…at Christendom College–and of the College’s failure to address them:
What does the handbook say?
The school apparently based its response on two facts: First, there was, in 2011, no clause in the student handbook prohibiting sexual assault. Amanda Graf, the current Director of Student Affairs at Christendom, confirms that student handbook did not include a policy against sexual assault until 2013, two years after Smith reported her rape.
Second, the rape occurred off campus; and so the school considered itself helpless to respond to it.
“[T]he alleged assault of Adele did not take place on campus. Rather, the incident apparently occurred in a national park several miles away from Christendom’s campus,” O’Donnell wrote in his letter to Scott Smith. “Moreover, both Adele and Mr. [redacted] are adults — meaning that Christendom faculty and staff have inherently limited options for enforcing standards of appropriate (or even prudent) conduct, especially when students leave the confines of campus.”
When you come back to campus, you’re still a rapist.
Students are, however, punished for coming back to campus drunk, even if the drinking took place off campus — for instance, at “The River,” a popular drinking spot where even professors are known to visit and socialize. “The River” and the drinking that occurs there is an open secret that the administration is aware of.
“I always find it interesting they always try to punish students for drinking off campus, if you come back to campus drunk,” Smith said. “I say, if you rape off campus, when you come back to campus, you’re still a rapist.”
Smith says that the administration cracked down on professors hosting off-campus parties, because they involved drinking. The message delivered was clear, according to Smith.“We care if you drink off campus, but not if you rape off campus,” she said.
On Wednesday, after we published two essays detailing Christendom College’s inadequate response to sexual assault by and on its students, the college released a statement. Out of professional courtesy, we referred to the statement as an “apology.”.The statement, which rape survivors from Christendom referred to as a “non-apology” and a “slap in the face,” briefly offers that the school “would like to apologize to any of those in our community who feel they were not properly responded to concerning an alleged sexual harassment and assault.”.It then asserts that the school has made significant changes in policy, so as to prevent sexual assault and to be more responsive if it occurs..The statement opens by claiming that our two essays contained “misleading information and serious inaccuracies,” but it did not specify what those might be..
We published that statement in full on Wednesday, with the intention of responding to it on Thursday.
But on Thursday evening, a newspaper local to Christendom published an article titled “Christendom responds to claims it brushed off rape charges.” It makes the same reference to “misinformation and inaccuracies” that the school’s statement does, also without specifying what that misinformation or inaccuracies are.Then it quotes Executive Vice President Ferguson saying:.“We offered to speak to the author and they declined because they said they wanted to release the information before we could have a meeting,” Ferguson said. “Extremely odd. So they didn’t have any desire to get to the truth of the article.”.This is false. This is the opposite of what we tried to accomplish..We wanted very much to get President O’Donnell’s comment on our essays before they went to press. On Friday, Damien called the school four times and they called us twice. Damien left a message for Timothy O’Donnell. That call was returned by Nial O’Donnell, who said he would try to get Damien an interview with Dr. O’Donnell. Damien told him we were planning to publish over the weekend..Nial O’Donnell then called back and explained Timothy O’Donnell would not be able to call back until Tuesday. Hoping to encourage him to call back sooner, Damien told Nial O’Donnell we did not plan to wait..Nial O’Donnell then said he would try and get Timothy O’Donnell to call beforeTuesday. He did not specify a time of day..So we waited until Tuesday. When the call did not come, we published the essays.
On Friday, Amanda Graf called Damien and confirmed that Christendom did not have a sexual assault policy in the student handbook until 2013. Graf is Director of Student Affairs. On Friday, Damien also called former dean Jesse Dorman, who did not return the call; and he attempted to reach Dr. Marschner, formerly of Christendom.
In summary: We held the piece longer than we wanted to, calling repeatedly, hoping to get a statement from O’Donnell. The school said O’Donnell would try to call before Tuesday. He did not. We published on Tuesday. Ferguson’s account of the exchange, that the school offered to talk and we refused, is made up of whole cloth.
This message was shared with alumni:.This account is also false. At no point did anyone from the school tell Damien that O’Donnell would be available to speak between 2-4 PM on Tuesday. They told Damien O’Donnell would call us “before Tuesday.” We “moved ahead without talking to him” because, when Tuesday arrived and he had not called, we assumed he did not intend to call and there was no longer any reason to wait.