St. Norbert Alumni and Current Students Say Officials Have Mishandled Cases of Sex Assault

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Students at an area college are fighting to make changes to their school’s Title IX program.

This comes after they say cases of sexual assault have been mishandled by St. Norbert’s administration for years.

The U.S. Department of Education defines Title IX as the statute that protects individuals from discrimination based on sex in education programs.

In April, 217 current St. Norbert students signed a letter to the school’s president that said they want sexual assault on campus to actively be addressed.

Alumni shared their stories of assault on St. Norbert’s campus with Local 5.

According to the alleged victims, the common denominator: their cases were mishandled or ignored.

Including Jordyn Gaurkee, a student at UWGB.

She joined St. Norbert’s ROTC program and was raped by someone who was not only a cadet, but a campus safety officer.

When word eventually got to the school’s Title IX office Jordyn was interviewed multiple times.

The second interview was not what she expected.

“She was very more aggressive toward me and seem to be victimizing me and you could kind of tell that she already had her mind made up and that she didn’t believe me,” says Jordyn.

A theme that resonated with other students seeking help from school leaders.

“One of the questions I was asked was, ‘what were you wearing?'” says former St. Norbert student Taylor Schregardus. “And you know now that I’m a little bit older and I’ve been a little bit more active and looking at this stuff, I’m thinking, oh my god, they were blaming me for it.”

Taylor says she wasn’t raped, but was assaulted on campus and reported the assault to campus security.

“Because I wasn’t raped there was no proof that it had happened which is basically what campus security told me when I reported it to them,” says Taylor. “They said that it wouldn’t pay to go to the police because there was no physical evidence, it was “he said she said”.”

Margaret Uselman was a residential assistant during her time at St. Norbert.

Residential assistants are mandated reporters meaning they’re required to report sexual assault.

It was her Facebook post in September that alleges the school’s vice president, Fr. Jay Fostner, was often dismissive of sex assault claims.

Including when she tried to report the assault of a friend.

“Per Fr. Jay the student would have to speak to campus directly, she couldn’t speak through me and that was really upsetting to her,” says Uselman. “She didn’t want to talk to anybody she shouldn’t have had to have spoken to anybody especially so soon after she had just been assaulted and from that point her case was not handled well.”

Margaret’s post also claims Fr. Jay Fostner was not privy to talking about the assault outside of the confines of the school and if the student wanted more action to be taken she would have to file an official complaint.

“He said that we can’t have staff members waiting around to see if somebody is going to complain about them.”

But what about Jordyn who did file a complaint?

The school held a hearing in which her rapist was found guilty, but that was soon overturned.

The deciding board, which included Fr. Jay Fostner, said they could not determine whether a rape occurred because Jordyn hung out in his room thereafter.

Ultimately they agreed his rights as a student had been violated.

Jordyn claims there were a series of mis-steps by the Title IX office that led to their decision.

“She flat out lied about people that she interviewed,” says Jordyn. “i just got dragged through the mud by his witnesses and she included everything that they said, but my witnesses she didn’t include like anything that they said.”

The alleged incidents took place in 2016 and two years later students are asking the administration to make changes to the title nine program.

In an April letter, 217 students make nine requests to change how the college addresses sex assault.

Some requests include continued Title IX training for faculty and staff, clarification for roles of Title IX coordinator, transparency and adoption of third party advocates unaffiliated with the college.

Third party advocates such as a sex assault counselor, which are sometimes called to campus after an assault.

“We’re there to make sure the victims are getting services that they want,” says Samantha Bouressa with the Sexual Assault Center in Green Bay. “I think there’s a lot of misconception about reporting because they don’t know what’s going to happen after they tell that person.”

Becca Brown says after she was assaulted her grades took a plunge.

It took her two years to report the incident, but she initially sought counseling services on campus.

“The counseling center I didn’t feel like I got the help that I needed, ” says Brown. “I actually ended up going offsite to the Brown County Sexual Assault Center for help.” 

Just this month, nearly 300 alumni signed a letter addressed to president Brian Bruess with their own Title IX demands because “We have either witnessed Fr. Jay Fostner fail vulnerable members of the St. Norbert College community or because we have heard the stories of survivors and believe them.”

The letter also stated unless Title IX was reformed and Fr. Jay Fostner was investigated they would fail to recommend future students to the institution.

I asked president Bruess his thoughts on the request for an investigation October 11th.

“We’re going to take every concern or question such as that seriously and review that and take appropriate action as necessary,” says Bruess.

Many students have departed campus, but the memory of their assaults will always be there.

Like Caroline Lippe, who now lives in Chicago.

She’s been in therapy since 2013.

“I wouldn’t wish assault upon anybody, but I really am very proud and happy with the person who I’ve become from it,” says Lippe. “So no matter what happens I’ve got myself and this is somebody who I’ve worked very hard to become.”

Here is the full statement from St. Norbert in response to our investigation questions:

“St. Norbert College is committed to continuously refining our title ix program to support survivors of sexual assault and to investigating all complaints about our title ix policies and processes. 
When concerns about the handling of past Title IX reports were brought forward, the college opened an investigation with a third-party investigator. 
We cannot discuss the details of any Title IX investigation because doing so could compromise the investigation and the privacy of those involved.”
 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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