A group of Princeton University students set up a crowdfunding campaign for a fellow student to pay for the fines she was charged for writing “Title IX Protects Rapists” on campus walkways. The GoFundMe campaign has raised almost $4,000, exceeding its goal of $2,722.58, the amount the student was fined by the school.
The student, a victim of sexual assault who wrote the graffiti on the walkways to draw attention to the Title IX process at Princeton, must pay the fine by May 17 and do 50 hours of community service. She will also be on probation for four years.
“The university is taking damages to its property far more seriously than it took the sexual assault suffered by this survivor and many others,” wrote members of the SHARE Peers for Title IX Reform on the GoFundMe page for the student. “With this action, the university is suppressing the voices of survivors speaking out against the injustices of the Princeton Title IX system.”
Asked about the student’s case, a spokesman said in accordance with school policy, Princeton University does not comment on any individual student disciplinary proceedings.
“The university takes seriously its mission to support the free expression of all views, and we absolutely support and defend the right of students to participate in peaceful protest activities,” said Michael Hotchkiss, deputy spokesman for the university.
Students are not disciplined for participating in peaceful protests or speech, Hotchkiss said. They are subject to discipline, including probation, if they deface and damage university property. Hotchkiss said the school does not impose fines in cases of vandalism, but does require restitution for the damage that has been done.
The SHARE Peers for Title IX Reform group is also using the student’s case and GoFundMe campaign to highlight concerns about the Title IX process at Princeton. Students are also holding a rally and sit-in on Tuesday to protest Princeton’s Title IX process. The students claim the process protects rapists. They also say the process is traumatic for many sexual assault survivors, who feel like they are being interrogated, and that case rulings often blame victims.
“The university educates students that a person who is incapacitated by alcohol or other substances cannot consent,” reads the peer statement. “However, multiple students have lost their Title IX cases because they were intoxicated when they were assaulted.”
Students also say there are no financial resources available for survivors to pay a trained legal professional to help them in their cases, meaning wealthy students accused of sexual assault who can afford expensive attorneys have the advantage. The students also say the Title IX process is “extremely opaque,” that students are never educated on the process, and the students do not how know to collect the evidence they need to win their cases.
“Punishments are assigned based on precedent. This outdated precedent has disproportionately kept assailants on this campus and protected the university’s image. This is a system that perpetuates itself,” reads the statement. “Assailants often quickly return to or remain on campus, forcing survivors to face constant trauma and fear.”
The students say there is no avenue for them to make complaints about the Princeton Title IX process, and that sexual assault survivors can only appeal the outcomes of their cases on technicalities. Students say they have shared their grievances with the head of Title IX at the school, but this has not resulted in changes to the process.
“The university’s greatest interest is protecting itself and its reputation, not its students,” the SHARE Peers for Title IX Reform said in their statement.
Hotchkiss said university officials take sexual assault claims very seriously. “Sexual misconduct is deeply disturbing, and we hope students feel comfortable seeking the support that they need through the SHARE office and/or the Title IX disciplinary process,” he said.
“Although the circumstances of every sexual misconduct matter are different, the campus community should be assured that allegations are investigated thoroughly,” Hotchkiss said. “Complainants have extensive rights, including the right of appeal, and discipline is imposed in many cases.”