Student has Filed Lawsuit Against Rowan University and Staff Members

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A current student at Rowan has recently filed a lawsuit against the university and some of its staff members. The lawsuit alleges that the school did not handle her reports of sexual assault correctly and certain staff members participated in ‘victim-blaming’ throughout the process. 

According to the lawsuit, the university has allegedly subjected the plaintiff “to ongoing and continuous discrimination on the basis of her sex, gender, and disability status.” 

The Whit has decided with our best judgment not to name the plaintiff or the defendant in this article. 

Joe Cardona, the vice president for university relations and the university spokesperson stated in an email that “Rowan University does not tolerate any form of sexual misconduct, and takes such allegations with the utmost seriousness. We abide by all Title IX policies and are committed to providing support and resources to victims, while ensuring due process is followed.” 

According to the Sexual Misconduct/Title IX page Rowan’s website: 

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

According to the lawsuit, the problems for the plaintiff started in the Spring of 2018. The plaintiff had allegedly been made uncomfortable by a disability coordinator multiple times. The disability coordinator allegedly made “romantic and sexual advances toward Plaintiff,” according to the lawsuit. 

When the plaintiff asked him to stop harassing her, he allegedly replied, “I can say whatever I want.” The harassment was said to continue into the Fall of 2019 and disrupted the plaintiff’s education. 

The plaintiff had also allegedly reported concerns about dating violence, such as stalking and rape, to the same disability coordinator in April of 2018. In response, the coordinator allegedly said that if something were to happen to the plaintiff at a frat house, it would be the plaintiff’s fault. 

Mr. Bradley Flynn of Montgomery Law is the plaintiff’s attorney.

“I think we have a categorical obligation to protect all students in respect of all gender, from things like rape and sexual assault,” Mr. Flynn said. “But also to make sure that Universities are protecting those students rights and that staff at universities are taking the reports seriously and not responding by hitting on the student or doing other unsavory, illegal conduct.”

On May 1, 2018, the plaintiff had allegedly reported to the disability coordinator that a person who stalked her in the past had contacted her again via Snapchat. 

According to the lawsuit, the disability coordinator never followed up with the plaintiff, never initiated an investigation, and never offered any guidance about who the plaintiff should contact. Apparently, the disability coordinator did not even respond to the report that the plaintiff submitted.

Around November 2018, a male student who attended Rowan was allegedly able to access the plaintiff’s dorm and rape the plaintiff on two occasions. According to the lawsuit, the same male slapped the plaintiff across the face, committing assault and battery. 

On or around Jan. 23, 2019, the plaintiff reported the rape to the disability coordinator. According to the lawsuit, the disability coordinator did not make a report and took zero steps to help the plaintiff. Instead, the coordinator allegedly yelled at the plaintiff for getting raped. 

The alleged rapist was said to have then stalked the plaintiff for two weeks. 

Because the original disability coordinator allegedly took no action towards the plaintiff’s reports, the plaintiff decided to report it to supervisory personnel. 

According to the lawsuit, the supervisory personnel was said to have told the plaintiff that he would look into the rape, but did not believe the plaintiff. 

In early February 2019, the disability coordinator was said to have agreed to walk with the plaintiff to Rowan’s police station. Before they arrived, the disability coordinator allegedly started to cry, stating that the plaintiff should bring a friend to the police station instead, because the coordinator is friends with the plaintiff’s rapist, and reporting him would make the disability coordinator uncomfortable. 

According to the lawsuit, the university informed the plaintiff on Feb. 7, 2019, that they would provide a Title IX advocate who would be in charge of taking the plaintiff’s report. 

However, the university allegedly failed to provide the plaintiff with said advocate and that, according to the lawsuit, this excluded the plaintiff from the process, because she suffers from various disabilities, such as dyslexia, depression, ADD, PTSD and anxiety. 

In February 2019, the plaintiff met with the disability coordinator to discuss the sexual violence. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was not given guidance, but instead yelled at by the coordinator and blamed for the rape. 

In or around February 2019, it is said that the alleged rapist was issued a “no-trespass order.” In the spring semester, the plaintiff allegedly reported to the Disability Office that because of the rape and sexual assault, she felt suicidal. According to the lawsuit, the office refused to help the plaintiff. 

The plaintiff met with the disability coordinator on or around March 6, 2019, about following up with her request for help. According to the lawsuit, the coordinator allegedly responded with, “Do you want me to lose my job and everyone knows you are the reason I lost my job?”

The student who allegedly raped the plaintiff was expelled in October of 2019. According to the lawsuit, the university did not ensure that the plaintiff was safe before the alleged rapist was expelled.

“During the intervening months, the university took little or no reasonable steps to keep the student away [from the plaintiff,]” the lawsuit said. 

In or around November 2019, the disability coordinator was said to have made sarcastic remarks, such as ‘congratulations’ to the plaintiff in regards to the expulsion of the alleged rapist. According to the lawsuit, the disability coordinator then yelled at the plaintiff, stating “You make everything worse and you make me feel like I can’t do anything right.” 

According to the lawsuit, between March and June of 2021, the plaintiff made efforts to file a Title IX complaint, but was said to have been met with “Confusing and, often, incoherent guidance on how to file a complaint.”

On July 9, 2021, the plaintiff filed the signed Title IX, which was accepted by the university.

According to the lawsuit, on July 14, 2021, the university dismissed most of the plaintiff’s complaints, saying that the university’s findings are a “fait accompli.”  Fait accompli, by definition, means “a thing accomplished and presumably irreversible,” according to Merriam-Webster.

The university dismissed most of the complaint, according to the lawsuit, alleging that the plaintiff failed to show that the disability coordinator and “the University had engaged in severe, pervasive and objectively offensive conduct, which denies a person equal access to their education.” 

As stated in the lawsuit, the plaintiff has “suffered emotional and financial harm.” 

The disability coordinator, through his counsel Patricia M. Hamill of Conrad O’Brien, PC, stated, “He intends to fully defend himself in the lawsuit, but because this a private student matter, he is not at liberty to make any further comment to any press inquiry.” 

According to Cardona, the disability coordinator is still employed at Rowan University, and the disability coordinator’s father was previously employed by Rowan University at a high executive level. The university has taken notice of the claim, but they are not currently commenting on ongoing litigation. 

The Whit has made attempts to reach out to the Director of the Academic Success Center and Disability Resources, John Woodruff, but has received no response.

“As is our practice, we do not comment on ongoing litigation against the University. Rowan’s investigation of the matter is ongoing,” Cardona said in an email.

If you have been a victim of a sex crime at Rowan University, contact Rowan Department of Public Safety (856)-256-4922 or the Rowan Police (856)-881-1500. According to the Student Sexual Misconduct/ Title IX Reporting Form, victims are not required to report the incident to the police. 

“If you choose to do so, Rowan will provide you with support throughout the process,” according to the website. 

The anonymous reporting number is (855)-431-9967 and the website is  http://rowan.edu/integrityline

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