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Framingham State bans second student in two weeks amid sexual assault allegations

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  September 28, 2012 02:20 PM

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Framingham State University students told school administrators Friday that they were upset school officials did not inform them quickly about various sexual assaults this month on campus.

The university has banned two students in the past two weeks amid separate allegations of sexual assault between acquaintances on the campus, where two thirds of the students are women. The most recent assault occurred Friday morning around 3 a.m., when a North Hall female resident reported that a male student she knew sexually assaulted her.

The assaults led administrators to call a public safety information meeting on Friday, which was well-attended by hundreds of men and women who go to Framingham State.

Officials said that reports of the first incidents, where three different individuals reported Sept. 19 that they were sexually assaulted on separate occasions in Towers Hall by the same person, were posted on the campus police’s website and Facebook page, as well as on residential bulletin boards.

But many students said the university should have sent out text or email alerts, as many residents do not check the campus police website or bulletin boards daily.

“I live in Towers Hall, but I found out through the media,” a female student told a panel of administrators at the meeting Friday. “I know we have the safety bulletins, but when I’m rushing out and there are people rushing out behind me, it’s hard to read those.”

University officials said they did not use the text alert system because the sexual assaults happened between student acquaintances and did not jeopardize the community’s safety.

“We have an alert system for immediate threats, but these past two situations were not immediate,” said Brad Medeiros, chief of campus police.

When students then asked for the school to set up a separate alert system for campus crimes, administrators said they worried that a barrage of alerts would grow burdensome on the students.

“There’s the possibility that you might get over-exposure fatigue,” said Dean of Students Melinda Stoops. “We want to save the alerts for a moment when we really want you to see it.”

The alleged perpetrators, who both study at the university, were promptly found and removed from campus within one hour of students reporting them, Medeiros said.

“No one is lurking behind closed doors or jumping out from behind bushes,” Medeiros said at the meeting. “These people knew each other, and their guard was let down.”

The two alleged suspects had nothing to do with one another, according to university spokesman Dan Magazu.

The Framingham Police Department and the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office are assisting the university with the ongoing investigation.

The safety meeting Friday brought up other safety worries by students. One student said she called campus police while waiting alone at night for a delayed university shuttle, and the police dispatcher told her to just continue waiting for the bus.

Timothy Flanagan, the university’s president, said although he is aware of campus shuttle complications, he appreciated students coming forward about the campus police’s reactions.

“If you run into that situation again, ask to talk to a supervisor,” Flanagan said, noting that students can ask for police escorts when they feel unsafe.

Jenna Sujdak, a sophomore, also asked if it was possible for the university to provide self-defense classes.

Medeiros said the university offers one 12-hour course in rape aggression defense per semester, but could offer more courses if needed.

Students who attended the meeting said afterwards that they were shocked the university did little to notify them, but said they hoped officials would take their concerns and suggestions seriously.

“There was a lack of communication,” said Rachel O’Malley, a sophomore who lives in Pierce Hall on campus. “There was some backlash from the first incident - everyone was making assumptions because talk was escalating from word of mouth. But I think it’s good if they [the university] hold to their word on the ways to make it better.”

Other students said they commiserated with the administration. Brittany Vo, a sophomore who lives in Larned Hall, said she thinks the campus is honestly safe.

“I lived in Towers Hall last year, which is a ton of freshmen, and everyone would leave their doors open to make friends,” Vo said. “I guess it might get you to let your guard down too much.”

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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