CU Boulder students at protest demand suspension of man accused of sexual assault

Several survivors of sexual assault and University of Colorado student activists who gathered at the University Memorial Center fountains on Monday called for the suspension of a student accused of sexually assaulting another CU student. One of the survivors who spoke said the suspect sexually assaulted her years ago.

in the alleged assault of the CU student.

Protest organizer Samantha West, a graduate student and teaching assistant at CU, said the news of Roper‘s arrest and alleged crime spread quickly on campus and upset many people.

While various students groups are working to organize an “Expel Abusers” campaign, West said they decided to take action now on this case.

“College students need to unite to stop rape culture,” West said.

Protestors are asking CU to suspend Roper and, if he is found guilty of the allegations, expel him from the university.

According to an arrest affidavit, the victim in the CU case was sent home from a sorority date dash event to her sorority house in an Uber with Roper. The Uber driver told police that Roper changed their destination to his apartment. The victim, who drank throughout the night and needed help getting out of the car, told police she awoke later in the night to Roper sexually assaulting her. She did not know Roper before being set up with him for the event.

Roper was arrested but is out of the Boulder County Jail on .

CU said federal law prohibits it from commenting on specific cases. The school released a statement saying the Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance investigates every report of sexual misconduct.

New allegations

University of Colorado students Anna Estes and Clark Zimmerman hold a banner during a protest on Monday at the Boulder campus. ()

During the protest, an Erie High School student came forward and said she was also assaulted by Roper when she was younger. She is not being identified because she is a minor and a victim of sexual assault.

The victim told the Daily Camera that her family was close with Roper‘s, and she considered him a cousin before the assault.

While celebrating a birthday at a hotel in Glenwood Springs, the victim said that Roper locked her in his hotel room and attempted to rape her. She was saved when her sister banged on the hotel room door, she said, because Roper was concerned the noise would get him caught.

She reported the alleged assault in October 2018, three years after the incident occurred. Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson confirmed the department received a sexual assault complaint against Roper in October, but the Office of the District Attorney for the 9th Judicial District declined to prosecute the case due to insufficient evidence.

Wilson said that, after learning of the current charges against Roper, he might talk about the case with the district attorney again.

The victim said she was angry about what happened to her, and isn‘t surprised by the new allegations. While the victim said Roper‘s mother said he was sorry and getting therapy, the victim felt “he was only sorry because he had to be.”

She didn‘t tell anyone about the alleged assault for years, and developed depression and anxiety.

“It‘s common sense that this is a problem and you need to expel him,” she said.

‘Rush to judgment‘

“We pay for an environment that is nonhostile,” West, one of the organizers, said to a crowd of around 30 people. “Do you think that we pay thousands of dollars so that someone can feel entitled to our bodies? No. Do we go into thousands of dollars worth of debt to just run into your assailant on campus? No.”

West said that rape culture has been an issue on college campuses throughout history, and that Title IX is meant to protect students from assailants.

While some say that students accused of sexual assault can‘t be suspended or expelled before a thorough investigation, West said she believes allowing suspects on campus during investigations is a safety issue.

“If this administration wants to show that they care about the safety of students, of employees, they should suspend him,” she said.

A statement from CU said “The university is committed both to individual and community safety and provides numerous support services. It is critical that students know the university has an established process for reviewing, investigating and taking action on all reported cases of sexual assault. If a student is found responsible, sanctions for sexual misconduct include suspension or expulsion, depending on the severity of the case.”

Lindsay Richardson, a partner at the Denver law firm Richards Carrington, said the demands of the protest are not “prudent or pragmatic right now” and emphasized that CU is obligated to investigate the issue and look at both sides.

“The rush to judgment is really dangerous,” she said. “It threatens the semblance of our whole idea and foundation of due process.”

Statistics not the whole story

According to data provided by CU from the 2017-18 academic year, 23 of 37 students who were formally investigated for sexual misconduct were found responsible for violating the school‘s policies.

Of those 23, 11 were suspended, six were expelled, three received an educational sanction, two were put on probation and one was referred to the Office of Student Conduct.

Several students who spoke on Monday pointed at the school‘s statistics, as well as statistics provided through the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

According to those numbers, West said that less than 1 percent of the student population reported sexual assaults. Comparing this with national statistics, which show that 23 percent of female undergraduate students will experience rape or sexual assault, shows that there may be a reporting problem on campus, she said.

Megan Ferreira said the school needs to think in a “survivor-first manner.”

“We need to get rid of these terrible people,” she said of those found responsible for sexual misconduct who weren‘t expelled. “It‘s no coincidence that these mostly white men are rich as hell.”

Chris CastaƱeda, a junior at CU, said that rape is a man‘s issue.

“We are responsible for dismantling (the patriarchy),” he said at the protest. “You look at your friends, you call them out on their (expletive)… You let this happen, you‘re complicit in the violence.”

‘Does not end today‘

Several of the students who spoke also identified as survivors of sexual assault.

Casey Caplin, a senior at CU, said she was assaulted before coming to CU. She had a protection order in place against her abuser.

“When I provided that document, the campus put my abuser first,” she said. Caplin said her abuser enrolled at CU before her, and the school said that meant he could stay.

“I did not feel safe on this campus,” she said. After facing intimidation from her abuser, who was limited by the order in his class options and what campus events he could attend, she withdrew the order and attempted to move on with her life.

Carson Ash, a senior, said she hung a sign saying “hold frats accountable” in the window of her home on University Hill, where she is surrounded by fraternities and sororities. A man smashed her window where the sign was hung, screamed and ran away, she said.

Ash said she is not saying that every fraternity member is a rapist, but they all should hold each other accountable.

“You know what happens at those parties, you know what your brothers get away with and you know that you have the power to stop it, but you don‘t,” she said. “And it‘s your (expletive) problem.”

Many of the students at the protest were part of the Expel Abusers campaign, which is organized by the International Socialist Organization, the Young Democratic Socialists of America and UMAS y MEXA. They are organizing a set of demands to send to the university after several incidents have sparked concern, including a closed investigation into druggings at parties on the Hill. No charges could be filed because blood work tied to the case was botched.

“The administration has made it clear: They will not act unless we push them to act,” said Sage Yeager-Wheton. “And that starts here with us, but it does not end today after our protest.”

Receive News & Ratings Via Email - Enter your email address below to receive a concise daily summary of the latest news and analysts' ratings with MarketBeat.com's FREE daily email newsletter.