Stockton Greek life following lawsuits

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Sexual assault on college campuses is a pervasive reality, and the latest accusations against Stockton University show no place is immune.

Last month, four students named the university, the unrecognized fraternity Pi Kappa Phi — a fraternity Stockton has been trying to rid themselves of for almost a decade — and three current and former students in civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault and discrimination under the federal discrimination law Title IX.

“I think these lawsuits have been really eye-opening for a lot of people, especially students,” returning junior Allison Maskin said this week.

In response to the suits, Stockton officials have maintained the college has done all it is legally required to and more.

“We’ve been educating students about consent through Title IX workshops, safe-sex practices. … All of those things have been in place for a number of years,” said Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Craig Stambaugh.

While these are the first public allegations of sexual misconduct at Stockton, Maskin, 19, of Long Island, New York, said she knows they have been happening across the country for many years. She was not surprised that once the first lawsuit was announced, more followed.

“It was only a matter of time until more survivors came forward,” she said, adding the students’ bravery in reporting the assaults inspires her.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 23 percent of women undergraduates experience rape or sexual assault, but nearly 80 percent don’t report it. Men are also affected, with about 5 percent of male undergraduates experiencing sexual assault or rape, the data show.

The problem with sexual assault and the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity was so well-known among students on campus that more than 60 students in professor Emily Van Duyne’s Women, Gender and Sexuality class chose it as the topic of an activism project last spring, according to people who attended the class.

Stockton students have gotten involved in the is-sue through organizations such as the Teal Ribbon Project to raise awareness of sexual assault.

In addition, a petition was started last month on Change.org to have the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office pursue charges against one of the defendants in the first two suits, Zachary Madle, a 2015 alumnus from Wildwood and a member of Pi Kappa Phi. According to the first lawsuit, Madle was charged with invasion of privacy in one instance in which he is alleged to have taken photos during the assault and posted them to the social media app Snapchat.

While the lawsuits target the fraternity, they also all claim Stockton violated both Title IX and the Clery Act, which mandates reporting of crimes on campus.

Laura L. Dunn, an attorney based in Washington, D.C., and nationally recognized expert on Title IX, said the federal law prohibits sex discrim-ination in educational programs and settings.

“Sex discrimination can be straightforward, but it could also be in the form of sexual harassment or violence,” said Dunn, who recently served as keynote speaker at Rowan University’s sixth annual Title IX Summit. “A school’s obligation is: If they become aware of sexual harassment or violence, they have to act and take action to address it.”

According to Dunn, a school’s obligation to address sexual violence is separate from the criminal system. She said schools can take interim measures to help a student who comes forward with an assault claim to help him or her continue to access their education.

If the accused is a student, Dunn said, a college can take interim action against the student while the investigation is ongoing to protect the accuser. Stockton’s policy recommends ex-pulsion for students who commit sexual assault.

If the accused is not a student, but an alumnus, some institutions reserve the right to retroactively remove a degree. She said they can also ban the person from campus.

“That may be all they can do, legally speaking. Beyond that, it is really left to criminal systems,” Dunn said.

While Title IX prohibits discrimination, how the cases are handled by a college is guided by the U.S. Department of Education.

Stockton holds mandatory Title IX workshops for new students and offers free programming throughout the year to address sexual assault, dating violence, consent, drinking and other topics relevant to college students. In addition, the college opened a Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Center to support students.

The state issued a report with recommendations addressing sexual assaults on college campuses last summer. At the time, Stockton officials said the college was already adhering to several of the nine recommendations in the report, including a campus climate survey.

From a student perspective, the college can do more. After the lawsuits were announced, several students, including Maskin, took to social media to support the women who filed civil suits.

“I don’t think there is anything more important than showing support to survivors. I think it plays a vital part in their healing and moving forward,” said Maskin. “If people don’t show they care, then no one is going to make an effort to make change.”

Contact: 609-272-7251 CLowe@pressofac.com Twitter @clairelowe

I began covering South Jersey in 2008 after graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism. I joined The Press in 2015. In 2013, I was awarded a NJPA award for feature writing as a reporter for The Current of Hamilton Township.

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