by Raveena Pandhare
photo by Minh Anh Nguyen
On October 18, 2015, two MIT students entered unlocked dorm rooms in Student Village 2 in the middle of the night and sexually assaulted a female student. One of the students, Samson Donick, pleaded guilty to the assault and received five years of probation. Now, the formerly assaulted Boston University alum is suing the university for its lack of security and failure to protect its students. Boston University rebutted this argument by claiming that it was the student’s own fault for leaving her dorm room unlocked.
Five years later, the case of Jane Doe v. Boston University is set to go on trial, setting an example for not just Boston University, but colleges around the Massachusetts area as to how they should approach handling such situations.
According to the Boston Globe, one BU lawyer wrote in a court filing that she, Jane Doe, “was given the tools to assure her safety, a door with a sturdy lock, but she elected not to use it.” They went on to state that “the guiding principles apply with equal force here: even if the University has a duty to provide reasonably safe dormitories, it is unrealistic to require (or expect) a university to assume the role of insurer or custodian over its adult students.”
Many students on campus were infuriated by the university’s response to the sexual assault case and felt that the school was being hypocritical in saying that, “BU is committed to providing a safe environment for all members of our community,” in a recent BU Today article. These words of assurance failed to justify BU’s words and actions and this did not go unnoticed.
“BU should take responsibility for their actions…students want to be safe on campus and by them saying that we don’t guarantee safety isn’t proper justification.” Careena Uppaluri (SAR’22) stated.
Students argued that the university lacked regard for the safety of their students in that it deflected blame for what occurred and instead placed fault on the assaulted student.
Doris Lee (SAR’21) commented, “BU lawyers saying she could have protected herself if she had just locked the door is ridiculous. Instead of admitting faults or any flaws in BU security, BU is choosing to victim blame. What is the point of having security checkpoints in dorms if unauthorized persons can enter?”
This shed light on the broader issue that continues to surround the country’s academic institutions: the inherent flaws of the systems and policies in place in dealing with sexual assault.
Prisha Sujin (CAS ‘22) stated, “It’s just disappointing to see BU do the same thing as other universities with sexual assault. Instead of helping victims they’re further penalizing them and it is a pattern throughout other cases too.”
It is evident that Boston University students were riled up by the details of this case, but where do we go from here? This case is just one of thousands that occur at colleges nationally and this case definitely hit close to home.