INVESTIGATION: URI Fails to Act After Woman Reports Rape 6 Months Ago

Monday, May 14, 2018

 

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A 34-year old University of Rhode Island student confided in a faculty member that she was sexually assaulted — those words triggered a series of disturbing events and raise serious questions about how the University treats victims of sexual assault. Six months later the alleged rapist has not been interviewed by the University and the victim says she has now brought the case to law enforcement.

Kate Conroy in December 2017 told Professor Tom Boving that a male student sexually assaulted her after a night of going out and drinking. The alleged rape occurred in the summer of 2017.

"I‘m a non-traditional student. I’m 34, I went back to school when my son was born. I was in a summer class. The [teaching assistant], we weren’t super close or familiar. One night [after drinking] he assaulted me, and what happened was I didn’t want to deal with it — I knew he was going away and I thought I’d be free. I have a 9-year-old son — and a partner," Conroy told GoLocal.

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Professor Tom Boving

And while Conroy confided in Boving, she filed her own charges with the student conduct board. Functionally, over the six months from that time, URI officials did little to investigate the rape allegation.

This past week, URI officials began to take action only after GoLocalProv made numerous inquiries to the professors involved, the University's communication office, and the alleged victim.  Dean Daniel Graney, speaking about the University's approach and not to the specifics of the Conroy case, told GoLocal in a phone interview on Sunday, “This is a survivor based process. They drive the process. They can report it to anyone on campus."

But Conroy's attorney disagrees with the University's description of the sexual assault reporting process.

"She has been victimized three times. The rape, the six months delay in the investigation by the University, and the damages done to her career," said Artin Coloian, a prominent Providence defense attorney.

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Professor Nancy Karraker told students to stop spreading rumors about alleged rapist

A Victim's Horror Story

After the rape was reported what did happen to Conroy is a rape victim’s horror story.

One of her professors — a professor that also is the mentor to the alleged rapist — sent an email to one of her classes trying to discredit the rape allegations and protect the reputation of the alleged rapist.

Professor Nancy Karraker, an Assistant Professor of Natural Resources Science sent at least two emails to her students, according to Conroy, who was forwarded the communications — with one email asking students to stop “spreading gossip” about the alleged rapist.

> On Jan 21, 2018, at 7:09 PM, Nancy Karraker <[email protected]> wrote:

> Dear All,

> I have come to respect each of you highly in the last year or more and I have been proud to have each of you affiliated with my lab and my research. You all have been fantastic research assistants, and I am grateful for all you have done.

> I would kindly like to ask that anyone associated with my lab and research to refrain from spreading gossip about REDACTED. He works for me, has been a part of my lab research group for the last year, and the gossip is causing great turmoil for me and my research in Indonesia.

> I do not want this gossip associated with my lab. Thank you for your understanding.

> Best wishes,

> Nancy

The second email admonished student or students for forwarding her first email to the alleged rape victim.

---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: Nancy Karraker <[email protected]>

Date: Thu, Jan 25, 2018 at 9:29 AM

Subject: Re: Discussion

To: REDACTED

Dear All,

And now I would like to know which one of you forwarded my message onward. I am furious and cannot believe one of you would do this.

- Dr. Karraker

What was worse for Conroy was during the same period, the alleged rapist was selected for a prestigious Fulbright apprenticeship.  And, in turn, Karraker, who had always given Conroy positive feedback and high grades, turned Conroy down for a teaching assistantship.

Conroy provided GoLocal a series of text message exchanges between Karraker and Conroy. Karraker repeatedly said positive comments about Conroy. Conroy received an “A” grade in her course with Karraker prior to Conroy reporting the rape.

"Regarding Karraker, I filed a Title 9 violate against her. I applied to the [teaching assistant] position thinking she thought highly of me, when she wrote to colleagues calling me unstable [after the incident happened]. Whatever version of my rape he’s been telling people and that I’m crazy — that I made it up. So she denied me a TA position," said Conroy in an interview with GoLocal.

After Conroy brought concerns to the University, she says she was contacted by her alleged rapist -- which led to both her and the alleged rapist being issued no-contact orders.

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Dean Graney, Head of Student Life

Dear Catherine,

My name is Dan Graney, and I am the Dean of Students at the University of Rhode Island. With this email I am issuing you a No Contact Order between yourself and REDACTED, This is a mutual No Contact Order, meaning that REDACTED will receive the exact same order with the names reversed. 

