500-word essay assigned as punishment for sexual assault at Gustavus College

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A student found responsible for sexual assault by Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., got off with not much more than a typical homework assignment — a 500-word essay about consent.


Shantoria Cobbs, a student at Gustavus, told the publication that the student successfully appealed a suspension. His punishment was reduced to the essay, working with a mentor, and suspension from some campus activities.

“The college has stated that there is essentially no other options for a survivor once the restrictions of an outcome are appealed and rescinded/lowered and that they must accept the fact that they have to attend school, under the expectation of cordiality, with their own rapist,” Cobbs wrote in a Facebook post, which has since been deleted, according to Inside Higher Ed. “I will never be cordial, and I will never forget his name, even if the school doesn’t tell it to you. I sincerely hope now that all of you won’t either.”

Citing privacy laws, Gustavus declined to discuss the case or confirm Cobbs’ account Pressography.

The school student newspaper, The Gustavian Weekly, noted some pressing issues, including an alleged delay in informing the student body of the assault.

According to the Gustavian, On Feb. 2, local newspaper the Mankato Free Press reported that a student was being charged with sexual assault; on Feb. 11, “the Gustavus Community was sent a sexual assault warning via email detailing that on Dec. 13, 2015, Campus Safety had been informed of an acquaintance rape that occurred in a residence hall.”

Students also expressed concern over why students under investigation for sexual misconduct policy can still partake in extracurricular activities.

“This is not a new conversation. Rape and gender-based violence have been a problem at Gustavus for as long as this community can remember and persists today,” students from Gustavus’s Women’s Awareness Center wrote in a petition, entitled Sexual Misconduct Policy Reform, to administrators. “We are done living in fear.”

Over the past few years, other schools have been cited for making survivors risk continued encounters with their attackers on campus. Less than a third of sexual-assault cases result in expulsion, according to a 2014 review conducted by The Huffington Post. 

Female students at Occidental College filed a federal complaint in 2013, charging that the punishment for a student found responsible for rape was writing a book report. Last year, Emma Sulkowicz, an art major at Columbia University, carried her mattress around campus for months to represent the burden she felt after the university allowed her alleged rapist to remain on campus.

Caleb Diehl is a student at Lewis & Clark College and a USA TODAY College breaking news correspondent.

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