- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 30 September 2015
- Written by CASEY WOLFE | OPINION EDITOR
A University student was charged with two counts of criminal sexual contact and two counts of harassment on Sept. 16 in a residential life facility, according to the Monmouth University Police Department (MUPD). Both the victim and suspect were students.
“At 1:10 p.m. two of our students were walking into their Residential Life Facility when another University student followed them into the building and touched one student in the buttocks while in the stairway, and touched another student in the buttocks in the room of a separate student,” said Bill McElrath, Chief of MUPD.
At this time, no charges have been filed against the University by the victim according to Mary Anne Nagy, Vice President for Student Services. The student has withdrawn voluntarily from the University so there will be no charges filed. “Should the student accused wish to return to Monmouth in the future we will have to adjudicate the matter first before they would be considered for admission,” said Nagy.
She added that the student was not convicted, but found in violation of the Student Code of Conduct.
Though the incident was not categorized as sexual assault, sexual contact is defined in the student handbook as “any form of intentional touching, either directly or through clothing, of the victim’s intimate parts designed to degrade or humiliate the victim or cause sexual arousal or gratification to the actor.”
The alleged assaulter was immediately arrested in the dining hall and charged by MUPD, according to McElrath.
A second instance happened in a residence hall. An anonymous student saw the arrest take place. “Witnessing someone get arrested in the building I live in was extremely concerning. I just can’t un-see someone getting carried out in handcuffs from my own building. It’s something that will stay with me,” she said.
Potential punishments on a student who has violated the sexual offense section in the code of conduct include fines, disciplinary probation from extra-curricular activities, education or service work hours, residence hall probation, suspension or expulsion from the University according to the Code of Conduct.
Sexual crimes are difficult to account for, according to McElrath. “Sexual assault and other forms of sexual misconduct are some of the most underreported crimes so it is difficult to get exact statistics,” he said. “Monmouth University is very proactive in educating students on and increasing awareness of sexual misconduct, including how to avoid becoming a victim of a sex crime, bystander intervention, as well as what to do if you become a victim of a sex crime.”
This was not the first instance of sexual assault/misconduct in the past academic year and not all cases are reported to MUPD according to McElrath.
“The last Sexual Assault at Monmouth University,” according to McElrath, “was reported to MUPD in November of 2013.” “There have been two reports of Sexual Assault in 2014 and two reports of Sexual Assault in 2015 to Monmouth University officials other than the MUPD.”
The victim is the primary concern in this and all sexual assault or harassment cases on campus, McElrath points out. “The Monmouth University Police Department is mandated by the Monmouth County Prosecutor and State Attorney General’s Office to respond in a manner that puts the safety and rights of the victim in the forefront,” said McElrath.
Awareness of sexual harassment and assault is an important topic that is being discussed across campus, according to Nagy. “Monmouth University is very proactive in educating students and increasing awareness on sexual misconduct including how to avoid becoming a victim of a sex crime, bystander intervention, as well as what to do if you become a victim of a sex crime,” she said.
The University will be holding Hawks United Week next month from Oct. 12-16. The purpose of this program is to “increase awareness of sexual misconduct and how to prevent it and respond to it,” said Nagy. “I encourage students to attend as many events as possible. We also encourage students to complete Haven, the online sexual misconduct awareness program.”
McElrath said, “The University police are well trained and equipped to respond to sexual assaults on campus. We have immediate access to legal experts in the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office if we have any legal questions regarding an investigation.”
If convicted of criminal sexual contact, McElrath said the suspect faces up to 18 months in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. The judge will make the determination.
Security on campus has been heightened due to the incident. “In keeping with our security protocols, we have dedicated extra attention to the area in question. It is also an important reminder that campus safety is a shared responsibility of all members of our campus community,” said McElrath.
The suspect and victims or their representatives could not be reached for comment as their identities have not been made public.