I understand that REDACTED is currently abroad so some of the physical restrictions will not come into play until his return. However, any attempt to communicate with REDACTED, in any medium, after the issuance of this order will be considered a violation and could result in additional action taken by the Office of Community Standards.

Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Best regards,

Dan

Daniel Graney, Ed.D.

Dean of Students

Dean of Students Office

University of Rhode Island

(401) 874-2098

[email protected]

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Claire Hall, outside consultant

URI Uses Third-Party Consulting Service to Investigate Sexual Assault Allegations

It is unclear why the University did not refer the rape allegation to South Kingstown Police, but instead, the University referred the case to a consulting firm. The investigator, Claire Hall of the firm UECAT,  was tapped and has not responded to questions from GoLocal.

The firm markets itself as a compliance solution for universities, “We understand that when it comes to compliance, colleges and universities often need help in many different areas. UECAT was created to meet that need. UECAT offers a broad range of compliance-related assistance nationwide.”

Hall repeatedly refused to respond to requests for an interview. 

According to Graney, "For the past two years, the University has used an outside resource who meets with both parties and then compiles a report."

"The reason for the third party consulting firm was we wanted to remove the perceived bias out of the system," said Graney.

EUCAT is used by URI  because the firm was on a list of consultants offered to the University by United Educators (UE) and EUCAT was the closest.

EU is an insurance risk management firm and according to its website, “UE provides liability insurance and risk management services to nearly 1,600 members representing schools, colleges, and universities throughout the United States.”

"In the last year, there were eight cases that were investigated by the external investigator. Again, not every case that is reported goes through the investigative process, that is the choice of the complainant/survivor," said Graney.

By federal law all crimes on campus are required to be reported to the U.S. Department of Education under the Clery Act — The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act is a federal statute requiring colleges and universities participating in federal financial aid programs to maintain and disclose campus crime statistics and security information.

A 2016 story found that URI only reported a fraction of the number of sexual assaults versus its peer universities.

Was URI under-reporting — or are their students just not coming forward? 

“So we asked ourselves the same question,” said Mary Jo Gonzales, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs at URI told GoLocal in 2016. “We have a sexual assault response team who meets every Monday and reviews cases and offers a case management approach to help us.  We took a comprehensive look at why we had a decrease in numbers, our pattern has been steadily going down. One [reason] is that we saw an uptick of off-campus sexual assaults that are not reported under the Clery Act. We have a sizable off-campus population, roughly three thousand to five thousand students, who live in Narragansett were activities can happen.”

Gonzales said that the off-campus divide did not stop the school from taking a proactive approach, however. 

“Last fall, we heard about a series of [off-campus] incidents, so we sent out a notification to all students, and that happened on Oct 8, 2015,” said Gonzales in 2016. "We said we would still [take action] on campus if victims come forward. We talked about our violence prevention unit. We weren’t obligated, but we felt compelled.”

"I don’t believe URI is under-reporting (rapes)…A lot of these happen off campus and those do not have to be reported under Clery,” said Graney.

Repeatedly, Conroy reached out to the consultant Hall for updates and guidance — Hall claimed that she could not reach the alleged rapist as he was overseas on his apprentice program.

In January, Hall first responded that she was trying to reach the alleged rapist:

From: Claire Hall <[email protected]>

Date: Mon, Jan 15, 2018 at 7:24 AM

Subject: Fwd: Important- Title IX investigation

To: Kate Conroy <[email protected]>

Hi Kate,

Below please find messages that were shared with me by REDACTED. I have not had the opportunity to speak with REDACTED yet. As I explained when we spoke, I will try and speak with REDACTED and then speak with any other persons with relevant information, and then speak with you. 

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you,

Claire 

Claire K. Hall, J.D. Owner    UECAT, LLC    877-UECAT-01 (877-832-2801)    [email protected]    www.uecat.com

Then in March, after Conroy again followed up with Hall about the investigation, Hall disclosed in an email that the investigation continued to be stalled.  

Conroy provided GoLocal with communications, however, from her alleged assailant while he was abroad, which showed he was in regular contact with URI students on other matters. 

From: Claire <[email protected]>

Date: Thu, Mar 22, 2018 at 10:38 AM

Subject: Investigation

To: [email protected]

Cc: Daniel Graney <[email protected]>

Hi Kate,

Thank you for your emails. We have not identified any means by which I can have a conference call with the Respondent and his advisor. Accordingly, the University has determined that is necessary to wait until the Respondent returns from Indonesia to conduct his interview. In the meantime, I am conducting all of the witness interviews so they will be complete when the Respondent returns. If there are any other individuals that you have not identified who you believe have relevant information, please let me know.

