Student leads protests alleging that MIT allowed rapist to return

‘The COD and Chancellor are rapist enablers,’ Stata chalk message said

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A student walks past chalk art at the Stata Center that says "the Chancellor & the COD are RAPIST ENABLERS" Sept. 17.
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A drawing on the chalkboards in the Stata Center Sept. 12 read "MIT re-admits rapists. Nearly all rapists repeat after their first offense, so why let him back, Chancellor Barnhart?"
Yida Wang

Several pieces of chalkboard art in the Stata Center over the past few weeks have claimed that MIT allowed a rapist to return to campus.

The student behind these protests, Kollin Wasserlein ’19, said in an interview with The Tech that someone he knew at MIT was sexually assaulted. The perpetrator left following a Title IX investigation, and now, two years after the case was closed, the perpetrator has returned to campus, Wasserlein alleges.

According to Wasserlein, the victim is no longer at MIT.

The messages chalked by Wasserlein included the phrases, “MIT readmits rapists” (Sept. 12), “the COD [Committee on Discipline] and Chancellor are complicit in allowing rapists to remain on campus” (Sept. 14), and “the Chancellor and COD are rapist enablers” (Sept. 17).

Wasserlein does not know what the official sanction for the perpetrator was, as he has not asked the victim about the verdict.

Instead, Wasserlein is basing his claims on the fact that the perpetrator was removed from the student directories during Wasserlein’s freshman year, but the perpetrator’s information (with the same email address, course number, and class year) has reappeared recently, leading to Wasserlein’s conclusion that he has been allowed to return.

Wasserlein speculates that one of two things could have happened: the perpetrator was suspended for a period of about two years, or the perpetrator was initially expelled but successfully appealed the decision.

Despite his use of “readmit,” Wasserlein does not consider it a possibility that the perpetrator was expelled and then applied for readmission through the normal admissions process.

Wasserlein explained what he hopes is the outcome of his protests. “I see myself in this situation less as someone who has a great deal of ability to affect change but more as somebody who is able to shine a light on something that people don’t know about,” he said.

“I want to elicit the outrage that [the situation] deserves. And I feel that if administration sees that students care about effective punishments for people that commit crimes like this, then in the future, cases like this would be considered differently,” Wasserlein continued.

The driving force behind these protests appears to be solely Wasserlein, though he says others have reached out in support.  

Wasserlein and the victim are not in contact anymore, so the victim has not been consulted about the protests, Wasserlein explained in a follow-up email to The Tech.

“I am sure that these events, both the man being back on campus, and my actions, would not be helpful in allowing her to put his assault behind her,” Wasserlein wrote. “I did not make the decision to speak out about the rapist’s readmission without thinking about that, but in my own estimation, if the [I]nstitute is not punishing rapists in accordance with their actions, and they are allowing dangerous people back on campus, then people deserve to know.”

Wasserlein and the perpetrator have a mutual No Contact Order, which Wasserlein requested because “I want to be as far away from a rapist as possible,” he said in the interview.  

Wasserlein was unable to share further details about the case, in order to protect the privacy of the victim and also to avoid saying anything that could be construed as “threatening or intimidating” to the perpetrator, so The Tech was not able to independently verify his claims.

“We are aware of the statements that have been drawn on the Stata chalkboards,” according to a statement by the Office of the Chancellor emailed to The Tech Tuesday. “In order to protect the integrity of the disciplinary process and respect the privacy of all of the individuals involved, however, we will not be commenting on specific disciplinary matters.”

“MIT takes student sexual misconduct and assault very seriously and has an established response, adjudication, and sanctioning process to respond to reports of this nature,” the statement said.

The statement did not directly address The Tech’s questions about what MIT has done or plans to do in response to the protests, what factors would motivate a decision to suspend a student versus expel them, or what factors are considered in the appeal process. Instead, it linked to the Title IX, Committee on Discipline (COD), and Chancellor websites.

According to the COD’s guidelines, either the complainant or respondent may appeal a decision reached at a sexual misconduct hearing or sanctioning panel (if the case meets specified grounds), “regardless of the finding of responsibility or the severity of the sanction.”

Appeals are then decided by the Chancellor in consultation with the Chair of the COD and the members of the COD who decided the case; her decision is final.

Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88 extended an invitation to Wasserlein to meet and “discuss ways to advance MIT’s sexual misconduct prevention and response effort,” according to an additional statement by the Office of the Chancellor emailed to The Tech Wednesday. However, this meeting will not include discussion of any “specific COD matters.”

According to Wasserlein, they are now in the process of scheduling a time.

Wasserlein is currently taking a break in continuing the Stata messages, because “the news of this man’s returning to campus has caused me a great deal of stress, and so I’m trying to make sure I have my feet under me academically as I continue protesting this decision,” he wrote. “I plan to resume my messages very soon.”

Update 9/27/18: The article was updated to clarify that Chancellor Barnhart and Wasserlein will not be discussing specific COD matters in their proposed meeting.