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Community Notification - March 1, 2015

March 1, 2015

Dear Members of the Brown Community,

On February 21st we notified the community of the outcome of a student organization hearing that concerned incidents which took place at an unauthorized party at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity on October 17, 2014. We did so consistent with our efforts this year to increased transparency regarding campus culture and conduct. While we firmly believe communicating information in this manner is important, it also presents challenges. Over the past week students, alumni, and former student organizations have widely disseminated their own communications, much of it inaccurate or incomplete. Our experience indicates that this is not uncommon for student conduct situations. Due to confidentiality, the complete picture is often known only to a few. However such matters naturally are of great concern to the campus, and are ripe for speculation and rumors. While our preference, out of respect for the privacy of the involved individuals, would be to issue no further statements about this case, we recognize that misinformation and rumors are harmful to students and must be corrected.

The following are facts in this case:

  • In the fall, two students reported that they were given alcoholic punch containing a date rape drug at the unauthorized party at Phi Kappa Psi. Subsequent to that report two drug tests were performed by two different external laboratories; a urine test for one student and a hair test for one student.
  • Brown was initially told by the first laboratory that the urine test confirmed the presence of exogenous (not naturally-occurring) GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate). We reported that information to the community on November 8. However, upon subsequent investigation and review by an independent medical expert, this laboratory revised its assessment and concluded that the level of GHB was low enough to be consistent with endogenous (naturally-occurring) GHB. We have been told that the laboratory has since suspended conducting this particular test. The revision in the laboratory’s assessment made clear that the test they conducted neither proved nor disproved that the student had ingested GHB. That test was excluded from further consideration in the case.
  • The laboratory that conducted the second test, the hair test, concluded from the outset that it could not confirm the presence of exogenous GHB. Brown received inconsistent accounts from the laboratory about how the test was conducted, leading to concerns about the reliability of the information from the laboratory. For this reason, the results from this test were never used as evidence by the student conduct panel hearing the allegations made against Phi Kappa Psi.
  • For both of these tests, a failure to positively identify the presence of exogenous GHB does not prove that GHB or another drug was not ingested. GHB, in particular, is difficult to detect since it leaves the body quickly. GHB is only one of a number of possible date rape drugs (including alcohol, the drug most commonly associated with sexual assault).
  • The final finding and sanction against Phi Kappa Psi did not rely on the results of any physical drug tests. Other evidence, including witness statements, video evidence, and the statements of the students who filed complaints, was sufficient to support the conclusion that the two students consumed alcohol and/or some other drug diminishing their normal functions to a degree that placed them at risk of harm. The sanctions imposed were based on this evidence as well as the past disciplinary record of the fraternity, and were fair and appropriate. It should be noted that, although Phi Kappa Psi was found responsible for holding an unregistered party and placing students at risk of harm, no member of Phi Kappa Psi was charged with sexual misconduct.
  • In both instances of testing the University relied on laboratories that had been recommended to us as capable of conducting the tests in a professional manner. We regret that neither was able to do so and we will not utilize either laboratory for such an assessment in the future. We further regret that the testing in this matter has become a point of controversy and harmful, contentious debate between students and in the media. The testing is irrelevant to the outcome of the disciplinary matter. Further claims or assertions between any of the involved parties will only prolong the disruption and harm these events have caused over the past several months.

This case has been complicated and difficult. The University had not previously been presented with a credible report of students being served a drink mixed with a date rape drug. We have learned a great deal from the investigation of these matters. Since this case occurred, many of the near-term recommendations of the Sexual Assault Task Force, such as the use of trained investigators, have been put in place to improve the University’s ability to effectively investigate complaints such as these. While the decisions that have been reached are, we believe, fair and appropriate we fully appreciate that not all members of the community do or will agree with us. We remain fully committed to realizing a campus culture and climate that is safe, welcoming and inviting for all students, and we hope all faculty, staff, students, and alumni will join us in doing so.

Sincerely,

Russell Carey, Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy

Margaret Klawunn, Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services