Thank you,

Claire 

Claire K. Hall, J.D.Owner    UECAT, LLC    877-UECAT-01 (877-832-2801)    [email protected]    www.uecat.com

GoLocal tried to reach Hall via phone, email, LinkedIn and Facebook messenger, but Hall did not respond.

"URI needs to be more proactive in their investigations. It is now six months after the University was reported and nothing has functionally happened. Where is the justice," said Coloian.

While URI's external investigator was claiming she could not schedule a meeting with the alleged rapist, he was sending emails to classmates asking for their support as he was seeking an office-holder position with a student organization. 

The alleged rapist emailed multiple classmates:

Hey guys,

I'll be back for next semester and am considering running for a leadership position. I figured Vice President. I'm not huge for the bureaucratic responsibilities required of the president. I'd much rather focus on helping the club with opportunities and connections....
 I'll be back in May (I am enrolled for the Fall semester) and so will be available to meet from then on.

Thanks.

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Conroy has called for URI to investigate the alleged rape

REDACTED

The investigation — or lack of investigation -- has now dragged on for nearly six months.

After Conroy reached out to GoLocal and the news organization contacted multiple University officials, Graney emailed, “The University takes the issue of sexual violence seriously, and one sexual assault is one too many. It is inappropriate for the University to discuss any individual allegations or student conduct cases. What we can say is that the University follows strict protocols with sensitivity and compassion for victims and a fair and equitable process for individuals accused of sexual violence, while being consistent with Title IX and the requirements of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.” 

The head of communications Linda Acciardo sent the same exact response to different questions, “The University takes the issue of sexual violence seriously, and one sexual assault is one too many. It is inappropriate for the University to discuss any individual allegations or student conduct cases. What we can say is that the University follows strict protocols with sensitivity and compassion for victims and a fair and equitable process for individuals accused of sexual violence, while being consistent with Title IX and the requirements of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.”

According to Graney, reported sexual assaults are ultimately referred to the Sexual Assault Response Team - a multidisciplinary team that includes representatives from the Dean of Students Office, the Office of Community Standards, Housing and Residential Life, Violence Prevention & Advocacy, Title IX, and the URI Police.

"We meet every Monday to review any new cases that are reported to ensure the student is receiving any and all resources or accommodations available, as well as tracking the progress of any past cases that are going through the Student Conduct System," said Graney.

"I have grave concerns about their policies and their implementation," said Coloian.

Six Months Later

Last Friday, URI officials confirmed to Conroy that the alleged rapist has yet to be interviewed and has now refused to, even though he has returned from his Fulbright apprentice position and told fellow students he was running for an academic office. 

From: Daniel Graney <[email protected]>

Date: Fri, May 11, 2018, 07:03

Subject: Investigation Update

To: Kate Conroy <[email protected]>, Claire Hall <[email protected]>

Ms. Conroy,

Our office has been notified that REDACTED has decided not to participate in the investigation interview with Claire Hall. She will be contacting you to schedule your final interview.

Best regards,

Dan Graney

Alleged Rapist Refused Comment

GoLocal reached out to the alleged rapist and received the following from his attorney, "Our office has been contacted by REDACTED regarding a request he received from GoLocalProv.com for comment."

"REDACTED denies that he engaged in any such conduct as referenced in your email, and he has retained us to protect his interests in this matter. REDACTED has informed us that he will offer no further comment on this allegation.”

Michael T. Brady, the attorney confirmed that he was only engaged to represent the alleged rapist only after GoLocal sought comments. According to Brady’s website he “spent 20 years in law enforcement including 11 years as Chief of Police.” He served as police chief of Charlestown, RI.

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Members looking for information are hard pressed to find it.

URI Refuses to Answer Questions About Process

URI officials refused to answer any questions about the University’s process for handling sexual assaults.   

On the University’s website — the page dedicated to sexual assault titled, Sexual Assault Information leads to a hyper-link for the Student Handbook — but that information is unavailable. It clicks through to a broken link.

404 — this page does not exist

Let's help you find what you were looking for.

The page you were looking for is not available. This could be for a number of reasons.

That page also sources an 11-year-old study.  

Editor's Note: Conroy has filed a formal police report. 

 
 

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