XU under federal inquiry
Published: Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Updated: Thursday, January 19, 2012 18:01
A Xavier alum has filed an official complaint to the Office of Civil Rights, which has prompted a Federal investigation about the handling of sexual assault cases at Xavier University. Kalyn Burgio, who accused former Xavier student Sean Marron of a sexual assault which occurred in March 2009, believes that Xavier University handled the complaint and the subsequent hearings and punishments "inadequately from beginning to end". According to the official complaint, Xavier University was responsible for an "inadequate response from the Xavier University Administration." Burgio went into detail about six examples of this inadequacy. The first of these was that the University "negotiated on behalf of the accused and shifted responsibility to the victim". According to Burgio, Luther Smith, former Dean of Students, offered to her that he would expel Marron if Burgio decided to not go ahead with the disciplinary hearing. Burgio also cited that she felt that Luther's actions made her feel "that she was being treated as an irritant" throughout the process, despite being the alleged victim. As far as Xavier "negotiating on behalf of the accused", Burgio believes that Smith was negotiating with Marron "in the absence of the respondent admitting responsibility". This contradicts the Xavier Student Handbook which states that, in cases of sexual assault, mediation is not appropriate available to her at the University after the incident. Burgio did not feel as though she was appropriately looked after, in spite of being the alleged victim in the matter. Burgio also complained that Xavier University delayed her hearing twice, "once at the request of the accused." The misconduct hearing was due to occur two weeks after Burgio accused Marron, which was on Oct. 6, 2010. The hearing took place on Dec. 10, 2010, two months after Burgio's accusation. A delay in proceedings "made it more difficult for Kalyn to complete the fall semester." The fourth complaint against Xavier University was that they did not follow the rules in the Xavier Student Handbook with regard to proceedings in the hearing of statements. According to the Handbook, all statements and the witness list must be provided three days before the hearing so that all parties may review them. In the complaint, Burgio claims to have complied with the procedure but argues that she did not receive the same privileges. She "was given the witness list and the sole witness statement immediately prior to the hearing, and never received the accused student's statement." Burgio also claims that Xavier University did not impose the sanction quickly enough. In the Handbook, it reads that both expulsion and suspension (Marron was sanctioned with both) require "withdrawal from all courses." Marron, who had been suspended prior to this case for sexual misconduct, remained on campus until Dec. 23 and received full academic credit for the semester. The final complaint that Burgio registered with the Office of Civil Rights was that she did not receive the necessary accommodation from a professor and that she was denied extensions for the course during the time of the case and "her ability to graduate was compromised." Burgio believes that Xavier University needs to be more active in protecting the victims of sexual assault in the future. "More needs to be done, and much needs to be changed on how administrators, who represent our establishment, relate to its students," Burgio said in an e-mail. "Whatever improvements are made, I am sure it will not only benefit sexual assault victims, but victims of any bias including gender, sexual orientation, race, creed, ethnicity, or physical and mental ability." Xavier University reaffirmed its stance on sexual assault, however. "Xavier University has and will always take the care, health and safety of our students very seriously, including preventing sexual harassment (which includes sexual assault and other sexual misconduct), assisting victims of sexual harassment and investigating allegations of sexual harassment," Director of Public Relations Deborah Del Valle said in an official press release. Burgio was allegedly sexually assaulted in March 2009, but she did not report the incident until October 2010. The case led to a trial in Hamilton County Court which began on Oct. 18, 2011. Judge Robert Ruehlman declared Marron not guilty on four counts of sexual assault. Ruehlman condemned the amount of time between the incidents and when Burgio brought the charges forward. "To wait a week [to report charges] is unfair, to wait months is beyond unfair, but, to wait years, that just can't be tolerated in a court of law when you're dealing with 20 years of [Marron's] life that would be taken away from him if he was convicted in this," Ruehlman said in his verdict. The announcement of the federal investigation has already prompted swift action from the University.