I reported. Rice and SJP still let him graduate.
Content warning: The following opinion piece is about sexual assault.
The last time I wrote an opinion piece like this, I had just been sexually assaulted. I was in a terrible place, and I stayed in that terrible place for months and months, unable to break the walls that the sexual assault had put between me and my closest friends.
After months spent feeling inadequate and worthless, I decided that my pain was significant enough to justify some form of retribution, so I reported my assault to Student Judicial Programs, hoping that, in speaking up, I might be able to prevent someone else from feeling the jumbled way that I felt after the assault.
My SJP case dragged on for months. My rapist slowed the proceedings at every turn. He asked for extensions on each statement that he was required to submit. He accused me of sexual assault, in a retaliatory and ridiculous attempt to extend the timeline of the case, trying to buy himself time to find innocence in his guilt — the charges against me were dismissed.
After months, he was found guilty and he was suspended, starting at the beginning of the spring semester. I had won. It was all over. I spent the following semester in a state of bliss: finally, I wouldn’t see him anymore. I wouldn’t break down anymore. There was one fewer rapist on Rice’s campus.
Or so I thought.
Last week, 10 months after the decision was made, I learned that my rapist was able to squeeze himself through a loophole in SJP’s process. He had never been suspended. Instead, he graduated early, skipping the entire spring semester, and thereby avoiding his suspension. He received a diploma, with all the rights and responsibilities that a degree from Rice confers.
If a student is suspended due to circumstances of sexual misconduct, they are not automatically readmitted to the university after the duration of their suspension. They are required to reapply, and, to be readmitted, they must show that they grew or changed during their time away from Rice. They must show that they recognize their wrongs.
My rapist avoided this reckoning. He was able to graduate, still believing that he was in the right. When Rice handed him a degree, they handed him a certification that what he had done was fine.
Rice administrators had interrogated all parties involved. They read pages and pages of witness accounts. They knew the intimate details of my case. They decided that he was in the wrong, that he was not deserving to be a Rice student, based on the rules and expectations set out in the “Student Code of Conduct”. And then they let him graduate anyway.
Students are told repeatedly that a Rice degree is more than just a degree. It means that you are hardworking, that you are capable, that you are conscientious. It apparently, though, says nothing about whether or not you are a rapist.
Today, if anyone were to ask about what happened to my rapist, why he wasn’t around last semester, they’d find out that he graduated early. Maybe they’d be impressed that this Rice student was able to complete his degree requirements early. They certainly wouldn’t know that he graduated early because he was found guilty of sexually assaulting me.
An administrator claimed that they did this to protect the Rice community.
But I did what I did to protect the Rice community, to take down this man so that other students would know to stay away from him, so that he wouldn’t be able to hurt anyone else like he hurt me. It is both offensive and vile that Rice administrators would give him an apparent cloak of innocence and call it protection. Their decision protects no one except the administrators who made it.
It always seems easier in the moment to avoid problems, to keep them out of sight, maybe to hand over a degree and sign off on responsibility. Of course, avoiding problems just creates worse messes later on.
I’m here to create one of those messes. The way that Rice University dealt with me was unacceptable. The way that Rice University dealt with my rapist was worse.
Initiating a case through SJP is already unimagineably difficult; survivors of sexual assault shouldn’t need to be worried about the internal politics of a university so consumed with protecting its reputation that it is unwilling to protect survivors. I will meet with anyone, I will talk about my case and I will fight to make this process better. To the administrators involved in the series of decisions that allowed my rapist to graduate: you fucked up. The only way you can attempt to clean up this disaster is by never allowing this to happen again.
The last time I wrote an op like this, my rapist read it and mockingly quoted my own words in his statement to SJP. So, assuming that you, my rapist, are still an avid reader of the Thresher, I’d like to speak directly to you. Rice may have let you off the hook, but I certainly have not. I will continue to fight for my own personal form of justice. Today, “justice” means a very different thing from what it meant in November. Now, justice means fighting for current and future survivors of sexual assault. You messed me up, and I’m still working through the repercussions of that — but I’m going to do my best to make sure that no other survivor ever has to watch their rapist walk out of the Sallyport ever again. That’s my promise to you.
Editor’s Note: The author of this opinion, a Rice University alumnus, was granted anonymity to protect their identity. All claims are fact-checked in advance.
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