President Laurie Leshin sent this message to the campus community on June 7, 2016.
You may have seen some very disturbing news coverage today, and I wanted to provide you with my perspective regarding an ongoing legal case.
In 2012, a WPI student was raped while off-campus. The person responsible for the rape, who is not a member of the WPI community, has been tried, convicted, and is currently serving a 20 year prison sentence.
As you would expect of us, in the aftermath of the rape, WPI provided extensive support and care to this woman, who has since graduated, as well as to her family, and the other students who were doing their project work at the location. WPI also worked closely with the local law enforcement in their successful efforts to convict the rapist.
A lawsuit has recently been filed alleging that the university was “grossly negligent” in failing to protect the victim from the criminal act of another. You may have seen headlines that imply WPI is blaming the victim for this rape, an idea in direct conflict with our values and our response to this situation.
When a lawsuit is filed, the university’s insurance carrier at the time of the incident takes responsibility for the case. Although we parted ways with that provider several years ago, they are litigating this case. Their legal approach and language have not been vetted or approved by the university.
WPI has never and would never blame a victim for being raped. WPI strongly believes that the person responsible for this rape is the rapist. And he is in prison.
You know this, but it bears repeating: WPI is committed to the health and well-being of our students -- whether they are on or off-campus. Sexual assault is a national crisis facing every college and university in the nation. It’s an issue that we take very seriously.
This university has been at the forefront of working to ensure that students are well educated about any potential risks of studying abroad, and to help them to minimize those risks. Every WPI student who travels to a project site is engaged in a series of four mandatory and rigorous training and orientation programs that teach them about potential safety risks - including sexual assault. We will continue to engage in those best practices to promote the safety of our students who are engaged in this signature WPI program.
I realize that this message will not satisfy every concern you might have. Due to the fact that this is an ongoing case, I cannot provide any further details. But please know that I fully understand how upsetting this has been for our entire community, and most importantly to the victim and her family.