By Courtney Herrick
Where’s Jane Doe?
Early in January, the VWC board of trustees met to discuss the status of the most recent lawsuit against the college. The plaintiff in the case, who is identified as “Jane Doe,” is suing the college for $10 million in what she alleges is the mishandling of her sexual assault case.
“We are in the discovery phase,” Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Enrollment Services David Buckingham said. “We, the college, and the college’s attorney specifically look at information, gather information and share information with one another. That is called a period of discovery and that is what we are in.”
Buckingham went on to state that several students who attended the college at the time of the incident and held a position of authority were notified that their student records may be subpoenaed for use in court. These students include residential assistants and peer advisors.
The letter was signed by Dean of Students Keith Moore. Students were also notified that they could have made an objection to their records being subpoenaed by making an objection at the Norfolk Circuit Court. Since the letter was sent early in January and gave students a week after receiving the letter to object, students are no longer able to make an objection.
“[The college has] provided the judge and the court with the documentation that shows that we do train RAs, we do train officers, and that we do have programs regarding alcohol and sexual misconduct and how the two come together oftentimes,” Buckingham said.
College officials have recently been looking at alcohol’s relevance to sexual assaults, and some colleges have decided to make a change to their policies regarding alcohol violations.
According to the Boston Globe, Dartmouth College has implemented new alcohol restrictions in an attempt to reduce sexual assaults on campus. Jason Seward, director of the Jane P. Batten Center, director of recreational sports, and dean of freshmen, was unable to speak on potential changes to VWC’s alcohol policy. “Our policy on alcohol, when you’re 21 years old, is a fair one,” Seward said.
Additionally, no changes have been made to Title IX since the Jane Doe case went public.
“We have gone to the “T” by what is printed in our handbook and online under our reporting of sexual misconduct crimes,” Seward said. “Nothing has changed.”
Since students were notified about the Jane Doe case, Seward stated that he has not seen an increase in sexual assault reporting on VWC’s campus.
Safety has been a major concern among students since hearing about the case. Some students feel campus security could be improved.
“I feel like security could do a better job at not just physical safety but also mental safety,” freshman Kayla Ritchard said. “It’s not the safest campus, but it’s not the worst either.”
Other students feel security does a great job at protecting the students on campus.
“I feel safe all of the time,” said sophomore, residential assistant, and Wesleyan ambassador Jasmine Driggs. “I don’t have any issues with security. I think they do a really nice job, honestly.”
“There’s been a dramatic improvement in security since I heard about the Jane Doe case,” sophomore Nicolas Snyder said. “The LiveSafe app has been a tremendous asset to the campus. If you ever feel unsafe you can have security escort you to wherever you need to be through the app.” Being a residential assistant, Snyder feels he has seen the improvement in security first-hand.
Another concern since the Jane Doe case is how it has affected future students’ decision to come here. However, the case has not seem to have had a major impact on enrollment here at VWC.
“We are currently running 10 ahead on ‘deposited,’ or students that have chosen to enroll at Virginia Wesleyan,” Dean of Admissions Nelson Davis said.
Recently, the college has provided the courts with demurs (objections to claims made in a case), a bill of particulars (detailed information on the plaintiff’s charges or claims given upon the defendant’s request), and a plea bar (documentation to be used in favor of the defense).
The judge will listen to the demurs, the bill of particulars and the special plea bar set by the college’s attorney, which states that they disagree with what Jane Doe’s attorney has presented, that the college accurately reports crime on campus, and that the college takes steps to prevent and to address sexual assault if and when it occurs.
The hearing that was scheduled for Jan. 29, 2015 was postponed because a new judge was assigned. The Honorable David W. Lannetti will hear the case.
Buckingham said that the campus community will be notified of the outcome of the case as soon as a decision is made.
Efforts are being made to better educate students on sexual assault. There will be a male-focused discussion on sexual assault Feb. 12, 2015 at 7 p.m. in the Boyd Dining Hall. All students are welcome to attend.