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Dear President Hass,

I am writing this letter, first, to say that I am pleased Rhodes College received a $300,000

grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to work on Sexual Assault Prevention Efforts, but

second, to say how disappointed I am in my alma mater for how severely it mishandled my

sexual assault case. I find this news about the grant to be bittersweet; I am hopeful it will

improve the resources available to future students who go through trauma during their time in

college, but at the same time I have very little faith that the administration will do what is needed

to effect a meaningful change.

As I am sure many of you do not know, on February 8, 2019, I was raped by a fellow

student. I tried to deny to myself that it had happened. My assailant, John Doe, was a friend. I

thought it was out of character for him to act in such a way. It was one month later that I learned

my assailant was the same student accused in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s Valentine’s Day

Semi-Formal incident. It was at this point I realized that this student’s actions were not out of

character, and that the incident I tried so hard to forget was in fact rape. I immediately contacted

the Title IX office and worked with them on filing a report and continued on with an

investigation. The process was tedious, and many of my communications with the Title IX office

were disregarded, not answered properly, or entirely dismissed. I was never given a hearing date

due to the fact that the Title IX office was waiting for the verdict from John Doe’s other hearing.

This was occurring in the last few weeks of my senior year, and rather than attempting to give

me some guidance, I simply was told to wait and see what happens. This caused extreme anxiety,

something I did not need on top of the stress of finals, moving out, job searching, and what I

would later learn to be post traumatic stress disorder.

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John Doe was expelled, and I was proud to receive my diploma. On May 29, 2019, John

Doe filed a lawsuit against Rhodes College, which ultimately pulled me back into the traumatic

experience I had thought was over. John Doe attempted to argue that Rhodes College was being

retaliatory by having my hearing after Judge Fowlkes put an injunction on his expulsion. The

Rhodes attorney made assurances that there would be a different faculty panel and that there

would be no cross contamination between the previous hearing, the lawsuit, and my case. While

I was still a student, the only reason I was given as to why there would be no hearing in my case

at the same time as the other was due to concerns about cross contamination and the faculty

panel making assumptions that if John Doe had two rape allegations, he must be guilty. If this

cross contamination was no longer an issue many months after the initial hearing and largely

publicized lawsuit, then why couldn’t the Title IX office have held my hearing while I was still a

student?

I was finally scheduled to have my hearing against John Doe on August 3, 2019, 142

days after I initially met with the Title IX office to report the attack. I was strongly urged to be

present for this hearing, as John Doe won the first part of his lawsuit alleging his due process

rights had been violated. The Title IX office even acknowledged that if I were not to be present,

the same lawsuit could potentially be filed again, resulting in a similar outcome. I put my life on

hold, hired an attorney, prepared questions and opening and closing statements, had friends ready

to be witnesses, and even had my sister fly down to be my emotional support person. Less than

24 hours before my hearing, I received a phone call from the Title IX office that the attorneys

were working on a settlement and they wanted to know my thoughts. I was very clear in my

wishes to proceed with the hearing in order to get some form of justice and closure against my

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assailant, and that I had spent a considerable amount of time and money on preparing for the

hearing. I also addressed the concern that if Rhodes College were to settle, it would essentially

be like John Doe was walking away without any history of one confirmed rape verdict and one

pending rape allegation. Several hours later, I received another call from the Title IX office that a

settlement had been reached. I was devastated and voiced my concerns again, only to be

informed that there was nothing that could be time at that point. The Title IX office disregarded

my concern for the lack of a hearing, and tried to appease me by stating the college would

reimburse my incurred expenses from my return trip to Memphis.

I sent an itemized list of expenses to the Title IX office and the Vice President for

Finance and Business Affairs, which totaled $2,929.54. When I eventually received a response, it

was stated that I would need to sign a Confidentiality Letter in order to be reimbursed for those

expenses. The Title IX office wanted to hold my family’s $2,929.54 hostage in exchange for my

silence about “any aspect of Rhodes’ investigation and administration of my Title IX claim”.

This demand outraged my family and me, as I had done Rhodes College a service by revisiting

my trauma and returning to Memphis to face my assailant and his legal council after graduation.

Somehow, I was the one who suffered an emotional and financial hit. I had now been victimized

by John Doe ​and​ Rhodes College.

