The University of Iowa has, for the first time in recent history, expelled a student for sexual misconduct – a move that comes just weeks after administrators vowed to do more to combat sexual violence on campus, in part, by cracking down on offenders.
The male student, whose name has not been made public, was recently expelled for what officials called “a pattern of predatory behavior that involved an act of forcible fondling and a separate incident that also involved forcible fondling in addition to forcible sodomy.”
The first incident occurred in December off campus but wasn't reported until February, according to UI spokesman Tom Moore. The second incident occurred in January on campus and was reported a short time later.
Because the second incident happened on campus, UI officials sent out a warning to the UI community, Moore said.
Each case involved a separate victim, and both victims chose not to pursue criminal charges, according to Moore. The complaints went through the university's standard student disciplinary process, and the suspect received his expulsion letter April 1, Moore said.
UI students earlier this semester aired their concerns about sexual violence on campus via protests, social media, hand-written letters and a website that listed several demands. They asked administrators to revamp language in warning emails about sexual violence, provide more resources for prevention and education, and to adopt a “zero tolerance” stance against sexual misconduct and start expelling violators.
Tom Rocklin, UI vice president for student life, said the university for years shied away from expulsion – and instead used long-term suspension – as punishment for the worst offenders. But he told The Gazette last month that the UI now feels more comfortable expelling students in egregious cases involving sexual assault after discussing with the Board of Regents concerns about its appeals process.
The concern was that the regent rules didn't explicitly outline a role for victims in appeals – as is required under Title IX, Rocklin said. But, after the issue of sexual violence on the UI campus emerged, administrators met with regent staff about the expulsion hearings, and Rocklin said, “We feel comfortable now that if we expel a student, the board will be able to hear the appeal in a way that is consistent with Title IX.”
Also in response to student demands, UI President Sally Mason last month debuted a six-point plan on ways the UI will step up its fight against sexual misconduct. The plan includes cracking down on offenders, increasing support for victims, improving prevention and education, improving communication, adding funding and doing more listening and reporting back to the community.
Mason already has reported progress in those areas. She approved funding for a second Nite Ride van, which offers safe late-night transportation for women, she's formed a student advisory group on the topic, her staff has changed the language of the warning emails and now a student has been expelled.
Even though the UI hasn't expelled many students in the past, Rocklin said the university did issue indefinite and five-year suspensions that were equal to expulsion.
In the last three calendar years, 2011, 2012 and 2013, 21 students were suspended from the university. Of that total, 11 were suspended for sexual misconduct or domestic violence, according to UI Dean of Students David Grady.
Four of the sexual misconduct cases were indefinite suspensions, four were five-year suspensions, three were one- to three-year suspensions, but none of the 11 students returned to the UI, Grady said.
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