Dean at Spelman College Allegedly Told Student to Give Her Rapists a 'Pass'
An anonymous student at the historically black women's university recently took to Twitter to accuse four men at Spelman's "brother" school of rape and to denounce the administration's alleged response.
Photo by @Philosavery via Twitter
On Monday, the Twitter account @RapedatSpelman sent out its first tweet. "This is my freshmen year at Spelman and my last year because I decided to leave after what happened to me." In the series of tweets that follow, the person behind the anonymous account goes on to claim she was raped on the historically black, women's-only campus in Atlanta by a group of four men who attended Morehouse College, a school that's widely considered Spelman's all-male counterpart:
"I went to a party with my friends there were [a lot] of people there and it was really fun so we decided to drink with the upperclassmen."
"I was drunk but that doesn't mean I forgot about what happened. I went to the bathroom upstairs to throw up and when I opened the door I was... surrounded by 4 Morehouse students who took me to another room and took turns raping me. I was in shock about what had happened."
After she "had to walk back to campus by [her]self" because her friends had already left the party, the student says she went to the Public Safety Department on campus, according to her tweets. But from there, the administration's alleged response was appallingly lacking. "I was sent to the hospital for a rape kit. It took Spelman a month to get back to me about my case," she wrote. When they finally did, she claims, "the Dean and Public Safety...asked me what was I wearing, why did I [separate] from my friends, & why was I... drinking under age"
"The Dean also said that Spelman & Morehouse are brother & sister so I should give them a pass. I never felt so worthless... in my life," she tweeted from the account.
In the days that followed the social media accusations, men and women at the two private colleges, collectively referred to as part of the Atlanta University Center Consortium (AUC), have rallied around @RapedatSpelman, who did not respond to a request to be interviewed, and condemned how the administration allegedly handled the case. The next day, a protest was organized at Morehouse by students who say that rape culture on the campus has long been an unresolved issue. While certainly not the only institutions of higher education that have failed to adequately address rape on campus, earlier this year the endemic at Spelman and Morehouse gained media attention when Buzzfeed reported on the spate of sexual assaults occurring between the two student populations. Last November, according to the publication, both Morehouse and Spelman came under federal investigation for violating Title IX, allegedly due to the administrations' inadequate handling of sexual assaults.
The tweets also started an eponymous hashtag, #RapedatSpellman, and a more divisive one, #RapedbyMorehouse, that explicitly calls out the college for perpetuating rape culture; the contention around the latter, students and activists say, exemplifies how black women at Spelman are silenced to protect black men.
In response to the new accusation on social media, a petition launched in March that calls on both schools to restructure how they handle sexual assault started circulating again. "We understand that this is not solely a Morehouse and Spelman problem," the petition reads. "Institutions of higher education in every corner of our nation are grappling with how best to address instances of sexual assault and sexual violence. Sadly, many of them are failing. However, Morehouse, Spelman, and the AUC community do not have to be counted in that number. As leaders among historically black colleges and universities and the higher education community as a whole, this is an opportunity for both Morehouse College and Spelman College to show leadership by developing comprehensive sexual assault policies and programing that will educate and ensure the safety of all students while providing support and services to victims."
The signees are calling for mandatory sexual assault courses; better cooperation between the two schools so that sexual assault victims—regardless of which campus the assault took place on—have a clear course of action; and the creation of a sexual assault advisory board. Katrina L. Rogers, a member of the group SpelHouse Against Rape, which wrote the petition and consists of 2003-2012 alumni from both colleges, said that neither administration has directly responded to the petition, "but their actions and announcements seem to support them acquiescing to our requests." She also confirmed that after the protest (which other members of SpelHouse Against Rape attended, though she did not) Morehouse announced that they're launching its first Campus Climate Taskforce to address sexual assault.
After the victim's tweets gained national attention, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell released a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Schmidt confirmed that the school is conducting an investigation into the alleged rape, though it's still unclear when the investigation was launched, when the assault took place, and whether or not a police report was filed. "Our hearts go out to this student, and I want to personally offer her our full support and assistance," Schmidt told the publication. "We are a family at Spelman and we will not tolerate any episode of sexual violence. No student should ever have to suffer and endure the experience she has recounted on social media. Spelman is conducting a full and thorough review of these events."
When Broadly reached out to Spelman College for comment and clarification, we received the same statement. "There is no further comment," a representative at the college wrote in an email.