A female student at the University of Missouri filed a complaint with the university after she said she was sexually harassed and stalked by another student, Jeremy Rowles, 40. The University did find the former graduate student to have violated a law meant to protect students from harassment. In response, they gave him a 2-year suspension and banned him from residence halls and the student recreation center. Now, he’s suing them. He says they handed him an unfair punishment because he’s black.
In 2015, Rowles first met the woman he allegedly harassed, Annalise Breaux,. In the first seemingly uneventful encounter, Rowles got the wrong order at the coffee shop where Breaux worked as a barista. She gave him a “token” for a free drink to make up for the mistake. Later, Rowles became a student in a dance class taught by the woman. It was after one of these classes that he asked her on a date, which she declined. He began sending her numerous romantic social media messages, to which she responded that their relationship needed to remain within the context of her workplaces. He seemed to finally get the message, apologizing for reading the situation incorrectly. But, according to the woman’s complaint, that wasn’t the end of his advances.
Months later, he contacted her about the possibility of taking private dance classes with her. She declined and referred him to the university’s recreation center. He later handed another dance instructor a note to give to Breaux which contained the token she had given him from the coffee shop and the quote “take me back to the start.” He also gave her a longer letter detailing his feelings for her. That is when she filed her complaint.
After Rawles received the disciplinary action that suspended him, he decided to take action himself. He believes he received a harsher punishment than white students who have been accused of similar behavior. According to his lawyer, there are examples of white students whose actions went much further and they were only given a 6-month suspension and counseling. The lawyer claims these actions go so far as “nonconsensual sexual intercourse”.
It is worth noting that this is not the only time Rawles has been accused of inappropriate behavior. While working as a teaching assistant, a student claimed that he suggested her grade could be raised by performing sexual favors. He was found not guilty of sexual harassment in that case. The University of Missouri also states they have had at least four students express concern about Rawles.
This is not the first time the University of Missouri has had issues related to racism on their campus. In 2014, a group of protestors sought to shed light on what they viewed as continued racism demonstrated on campus. What do you think? Did the university give out an unjust punishment to this black student? Should his suspension be reversed? Or, does the punishment fit his actions?