What began as a symposium about sexual assault on college campuses has erupted into a full blown investigation into comments made during and after the panel discussion.
In a memo to faculty obtained by the Carolina Forest Chronicle, Coastal Carolina University president David DeCenzo said an investigation began 24 hours after a "Tea & Ethics" discussion that took place Oct. 31.
"Please understand that the Provost’s Office is aware of the issues raised by the event and be assured an investigation started within twenty four hours of the incident," the memo states. "That investigation continues. As with all investigations involving personnel and students this cannot be discussed publicly due to privacy concerns. Please respect the integrity of all such investigations."
At issue was a Tea & Ethics event titled “Sex and College Life: Hooking Up, STDs, and Consent.”
According to an Oct. 24 university press release promoting the event, the discussion was to focus on "the challenges students confront in friendships, relationships or any other social settings in college life. For instance, what are the responsibilities of the institution, students and student organizations when it comes to promoting healthy sexual choices?"
The release said Nils Rauhut, director of the university's Jackson Family Center for Ethics and Values, was scheduled to lead the panel.
Other panelists included Angela Fitzpatrick, assistant director of the Women and Gender Studies program; Chris Donevant-Haines, assistant director for CCU’s Counseling Services; and students representing Greek life, the release stated.
The discussion itself became heated, with divergent opinions emerging about what constitutes sexual assault, according to student and faculty petitions found online in a Google search.
A complaint was subsequently filed as a result of the discussion.
The faculty petition talks extensively about the heated debate that occurred during the Q&A portion, saying that a panelist left the stage in protest.
"While disagreement is a hallmark of education, the students' comments that a person's revealing clothing could make them responsible for rape, and that a person who is drinking is responsible for getting raped, are particularly troubling," the petition states.
The student petition held similar views.
"At the Sex and Ethics forum it became apparent that Coastal Carolina University students do not acknowledge sexual assault as an issue of importance," the student petition states. "However, this outlook is not the general consensus of the entire student body."
In his memo to faculty, DeCenzo said there's been allegation that CCU doesn't take sexual assault seriously, a charge he categorically denies.
"Personally I take umbrage that this administration ignores its responsibilities to the University community in such matters and the assertion that we support an environment where incivility and disrespect are permitted to flourish," the memo states.
DeCenzo listed more than two-dozen bullet points in his memo that illustrated steps the university has taken to educate students about sexual assault.
"Each of these programs are part of our strategic direction of providing the safest and healthiest environment on our campus," DeCenzo's memo states. "Clearly the incident at the Tea and Ethics event and its aftermath reinforce our need to continue to promote civility in our personal interactions."