Are students eligible for a Pulitzer Prize?

If so, this exhaustive article by Ryan Fleming in The Brown Spectator deserves one.

Fleming takes a look as how Brown University’s kangaroo non-court system railroaded a student accused of rape, and how the situation was made worse because the accuser was the daughter of a wealthy alumnus.

I know we often say “read the whole thing,” but this time we really mean read the whole thing.

When Michael Burch – a former assistant wrestling coach – met William McCormick III on Sept. 13, 2006, he fit the role of an accused rapist. McCormick was a 6’4”, 275-pound, lumbering heavyweight wrestler who was asking help from Burch in dealing with a sexual assault charge that had just been filed against him.

The case against him was strong; the charge was extreme and the University told Burch that physical evidence was coming. McCormick even seemed like a guy who would take advantage of a girl; he was a big, strong, and socially awkward student who was adjusting to his first few weeks in college. After meeting with McCormick – who was adamant about his innocence – Burch could tell that he was scared, and for good reason. The young woman who had accused him was Marcella “Beth” Dresdale ’10, daughter of the founder of a $2.1 billion equity firm and an essential donor to the University, Richard Dresdale ’78 P’10.

After detailing the proceedings and the evidence, Fleming concludes:

Perhaps the greatest legacy of the case is a loss of faith in the University. Brown is supposedly a place where students can learn, experiment, and express themselves in a protected environment regardless of personal background. The University, however, has punctured that dream. Furthermore, both Beth Dresdale and Brown have unnecessarily called into question the veracity of any rape accusation. Through their actions, they prove accusing someone of sexual misconduct can be used as a means of manipulation.

Brown’s unwavering protection of the accuser at the expense of the accused — no matter how much the evidence points in the other direction — is a major flaw in the University’s judicial system. One hopes that what happened to McCormick will never happen again, but with the current judicial structure and Brown’s own track record, there is little reason to believe this will be a unique occurrence.

Here is Fleming’s interview with Student life Vice President Margaret Klawunn and Senior Assc. Dean J. Allen Ward: