Athletes Accused

Athletes Accused

Controversy grows as administration reverses suspension for two football players found responsible by a university conduct board

Two student athletes found responsible for several sexual misconduct violations saw their suspensions overturned based on a discrepancy between Appalachian State University’s Student Code of Conduct and the UNC Policy Manual, according to a Jan. 10 letter written by Vice Chancellor for Student Development Cindy Wallace.

A conduct board unanimously found the two athletes responsible for charges brought by freshman sustainable development major Alex Miller, Alex Miller said in a phone interview with The Appalachian.

The board sanctioned the athletes with eight consecutive semesters of suspension from the university, Alex Miller said. An eight-semester suspension is the minimum required for sexual assault, according to the Student Code of Conduct.

Each was sentenced to a summary suspension, which bans students from campus and is issued when misconduct is seen as serious enough to jeopardize other students’ safety, the university community, property or Appalachian’s educational mission, according to information provided by Hank Foreman, associate vice chancellor for university communications and cultural affairs.

The suspensions were overturned when it was determined that there was a discrepancy between Appalachian’s Code of Student Conduct and the UNC Policy Manual.

“It was also clear to me that some important distinctions between the ASU Code of Student Conduct, the UNC Policy Maunal and new federal guidelines from the Department of Education are not clear,” Wallace wrote in the Jan. 10 letter, which was mailed to Alex Miller’s father, Charles Miller.

A new hearing regarding the charges brought by Alex Miller will take place in late March, Alex Miller said.

Another student, junior history secondary education major Meagan Creed, filed sexual assault charges against five students. Of those five, two were the same students accused by Alex Miller, Creed said.

Those two students were found responsible for the charges brought by Alex Miller, but were not found responsible for the charges brought by Creed, Creed said.

Alex Miller, Charles Miller and Creed all expressed dissatisfaction with the administration’s decisions.

“The hearing was invalid because of a piece of paperwork,” Alex Miller said. “The school has done a lot more to protect these boys than the victims.”

Charles Miller expressed concerns about his daughter’s safety in an email sent to Wallace Dec. 6.

“You have known rapists that you feel obligated to educate [on] a campus of unknowing women,” Charles Miller wrote.

Wallace stood by her decision in the Jan. 10 letter to Charles Miller.

“I do not believe that my decision to terminate the temporary suspension of the two accused students has compromised her safety,” Wallace wrote.

University officials must abide by the UNC Policy Manual, according to chapter 100.2 of the manual.

Creed appealed the board’s findings on the grounds that they lacked training in handling sexual assault cases, she said. The appeals have not been accepted or denied as of press time, Creed said.

Creed filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The office accepted her request to investigate her complaint Feb. 6, according to correspondence provided by Creed.

Sports Information Director Mike Flynn referred The Appalachian‘s reporter to Dean of Students J.J. Brown.

Brown said he could not confirm or deny any specific student conduct allegation or outcome.

Director of Student Conduct Judy Haas said she could comment on procedure but not specific student conduct proceedings.

Wallace referred The Appalachian‘s reporter to Foreman.

Foreman provided information on the student conduct process, including specific student involvement, suspensions and safety.

The Appalachian‘s reporter and two of its editors conducted an off-the-record interview with one of the accused students.

Story: REBECCA GITLEN, News Reporter