" parties: no one is admitted with out a formal invitation.

Several universities across the country have made headlines regarding sexual assault involving Greek Life this fall. Tara Richards, Assistant Professor* at the University of Baltimore School of Criminal Justice, said that "when you have on campus parties where [underage] drinking is a known phenomenon by administrators and campus safety turns a blind eye to it...I think that is a breeding ground for other problematic behavior.”

Problematic behaviors aren’t the only thing universities struggle with. Title IX and the Clery Act are in place to mandate that institutions of higher education have a sexual harassment and assault policy, but does not dictate the language in the policy.

Amanda Konradi is a professor of Sociology at Loyola University and has been researching higher education sexual assault policies. She said that "each campus provides its own definitions," and also that "you could have very different policy as a senior than as a first year student.”

As the fall semester comes to an end, students of Johns Hopkins have a lot to process over holiday break. Even if the policies change quickly, wider cultural shifts that would decrease sexual assault on college campuses move much slower.

*This article has been changed to reflect Tara Richards' correct title.