Skidmore Student Found Responsible For Attack Suspended For Additional Two Years

Mar 26, 2015

Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC

The Skidmore College student found responsible for a sexual assault and whose readmission hearing sparked protests on campus and elsewhere has had his suspension extended by two years. Some advocates think the decision doesn’t go far enough.

Earlier this month, students packed the halls of Palamountain Hall on the Skidmore campus to protest the readmission hearing for a student found responsible for violating the school’s sexual and gender-based misconduct policy.

The protest was organized by case victim Reina Kiefer, a sophomore.

On Wednesday, Kiefer was informed that her attacker would be given a two-year suspension. She said she initially hesitated to share the news.

“Then I decided, ‘You know what? These people have been by my side 100 percent this whole time, and I want them to know what’s going on.’ I want them to be a part of this because they’ve been a part of it, and I think it feels good to me to share that.”

The name of Kiefer’s attacker has not been released by the college. Kiefer worked with local law enforcement and the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office but was told there was not enough evidence to continue pursuing criminal charges. 

Kiefer said she was satisfied to know that her attacker would not return to Skidmore during her tenure, but said the two-year suspension feels “incomplete.”

“I think in my case, specifically, because I can’t speak for everyone, penetration by incapacitation should be sufficient for expulsion.”

Kiefer’s attorney, James Marsh, said with Skidmore’s conclusive determination of the attack, the two-year suspension does not go far enough.

“When you have that kind of a conclusive determination with regards to this kind of behavior, the only alternative really is expulsion.”

Skidmore college spokeswoman Andrea  Wise provided WAMC with a statement regarding the results of the hearing that said:

Federal privacy laws and institutional practice—which are designed to safeguard student confidentiality and the integrity of our hearing process—prohibit public comment on cases that are being handled in the campus conduct system.”

But the campus conversation is not stopping. Marsh said Kiefer’s situation is rather unusual as most victims choose not to go public.

“Victims and survivors of sexual assault don’t want their picture in the paper or their name on the radio, so she really has pushed this issue and inspired a change at Skidmore in the way that they handle this.”

One student inspired by the protest and level of support for Kiefer is junior Abby Woodhouse. Woodhouse started a Facebook group called “Stand With Survivors.”

“I didn’t want that conversation to end once the protest was over, or once this specific trial was over, or once the school released a statement. I wanted to keep this going because it’s bigger than this one case, it’s bigger than Skidmore, it’s bigger than just universities. It’s an issue.”

The Student Government Association is continuing to push the college to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for those found responsible for sexual assault. SGA President Addison Bennett said in an email:

While automatic expulsion in all cases is probably not exactly what our community needs, a policy that reflects our zero tolerance for sexual assault is absolutely needed. Those found responsible in most cases, particularly aggravated sexual assaults, should be expelled.

Since updating its sexual assault and gender-based misconduct policy last August, Skidmore has scheduled four public discussions on the policy during the current school year. The most recent was Tuesday. Andrea Wise said the goal is to have a policy that’s fundamentally fair and to keep students safe.

“But also allows us to have policies, procedures, and educational materials that help us to respond to specific cases of sexual and gender-based misconduct, and to prevent cases of sexual and gender-based misconduct.”

The next is a webinar scheduled next Tuesday.

Kiefer said she initially experienced a lack of community in her past two years on campus, but she said that’s no longer true.

“I sort of expected 50 people to show up to the hearing and half of them to be my best friends, but instead it just took off as this movement and it was something I never anticipated. And it’s strange to be labeled as an activist without pursuing that purposefully. It sort of just happened.”

Kiefer said her next wish is to meet with New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been at the forefront of combating campus sexual assault nationally.