Emergency Vehicles Respond to Sexual Assault

Sunday, authorities responded to Mayfield Annex to investigate a sexual assault.

Cleveland Police Department has arrested a 17-year-old for sexually assaulting a female student and has charged him with aggravated rape.

Police are not releasing his name or picture since he is a minor. Cleveland Police spokeswoman Sgt. Evie West said in a release that a collaborative effort helped bring the search for the assailant to a fast end.

“Thanks to a collective effort between the Cleveland Police investigators, Lee University Campus Security and the District Attorney’s Office, the suspect was swiftly identified, located and arrested,” West said.

On Oct. 7 at 9:30 p.m., Director of Campus Security Matt Brinkman sent students and faculty an email concerning the assault in compliance with the Clery Act. The Clery Act, according to the Department of Education, is a federal statute “requiring colleges and universities participating in federal financial aid programs to maintain and disclose campus crime statistics and security information.”

In the email, Brinkman said a female student working in the Ceramics Room of Mayfield Annex that afternoon was assaulted with a knife by a man she didn’t know. The man, according to Brinkman, demanded sexual activity of the woman.

Lee Clarion reached out to Campus Security for further comment and anticipates meeting with them tomorrow.

Assistant Professor of Art John Simmons teaches the ceramics classes at Lee. He said the Annex is locked on the weekends, requiring students to call Campus Security to get into the building.

“Campus Security gets a list of all the students in all the classes, so if a student calls and wants access, they check that list to make sure that that student has a reason for being in here,” Simmons said. “Now, what I’m wondering is whether or not the door going to the downstairs into the Ceramics Room was locked at that time or not or whether it was propped open.”

Mayfield has a history of suspicious activity. Last fall, a string of thefts and vandalism of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and art left many students and faculty calling for increased security.

Associate Professor of Art Mary Mathias-Dickerson's artworks and belongings were among those vandalized last year. In light of the assault, she said plans for increased security will make everyone who works in Mayfield feel safer.

"It is my understanding that plans are being made to address the security needs for studio spaces in Mayfield Annex," Mathias-Dickerson said. "I know my students and I will feel more comfortable when those plans are put in place."

At 4:45 p.m. the day after the assault, President Paul Conn sent his own email to staff and faculty to address the incident. In the email, Conn said administration’s priorities were to support the victim and her family, assist CPD with the investigation and take measures to secure campus to prevent another such attack.

“We have an excellent relationship with the Cleveland Police Department and are now working with them to explore ways to make our campus a safer place for everyone,” Conn said. “We believe there are additional steps we can take to improve security, and Dr. Mike Hayes and other administrators are working to develop an action plan.”

According to Conn, the assault at Mayfield Annex highlighted both Lee’s vulnerability to such incidents and its responsibility to protect its students.

“It reminds us that even small Christian campuses are not immune to the tragedy of sexual assault, and we have an obligation to do everything we can to guarantee that no Lee student should live with the fear or threat of being victimized.”

On Sunday, senior graphic design major Kaitlyn Anderson planned to work on her own art project in Mayfield Annex, arriving as police and campus security were searching the building. As an art student and a survivor of sexual assault herself, she told the Clarion the past couple days have been difficult. 

In response to student concerns about the assault, the Lee University Counseling Center (LUCC) hosted an after-hours consultation with students who knew the assault victim or were among students who frequent the art studios and expressed concerns.

According to Dr. David Quagliana, director of the LUCC, two counselors were available to students Monday evening, in addition to the center's regular walk-in hours. Quagliana said students often have feelings after events like this and it is important they pay attention to their feelings and acknowledge them.

The Counseling Center regularly hosts walk-in hours for students who need crisis counseling or consultation, which are listed on their website under the "Intake Process."

Vice President for Student Development Mike Hayes' office has handled the case with Campus Security, CPD and the District Attorney’s Office. Hayes sent an email to students and faculty the evening of Oct. 9, saying he wanted to corroborate what has been reported by various local news outlets and tell students that administration is listening to them.

"The last few days have been difficult after the sexual assault incident on Sunday," Hayes said. "I appreciate the response in support of the victim in this case and the conversations that have occurred on campus to work through this together.”

CPD and Campus Security are continuing their investigation.

If you feel unsafe or have an incident to report, call Campus Security at (423) 303-4444.

Lee Clarion interviewed Dr. Conn this morning and is working on a follow-up piece about student and campus response to this assault.

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