The complaint, handwritten like a diary entry, unspools across six pages of notepaper. “I was a student” at Roxbury Community College, it begins, “and Orikaye Brown-West was my instructor.”
Then: “He kept calling me.” “He would leave notes on my car asking ‘if we could date?’ ” “He said, ‘I know where you live. … No one is going to believe anything that you say.’ ”
One night in 2003, Brown-West found the student on campus and grabbed her from behind, the complaint says. She remembers his cologne, then his hands: one gripping her breast, the other between her legs. He stopped, according to the student, only when he heard the nearby jangle of a janitor’s keys.
The student, now 49 and living in Dorchester, told the Globe she fogged up on antidepressants after the alleged assault. A single mother, she struggled to care for her son. She flunked her classes and dropped out.
“I was at RCC,” said the woman, who did not want her name used. “But I was invisible.”
On Aug. 26, 2010, she decided to change that. She hand-delivered the complaint to the college and later discussed the issue in person with RCC officials.
Under the federal Clery Act, RCC should have included her accusation in a tally of serious criminal allegations at the college, which is required to report crime statistics annually to the US Department of Education. The law is designed to protect students and victims by preventing schools from hiding evidence of potential crimes.
But the school did not report any sex-crime allegations that year. The student remained invisible.
RCC’s failure to respond appropriately was not an isolated incident. Recently, college employees approached the Department of Education with suspicions that it might represent a pattern. The department is now investigating the school for potential lapses in crime reporting.
The education department does not comment on ongoing probes. Brown-West died in January. All of RCC’s administrators have repeatedly declined requests for public comment on almost all questions related to the federal investigation.
But through dozens of interviews and a review of thousands of documents, the Globe has uncovered details of the probe, troubling stories, and evidence of a culture of secrecy and recrimination at the college.
Government documents show the Department of Education has specifically requested information on five RCC employees accused of sexual transgressions, including Brown-West. The accusations and circumstances surrounding those employees vary widely, and it is extremely unlikely that all the cases rise to the level of reporting under the Clery Act. But questions have been raised by others about how the college responded to the accusations, and the education department is including some of those questions as part of its wide ranging investigation of potential concerns regarding compliance with its crime reporting rules.
RCC has not reported a single sex-crime allegation to the government in the past 11 years — including the entire tenure of president Terrence Gomes, who stepped down in June under scrutiny from not just the federal government but also the state auditor’s office, which is investigating a morass of issues.
Personnel papers regarding three of the accused employees have gone missing and may have been destroyed. A college official has resigned over what he alleged was an administrative attempt to inappropriately influence an investigation. Several other employees who have tried to act as whistleblowers say they have been fired or threatened with the possibility of job loss, been pressured to quit, or received suspiciously timed negative performance evaluations.
The other four cases of interest to the Department of Education involve:
■ A professor who was accused by a student of sexual harassment.
■ A laboratory technician who allegedly rubbed his genitals against another employee.
■ A staffer at the college’s Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center accused of fondling a former student.
■ Another Reggie Lewis employee accused — wrongly, it turned out — of statutory rape.
An internal audit recently commissioned by the college also notes problems with RCC’s general Clery Act implementation. The school has failed to distribute an annual campus-wide report on its crime policies, as required by law. When asked by its auditors, it could not produce crime logs for the academic years 2003-04, 2004-05, and 2006-07.
RCC may have violated the Clery Act in recent interactions with the Globe. In August, the vice president of administration and finance, Chuks Okoli, instructed the college’s security office to refuse to show crime logs to a reporter, contrary to Clery Act requirements — although Okoli had just been to a Clery training session arranged by the state’s community colleges. Okoli, who declined to explain his behavior or otherwise comment, complied after the Globe complained to the Department of Education. Continued...