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Virginian Wesleyan protest organizer explains campus frustration

Posted at 7:03 PM, Oct 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-17 19:03:00-04

Norfolk, Va. - The student who organized a silent protest on the campus of Virginia Wesleyan College says she and others are frustrated by a lack of candor from administrators, and angered by how college leaders have treated a rape victim.

"I feel like people need to be held accountable for their actions," said Molly Fanney. "And if I don't say something, and other students don't say something, then I am just as bad. I am just as much a perpetrator as they are."

She and others are upset that they learned the graphic details of an on-campus rape from the media, and a lawsuit against the school, not from administrators. And worse, she says, the lawsuit showed how administrators agreed a freshman had been raped in 2012, but gave the attacker a break. The administrators changed the attacker's record from expelled to withdrawn. That, according to a letter from Dean David Buckingham, "May assist him is seeking further studies."

When Molly read that, "I was absolutely disgusted, enraged," she said. "It still makes my skin crawl."

Speaking out puts Molly in a challenging position. Molly is a second generation Marlin. Her parents attended the school, and they count Dean Buckingham and President William Greer as family friends.  But she says for the first time, the image that administrators push -- that the students are family -- has been shaken. She's felt compelled to challenge school leaders for their treatment of the victim, who filed the lawsuit under the name "Jane Doe."

"She was kicked to the curb," Molly said.

She's convinced the attacker's status as a lacrosse player afforded him special treatment from school administrators.

"I think it's what they've shown," she said. "That's what they have displayed."

On-campus rapes are a nationwide problem, she said. She wishes Virginia Wesleyan had addressed the attack head-on and worked to end sexual assaults at colleges. Instead, "they swept it under the rug." And while she says administrators will not talk directly about the lawsuit's charges, she says they have sent emails urging students not to believe everything in the documents, that the lawsuit contains allegations, not facts.

"I just don't understand why she deserves to be made to look like she's not credible, that these are allegations," she said. "How are they allegations if the college at one point recognized she was raped? It was baffling and still is."

Through a lawyer, Virginia Wesleyan College administrators have said they will not comment on the lawsuit.

Related: 

Virginia Wesleyan students voice their opinions about pending rape lawsuit

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Multi-million dollar lawsuit accuses Virginia Wesleyan lacrosse player of rape

Data backs claims of sex assaults at Virginia Wesleyan College