Many members of the Virginia Wesleyan community have expressed their concern following the recent lawsuit brought against the College. On October 3, 2014, Jane Doe, a former student, filed a Complaint seeking judgment against the College in the amount of $10 million for negligence, gross negligence and fraud. While VWC sympathizes with Jane Doe, the College denies any improper conduct on the part of the institution and is defending this Complaint through the legal process.
Prior to this point, we have had to exercise restraint in responding to media attention. Therefore, only one side’s allegations have been heard, many of which contained inaccuracies and omitted certain facts.
On Thursday, October 30, Virginia Wesleyan’s attorneys filed an Answer, a Demurrer, and several other documents in response to Jane Doe’s Complaint. Due to these filings, there are several additional facts about the case that we can now share with our community. We’d like to take this opportunity to specifically address some unfounded media allegations. In doing so, we hope to provide some clarity and context.
Unfounded Media Allegation: “VWC failed to act appropriately when Jane Doe reported the incident to school staff.”
Facts: Jane Doe first reported the alleged incident on October 1, 2012, nearly six weeks after it occurred. She sought care from VWC Health Services and told campus nurses about the incident. Campus nurses appropriately referred her to Patient First for further evaluation and shared additional sexual assault reporting options with her. Jane Doe declined to file a report regarding the alleged incident.
In addition, Doe met with a VWC counselor on October 5, 2012, who explained to her all of the options for charges against the perpetrator and seeking additional help. At that time, Doe expressed that she wanted the information to remain confidential and did not wish to report it further. She continued to receive support through VWC’s Counseling Services. Documents related to this issue can be found as Exhibits to our Answer filed with the Court last week.
The alleged incident was reported to VWC Title IX coordinators in early 2013. A hearing took place promptly and resulted in the alleged perpetrator being dismissed from campus for violation of campus policy. On February 19, 2013, nearly six months after the alleged incident occurred, an incident report was filed with the Virginia Beach Police Department by Jane Doe. According to the report, the case was “exceptionally cleared” and prosecution was declined on March 8, 2013. The perpetrator was never formally charged by police. The notation of dismissal was later changed to a withdrawal on the alleged perpetrator's record; however, his permanent and involuntary separation from VWC remained in place.
VWC’s staff took all appropriate steps put in place by its sexual misconduct policy, which complies with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX).
Unfounded Media Allegation: “VWC claims it has no responsibility to protect students from rape.”
Facts: VWC takes student safety very seriously. The College believes that a safe, secure environment is essential to learning and to the peace of mind of our students, their parents and VWC faculty/staff. For more than two decades, VWC has clearly articulated and enforced community standards and student expectations and responsibilities. The consequences for student misconduct are articulated in the Student Handbook, on the website, and during orientation and other student sessions. The College follows state and federal regulations and goes above and beyond in educating students about the risks of misconduct, including sexual assault.
VWC takes this proactive approach despite the fact that colleges and universities have no legal obligation to do so under the legal causes of action cited by the Plaintiff, as is more fully stated in the Demurrer filed on behalf of the College.
Virginia Wesleyan College provides proper orientation and training for students, Residence Life staff and faculty/staff. In addition, VWC has an appropriate campus judicial system. Despite these efforts and programs, sometimes unwise decisions are made by individuals that the College cannot prevent.
Unfounded Media Allegation: “VWC uses a loophole in the federal law to withhold information about sexual assaults on campus from its daily crime logs.”
Facts: There is no loophole. Virginia Wesleyan College is in compliance with applicable federal reporting regulations and utilizes all reporting mechanisms properly. The College properly maintains campus crime and fire logs, files an annual safety and fire report that is submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, and shares this information with our community and the public.
In summary, the College is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for every member of the VWC community. We strive to keep our students safe and do everything in our power to promote a secure learning environment.
Virginia Wesleyan College continues to be the caring and responsible place we have always been. The College realizes that campus resources and all of our efforts do not guarantee immunity from the very serious issue of sexual assault on college campuses as it reflects the greater problem in society in general. However, we hope that by addressing this issue together, as a community, we can make continual improvements to reduce this risk.
Finally, we understand and appreciate the concerns that have been expressed. Rest assured that as this process unfolds and is resolved, you will see that Virginia Wesleyan handles such serious matters with integrity and compassion.