Through dealing with the Title IX office, there were many glaring issues I noticed in the

system. First, I never knew that Rhodes College had an “affirmative consent” policy until after I

was already raped. I read the Student Handbook for Sex/Gender Discrimination and Sexual

Misconduct Policy several times, and many of the policies and procedures I was not aware of

until I was already living it. On every syllabus, every hallway, and various places around

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campus, it is listed that professors and faculty members are mandated reporters. That concept

was something I understood, but when it came time to report my attack, I did not know where to

turn. I had to search online how to file a claim within the Title IX office, something I have heard

other victims say as well. When I was corresponding with the Title IX office, it would take days

to get a response, and sometimes I would have to send follow-up emails in order to get a

response. I filed a “No Contact Order” against my assailant, something yet again I did not know

that Rhodes College offered. Leading into the week of finals, I had requested one of my

professors be made aware that I might need accommodations. This was never done by the Title

IX office. I found this out an hour and a half before my final exam when I emailed my professor

and realized that he had not been made aware of the severity of my situation. This resulted in me

having a panic attack and crying for hours in the Title IX office. Many of my concerns, requests,

and general comments were lost in the shuffle of the administration.

The theory that the grant money will go towards “creat[ing] a ​Coordinated Community

Response Team to enhance response systems, education, and prevention programs related to

sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking”, “enhance[ing] a mandatory

prevention program for incoming students and implement ongoing prevention trainings for

returning students”, “implement[ing] training for campus safety personnel, disciplinary boards,

and faculty and staff”, and “enhance[ing] universal prevention strategies”​ ​sounds wonderful, but

I believe how these activities are executed is what will really change the Rhodes College campus

for the better. Rhodes College needs to make their sexual assault policies and procedures better

known to incoming and current students. Peer Assistants should have sessions dedicated to going

through the sexual assault policies and definitions from the Rhodes College Student Handbook,

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as well as Tennessee State Laws. If students came into the college knowing the five layers of

affirmative consent, the definitions of all forms of sexual assault, coercion, and different types of

incapacitation, there is a possibility the “grey area” of assault would be greatly reduced. Talking

about consent can be a difficult conversation for many people, but the more it is discussed, the

more the community benefits.

One large matter that needs to be addressed is the addition of a victim advocate. Being a

college student living away from home is stressful. Adding on sports, jobs, research, and clubs

adds more stress. A traumatic event, like a Title IX violation, can be the tipping point. Much of

my personal life, such as coursework, attendance, job performance, and participation in other

events was severely impacted because I had to be my own advocate. The Title IX office needs to

hire a victim advocate whose sole purpose is to make sure that the concerns of the student victim

are addressed, their needs are taken care of, their voice is heard, and that their questions are

answered. I was left in the dark for the entirety of my process because there was no one in the

administration who was checking in with me to ensure that I was being treated with respect. The

Title IX office should also work more closely with the Counseling Center and Student

Accessibility Services. This was offered to me in passing, but I believe I would have utilized the

services more if someone from those departments had reached out to me.

I am hopeful that positive changes will come to Rhodes College with this $300,000

Department of Justice grant, but, unfortunately, my love for my school has been damaged

beyond repair. Before August 2019, I was looking forward to returning to Homecoming, seeing

all my professors, reconnecting with friends, and walking around campus like I used to for four

years. Nowadays, I do not wear any of my Rhodes apparel, have not hung up my diploma, and

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will not recommend the school to anyone that asks me about it. My affection for Rhodes began

to wane during the lawsuit process, but the final alienation from my alma mater came when my

family was denied reimbursement unless I would maintain confidentiality about how the Title IX

office and administration had failed me. My well-being, like that of other student victims, was

secondary to the reputation of the school.

Despite my bitter disappointment with Rhodes, I would offer my help to the school so it

can improve its sexual assault programs in order to prevent what happened to me from

happening to another student. I would be open to having a conversation with the administration,

working on program plans, or even coming back for a panel to help current students better

understand sexual assault. I truly believe that Rhodes College has the potential to improve its

Title IX office, but great strides need to be made.

Sincerely,

, Class of 2019

Helpful links for students, faculty, and administrators:

1) https://sites.rhodes.edu/titlenine/policy#Section13

2) https://apps.rainn.org/policy/policy-crime-definitions.cfm?state=Tennessee&group=3&_

ga=2.192738730.1610878984.1573254050-256055020.1573254050

3) https://crimevictimscenter.shelbycountytn.gov/