Brown University ACLU

National ACLU

The Adam Lack Sexual Misconduct Case

The Issue

A female Brown student went out partying one night and got drunk. Exactly how drunk, no one knows. At any rate, she ended up in a friend's room at a fraternity house on Wriston Quad. She felt sick, so she laid down on the bed. In walks another fraternity member who was returning a CD. He sees the girl laying on the bed, and he asks her if she wants a glass of water. She says yes, and he gets one for her. They talk a little longer and finally he decides to head back to his room. She gets off the bed and follows him back to his room.

When they get there, she grabs him, kisses him, and starts taking his clothes off. He doesn't stop her. Soon both are naked and fooling around on the bed. She asks him to get a condom. He does. They have sex. They talk for two or three hours afterward, then they fall asleep. They wake up in the morning and she is a little fuzzy about the previous night. She asked whether they had used a condom, and he tells her that they had. They talk a little more, exchange phone numbers, and she goes back to her dorm. Three weeks later, the man receives word that he is being brought up on charges before the UDC. According to the girl, she had been too drunk to give consent, therefore she was charging him with what amounts to date rape. Despite testimony that she had initiated the sex, that she had been alert and responsive throughout, that she had willingly exchanged phone numbers the next morning, the UDC found the male student guilty and placed him on probation. The case was reviewed by a Dean, who increased the punishment to one semester suspension. The Provost then reviewed the case, reversed the conviction, but judged the male student guilty of "flagrant disrespect", an offense of which he had previously been found innocent.

This case eventually drew national attention. In January, 1997, "20/20" came to Brown University to film a segment on Adam Lack's case.

Our Stance

This case highlights many problematic areas of our current Code of Student Conduct.

First, the Code of Student Conduct needs a more clear-cut definition of sexual misconduct, and with it, a more lucid definition of consent. The current Code of Student Conduct insists that that sexual misconduct refers to any "mental or physical incapacity or impairment of which the offending student was aware or should have been aware." The phrase "should have been aware" is somewhat troubling, because it assumes that the offending student should have an almost psychic awareness of another students state of physical incapacitation.

A second problem that was highlighted by this case is the incredible discretionary power given to the Dean of Student Life. The Dean of Student Life has the power to dramatically increase a student's sentence, regardless of whatever findings the UDC comes to. The Brown ACLU does not endorse the Dean of Student Life's power to arbitrarily increase a student's sentence, particularly in situations where such an increase is not accompanied by dramatic new evidence or a powerful rationale.

Finally, this case is problematics in terms of double jeopardy (i.e., being tried twice for the same offense.) Adam Lack was initially found innocent of flagrant disrespect by the UDC, but was later found guilty of this offense by the Provost. Although the Office of Student Life insists that it is opposed to double jeopardy, the findings of this case are inconsistent with that idea.

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