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Incident raises questions about university policies

Posted on 11.20.2013

After working on a paper on Oct. 6, 2012, the night of Homecoming, junior actuarial science and German major Amanda Tripp said that she returned to a campus apartment where her roommate’s friends lived. She said they were going to watch movies and hang out, maybe order pizza. According to Tripp, however, soon after she reentered the apartment, more people and alcohol followed.

“I had never ever drank before in my life,” she said. “I had one drink, and he had six, which didn’t work out so well.”

Tripp did not know anyone there besides her roommate, since she had just transferred to the University of Indianapolis that semester. She said that people began teasing her and a male about hooking up. She said she is not sure how it happened, although she remembers it quite vividly—the male leading her up the stairs with his hand around her arm and them entering his bedroom.

Although it may never be certain what took place that night, the above details are what Tripp and the University of Indianapolis Police Department reports agree on. The disagreement between Tripp and the university concerns whether what happened after they entered the room was consensual, and only two people truly know that.

This incident has brought unflattering media scrutiny of the university  that questions whether the university’s policies are both sufficient and sufficiently followed.

Director of Media Relations Scott Hall said that UIndy considers any crime reported serious, because the university’s main concern is the welfare of its students.

“We would dispute anyone’s suggestion that the university is callous towards students or isn’t appropriately concerned about anything that they’re concerned about,” he said. “But we have policies and procedures in place that are intended to protect students, and we followed those policies in this case.”

Hall added that it is difficult for the university officials to fully respond, because they are legally required to protect every student’s privacy.

Confused and also concerned about her privacy, Tripp said that she initially did not want to tell anyone. But about a week after the incident, she broke down in front of a professor and said what had happened. She said that the professor helped her schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist at the Student Health and Counseling Center, and after meeting for a little over a month, she felt ready to tell the university what had happened.

According to Tripp, she first approached the dean of students, who directed her to campus police to fill out a crime report. She said that she thought more would come of the report,  that some action would be taken.

However, as time went by and she did not hear anything, Tripp decided to get a copy of the police report, which she said UIPD did not want to give her. When she read it, Tripp said that she found UIPD had closed the case about 20 minutes after she left the station, without following up with any of the other parties.
According to Tripp, the university administration was less than helpful.

“At best, they just didn’t do anything. At worst, they just purposefully conspired to sweep it under the rug and stack it against me from the beginning,” she said. “But, obviously, either way it’s not okay.”

Hall said that campus police conferred with a sex crimes detective from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, and both entities concluded that the elements of a crime were not present.

According to Indiana law, a rape is defined as “a person knowingly or intentionally has sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex when: the person is compelled under force or imminent threat of force; the other person is aware that the sexual intercourse is occurring; or the other person is so mentally disabled or deficient that consent to sexual intercourse cannot be given.”

According to Hall, when Tripp came forward to make a statement, she stated that she did not want to pursue a criminal investigation or an internal hearing,  called a judicial review, on campus.

“When this student decided to bring it to the attention of the university, it was the dean of students who sent her to the police and said, you know, you probably need to give them a statement, and they probably need to check it out,” Hall said. “I think the suggestion of a cover-up is very hard to defend.”

The university policies

According to both the UIndy Student Handbook and the annual UIPD crime report, victims of sexual assault can receive the services of a victim advocate upon request. Page 36 of the UIndy Student Handbook states:

“Among the services available are counseling, advocacy, assistance in locating medical and legal help, and follow-up care.”

Tripp said that she never knew about the victim advocate and that it was never suggested to her as an option.

On Page 36, the UIndy Student Handbook also states: “Campus victims of sexual assault have the option of notifying proper law enforcement authorities on- or off-campus, and assistance in doing so will be provided upon request.”

According to Hall, however, the victim advocate only steps in after the police report is filed and grounds for an investigation are proven. The advocate, UIPD Sergeant Hailey Padgett-Riley, was interim chief of police at the time this incident was reported. Hall said that the fact that the former UIPD chief of police had abruptly left the university earlier that year did not hinder the department’s ability to do its job.

“Our officers are on the job, and they’re always in touch with local police agencies,” Hall said. “And in this situation, that was the case.”

According to Page 35 of the UIndy Student Handbook, sexual assault is defined as “attempted or actual unwanted sexual activity, including forcible and non-forcible sex offenses.”  It also defines a sex offense as “Any sexual act directed against another person forcibly and/or against that person’s will or not forcibly or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent due to his/her youth or temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity. Consent must be informed, freely given and mutually understandable in words or actions that are unmistakable in their meaning.”

Planning legal action

Tripp said that she plans to file a complaint with the Department of  Education. Complaints must be filed within 180 days of the reported incident. Even though her own case falls outside of that time frame, Tripp said that four other students contacted her with similar experiences, some of which fall within that window.

“Obviously I can’t be the only one. And actually, now that I’ve stepped out and said something, I’m getting emails that say, they did the same thing to me—UIndy police and administration,” she said.

Tripp said that she plans to pursue a civil case against the university. She said that her lawyer advised her that speaking out could hurt her case, but she knew that she could not keep quiet any longer.

According to Tripp, she is not concerned with compensation as much as more actions on the university’s end to make sure that consequences are enforced when things like this happen.

“I mean, I know bad things happen in the world. I’ve always known that, of course,” she said. “But I guess I always believed that when bad things happen, people have the decency to handle them appropriately.”


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