Student argues SIUE was indifferent to her rape, discriminates against women

Bailey Reed is arguing in federal court that Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s sexual harassment policy discriminates against women after she says the university was indifferent to her rape on campus last year.

On Tuesday, the SIUE graduate filed a lawsuit against the university over its handling of her rape accusation.

SIUE spokesman Doug McIlhagga provided a statement about the complaint Wednesday.

“While the University does not generally comment on pending litigation, we disagree with many of the allegations made in Ms. Reed’s lawsuit regarding her treatment by SIUE and the University’s Title IX investigation process,” he stated. Title IX is the federal law that prevents sex discrimination in education.

“SIUE takes all complaints of sexual assault and other forms of sexual harassment very seriously, and seeks to provide a harassment and discrimination free environment to all SIUE students, employees and visitors,” McIlhagga added. “SIUE will vigorously defend against the allegations made by Ms. Reed in her complaint.”

The lawsuit accuses an SIUE employee of discouraging Reed from reporting the rape to the university, which would start an investigation process.

Reed said she was raped Oct. 17, 2017, in her on-campus apartment by another student. That night, she said she went to a hospital to undergo a rape examination.

When SIUE investigated later, the lawsuit states it determined that Reed wasn’t raped, in part because she didn’t act like a rape victim when she ate sometime after the assault.

She appealed the university’s decision to a three-member panel, which sided with Reed. During a hearing, Reed had told the panel that another woman came forward, saying the man tried to sexually assault her.

But Chancellor Randy Pembrook reversed the panel’s decision after the man appealed, the lawsuit states.

Reed argues SIUE discriminated against her because she is a woman by:

Discouraging her from reporting her rape.

Repeatedly questioning her about the details of her assault.

Interview summaries were available from when she reported the rape to police, as well as court hearing transcripts from when she sought a restraining order against the man, according to the lawsuit.

Basing an investigation’s determination on gender stereotypes, such as how a rape victim should act.

Declining to provide accommodations to her living arrangements and class schedule when she asked to be relocated from the room where she was raped and separated from the man she accused of rape, who was in a class with her.

The lawsuit states that SIUE allowed the man to attend every other class and told Reed she could listen to the lecture via Skype or Facetime when the man was there, without providing the technology.

“SIUE had many opportunities to provide a fair and non-discriminatory process in this case. It chose instead to violate a student’s rights,” Nicole Gorovsky, Reed’s attorney, stated in a news release about the lawsuit.

The university is involved in a separate federal lawsuit over its sexual harassment policy, which another SIUE graduate says discriminates against men. He is identified only by the initials L.M. in the lawsuit to protect his privacy.

L.M. is accused of raping a woman in his off-campus apartment on Oct. 15, 2017, two days before Reed said she was raped.

He argues men are often the accused in cases of sexual misconduct, who are discriminated against because, under SIUE’s sexual harassment policy:

They aren’t able to refuse to answer questions during the investigation. The policy states they are “responsible for participating in the investigation process.”

They have limited time — five days — to respond to the allegations and to appeal the university’s decision, which will lead to a hearing and panel review.

They aren’t allowed to directly question their accusers during the hearing. Questions have to be submitted to the panel, according to the policy. They can bring legal representation, but the attorney can’t “speak or participate directly in any hearing.”

SIUE is considering a rewrite of its policy this month, but McIlhagga, the spokesman, said it isn’t in response to the lawsuits.

He said it’s mostly routine revisions, and one change to accommodate an increase in appeals over the past couple of years.

According to McIlhagga, SIUE is considering increasing the number of faculty and staff members who can volunteer to serve on the review panel when there are appeals. It’s a pool of 12 candidates now.

Another proposed change is related to “a form of cross-examination,” McIlhagga said; The university is considering allowing questions from the accused or the accuser to be moderated through the panelists.

It is also thinking about removing Chancellor Pembrook from the appeals process. McIlhagga said that proposal has been in discussion for years.

When asked about the proposed changes, Eric Rhein, attorney for L.M. said, “I think they realized that their system has been without a true foundation for achieving justice.”

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes
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