Kansas State University refuses to investigate off campus rape allegations

11:10 AM College Lawyer Blog 0 Comments

Thursday, 4/21/16


Kansas State University is in the hot seat after two lawsuits were filed Wednesday, claiming that the institution refused to conduct investigations regarding rapes at two different fraternities on campus.

Sara Weckhorst and Tessa Farmer, students at Kansas State, both reported being raped in 2014 and 2015 in separate incidents and at separate fraternity houses.  The New York Times gathered evidence, via the women's lawyer, Cari Simon, that their lawsuits against Kansas State University are being reviewed by the United States Department of Education.  The lawsuits claim that the university is in violation of Title IX.  The U.S. Department of Education describes Title IX as stating that "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."

Under Title IX, universities are required to investigate accusations regardless of whether they occur on or off campus.  In a 2014 document released by the Department of Education, titled, "Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence," it is detailed that a university is not relieved of its duty to investigate alleged sexual violence because it occurred off campus and that it is the school's "obligation" to investigate the crime as though it occurred on campus (29).

Adele P. Kimmel, a lawyer from Public Justice, a public interest and impact litigation law firm explains that the university's refusal to investigate disregards the guidelines established by the Department of Education.  "It's basically saying to fraternities, 'Just go make sure you commit rape at the fraternities and not on campus,'" she comments.

In both cases, police reports were filed. Weckhorst claims that in 2014, she became too inebriated from consuming alcohol at a fraternity party.  She says that a fraternity member took her to his truck and raped her and then raped her again inside the fraternity house.  Later on in the night, she woke up to another fraternity member raping her.  The New York Times reports that she was unaware that she had been penetrated by both men until the next day.

According to the lawsuit, Kansas State refused to investigate the rape but still sanctioned the fraternity for serving alcohol.  Weckhorst makes a disturbing point in a note to the university, "How is that a fraternity house is off campus but KSU can charge them with drinking violations but not raping me?"

Farmer's story is almost parallel to Wesckhorst.  At a different fraternity party, Farmer, who had also become heavily inebriated, woke up to being raped by a man she did not know. Once obtaining medical treatment and undergoing a rape test, she alerted the university of the incident.  To her dismay she was informed that the university would not investigate the incident because its policy "specifies that it covers behaviors that happen on campus and at university-sponsored events; which does not cover fraternity houses," reports the New York Times.  Their response, once again, completely disregarding the guidelines created by Title IX.

In their lawsuits, Weckhorst and Farmer are both seeking monetary damages and requesting that the university investigate their reports.

To gather additional information on this issue, please visit the New York Times article, "Raped at Off-Campus Frat Houses, Students Say, and Ignored by College."

Seth Canner
Assistant Editor-In-Chief, CLB
Law Clerk, Levitt Law Firm 


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