Xavier coming under fire for handling of sexual assault case

Published: Jan. 18, 2012 at 4:42 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2013 at 5:33 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Xavier University is coming under fire for its handling of a sexual assault case involving a university student.

According to documents obtained by FOX19 from the father of the alleged victim, Xavier Alumnus K. Burgio and her family have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's office of Civil Rights.

A Xavier spokesperson confirmed they did receive notice from the Department of Education that a complaint had been filed.

The alleged incident occurred the spring 2009 semester just a short time after the alleged perpetrator, Sean Marron, had been found in violation of the university's policies in regards to a separate sexual misconduct case. While the student was suspended for the fall semester he was allowed to remain on campus to complete his spring coursework.

When he returned in January of 2010 the family alleged Marron engaged in "stalking behavior" which prompted Burgio to report the behavior as well as the original sexual assault which the family says lead to criminal charges being filed following an investigation by Norwood Police.

The Burgio family states they waited to submit the complaint until the criminal trial against the alleged perpetrator was completed in the fall of 2011 "for fear that submitting a complaint prior to the trial's end might compromise Xavier's testimony".

Curtis Kissinger was Marron's criminal lawyer. According to Kissinger, Marron was acquitted on all four charges and is now enrolled in school in Cleveland.

Since the complaint was filed, Xavier's Dean of Students Luther Smith has been moved into a new position at the university working with the Provost on special projects. That moved took place last Friday according to university officials. The spokesperson for Xavier declined to comment further saying it was a personnel matter. The university did confirm, however, that Smith's superior Kathleen Simons was placed on leave. Simons held the title of Associate Provost for Student Life and Leadership at the university.

In the complaint, the student and her parents Louis and Kathryn Burgio state they believe the administration "responded to [their] daughter's situation inadequately from beginning to end, and in doing so violated Title IX, the Clery Act and their own university handbook."

The complaint goes on to make the following arguments:

  1. Xavier inappropriately negotiated on behalf of the accused and shifted responsibility to the victim
  2. Xavier failed to provide mandated information to the victim
  3. Xavier failed to adhere to its timeline for misconduct hearing to the benefits of the accused and detriment of the victim
  4. Xavier failed to enforce hearing rules equally and violated basic due process rights of the victim
  5. Xavier violated its sanctioning policy to benefit the perpetrator
  6. Xavier failed to provide necessary accommodations to address the effects of this incident on the victim.

Xavier officials provided the following statement to FOX19 regarding the allegations:

Xavier University has and will always take the care, health and safety of our students very seriously including preventing sexual harassment (including sexual assault and other sexual misconduct), assisting victims of sexual harassment and investigating allegations of sexual harassment.  The University has sanctioned students found responsible for such offenses. The University's leadership is committed to providing a safe and healthy campus and continues to refine its policies and their implementation.

According to the university, an ad hoc committee reviewed the Xavier Student Handbook in 2010 with respect to sexual harassment, and developed a set of relevant definitions and benchmark sanctions to be used when there is a finding of responsibility. These changes were incorporated into the Student Handbook in August 2010.

A spokesperson for the university says the university also has an advocate program that has been in place since 2003 for victims of sexual assault. In 2006 the Harassment Code and Accountability Procedures were instituted.

There is also a Xavier Students Against Sexual Assault group formed on campus in the summer of 2008. School officials say all students are also required to attend a workshop on the "hook-up" culture. The workshop is offered to first year students as "a dose of reality about casual sexual relations and invite them into a conversation about discerning what they really desire in regard to sexuality and relationships during college."

Finally, Xavier officials say they have also improved their wellness program which they say is "aimed at changing students' knowledge, attitudes and behavioral intentions regarding alcohol and other drug consumption, which often play a role in incidents of sexual harassment."

Louis Burgio says they sent an email to all Xavier administrators including the incoming Provost to express their frustration prior to filing the complaint. Burgio says they received a "nothing" response from the Chair, and never heard a word from a single administrator.

Louis says they have no desire to sue Xavier. Instead, they want "institutional change."

"Too many women have been hurt and worst of all they hurt my little girl," Burgio said. "And I don't allow that."

Copyright 2012 FOX19. All Rights Reserved.