The victim of a sexual assault by John O’Neill, a non-University student and guest of a Beta Theta Pi (Beta) brother, at the Beta house two years ago filed a federal lawsuit against the University last Friday, Oct. 8. The suit charges the administration with violating federal gender-equity law Title IX by neglecting to take sufficient measures to prevent the assault.
“Wesleyan did nothing to prevent, and was deliberately indifferent to the harm caused to Jane Doe by the rape and outrageous sexual harassment and intimidation that followed her everywhere on campus,” reads the 27-page lawsuit filed by the former student, a Maryland woman identified as “Jane Doe.”
The lawsuit also named both the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity and the Mu Epsilon chapter, as well as the Raymond Duy Baird Memorial Association, which owns the Beta property. The anonymous woman is seeking unstated damages.
The University’s Director of Media Relations Lauren Rubenstein declined to comment on the case.
“The deplorable actions taken by Mr. O’Neill, a non-member, do not align with the attitudes and values of our Fraternity,” said current Beta President Elliot Albert ’14 in a press release circulated by the Beta Fraternity yesterday afternoon. “We offer our support to the victim and will continue to partner with Wesleyan’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) in order to stress the value of positive and healthy relationships on our campus and in our community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim.”
Beta Theta Pi leadership reiterated its commitment to supporting the Mu Epsilon chapter in Monday’s press release, with senior leadership from the fraternity’s international office in Oxbridge, Ohio arriving last Sunday to help coordinate responses to the lawsuit.
The assault, committed at a Halloween party on the night of Oct. 30, 2010, reportedly pushed the University to increase pressure on students to avoid the then off-campus house, culminating in the announcement of controversial revisions to the University housing policy in February of 2011. The policy, first articulated in an all-campus email authored by Vice President of Student Affairs Mike Whaley, prohibited students from using houses or property owned, leased, or operated by private societies not recognized by the University. Students found violating the stipulation would face disciplinary action, and the measure sparked protests and criticism among both students and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). After the alteration of some of the language of the policy and continued pressure from the University, Beta decided to return to campus and was formally recognized by the administration as a program house in June 2011.
Last April, O’Neill of Yorktown, NY, pleaded no contest to charges of third-degree sexual assault and first-degree unlawful restraint and is now serving a 15-month sentence at the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, CT.