KU protest isn’t the first time students have rallied against sexual assault on campus

·3 min read

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house Monday night after one of its house members was accused of sexually assaulting another student over the weekend.

The protest, which some on social media described as the largest they’d seen at the university, isn’t the first time students have rallied to support and protect other students against sexual violence.

Student outrage over the way the University of Kansas handles sexual assault cases erupted in 2014 after a group released a video warning potential students not to enroll because the Lawrence campus is not a safe place.

“The message we were trying to send was that this is a cool school to be at, but we cannot, in good conscience, tell people to come here when the administration does not care about the students,” Jamie Godd-Nelson said at the time. Godd-Nelson was a member of the September Siblings, the 50-member student group that posted the video.

The night the video was released, more than 200 students turned out for a forum denouncing the university’s handling of sexual assault complaints.

The day after the video’s release, a student government committee passed a resolution condemning the university’s sexual assault policies. Petitions called for the chancellor’s office to investigate the office that reviewed sexual assault allegations. Then-Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little presented a plan for improvement the day after the committee’s resolution.

The university has also faced several legal challenges in recent years in regards to incidents involving student sexual assault and misconduct.

A KU student sued KU and the City of Lawrence last October after she was charged with making false reports of a rape in 2019.

The woman was accused of making a false claim and charged in January 2019 after officers decided in 90 minutes that she lied in September 2018 when she reported she was raped by an acquaintance while too drunk to consent.

Lawrence police detectives decided the student was lying and, without telling her, investigated her rather than the alleged rapist, according to motions filed by the woman’s attorney in Douglas County District Court.

Her case was dropped in October 2019 by the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office.

Her lawsuit against the university described a Title IX investigation that depended heavily on police findings and disregarded evidence and witnesses brought by the woman. It argued the woman’s constitutional rights were violated by the city and that the university violated Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools that receive federal tax dollars.

The same month the charges were dropped against the KU student, more than a quarter of KU undergraduate women who participated in a national survey said they had been sexually assaulted while they were at school.

Nearly 15% of them said they were raped.

In 2017, two lawsuits that accused KU of failing to protect former rowers who said they were sexually assaulted by a football player in campus housing were dismissed at the request of the two women and the university, with both sides agreeing to “pay their own costs and attorney’s fees.”

KU was also sued in February 2021 by a doctoral student, who alleged a professor disparaged and treated her unfairly after she accused one of his other grad students of sexual misconduct, which led to that man’s expulsion.

After the man was expelled in October 2016, the woman alleged that the professor retaliated by saddling her with work, shutting her out of meetings and “repeatedly made negative and harassing statements toward” her. She claimed that the university was aware of but did nothing to protect her from that treatment.

In the lawsuit filed in federal court, the woman accused KU of violating her civil rights under Title IX. She requests more than $100,000 in damages plus legal fees.

More recently, in March, a group of KU students launched Support for Survivors, a group for victims of sexual violence, after a messages circulated among women on campus about a fraternity possibly planning to drug women at a party as part of a pledge obligation.

The Star’s Ellen Hine, Katie Bernard, Mará Rose Williams, Mike Hendricks, Anna Spoerre and Luke Nozicka contributed to this report.

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