A disciplinary board at Arizona State University recently overturned a student’s expulsion because he was a valued member of their research community and had a near perfect GPA, which is another unfortunate reminder to women and men everywhere that even men who seem like “good guys” can be rapists, too. Brooke Lewis, a student at ASU, alleged that graduate student Matthew Green sexually assaulted her in late March, after they met at a bar and, by both of their accounts, consumed a lot of alcohol.
Lewis told Babe.net that she had just been offered a few waitressing jobs and went out to celebrate. She said in her statement that she spent about 7 hours at a bar where her and her alleged rapist first met and bought each other drinks. They then went back to her room, where, according to the Phoenix Sun Times, her roommate heard them come in. This is, like so many other similar stories, where the two accounts of the night diverge. Lewis alleges that he shoved her and “placed his fingers around her neck” and then reportedly had non-consensual sex with her.
Green alleges that the sex was “consensual” and that she fell because she was so intoxicated after the alleged sexual intercourse.
A police investigation is ongoing, but in August, ASU’s Dean of Students Office decided to expel Greene for sexual misconduct. Then a three-person university disciplinary board overturned that decision with a letter that stated his 3.9 GPA and his role in a research team made expulsion “too severe.” Instead, it recommended a suspension and for Greene to take a course on sexual misconduct. On Wednesday, however, that decision was overturned by James Rund, the university’s Senior Vice President for Educational Outreach and Student Services, in the wake of outcry from students and a Change.org petition, Rund upheld the initial expulsion.
Green gave a statement to Babe.net saying, “I am an advocate of gender equality, including equal opportunity, equal pay for equal work and access to essential, basic healthcare for women. However, as has historically been the case for previously under-represented groups, there is an over-compensation where the pendulum swings too far in the opposite direction and creates another injustice.”
There are so many things wrong with this story.
Leaving aside for a moment how terribly universities and colleges often bungle sexual assault allegations on their campuses, the most glaring problem with Lewis’ story is that administrators suggested being a “nice guy” or a “good kid” warrants a lesser punishment for rape. It shouldn’t. Green was able to overturn his expulsion — even though that’s the punishment for sexual misconduct according to the university’s rules — because of his grades. Much like the judge considered Brock Turner’s academic and athletic record before giving him an undeniably light sentence for sexually assaulting a Stanford University survivor, this happens all the time.
Even worse, the fact that the university went back and forth on its decision is a form of victim-blaming, especially since the board said that there were more inconsistencies with Lewis’ story than Green’s when they overturned his expulsion. It’s not really that surprising that Lewis was unable to recall some of the details of the night; she said herself that she had never been that drunk before in her statement. Green’s defense, that she was so drunk she fell over and that he’s a self-proclaimed feminist, contributed to administrators’ perception that he’s a “good guy,” and should be given the benefit of the doubt.
But we need to break out of that mindset. If someone is really drunk, they can’t consent. It’s really that simple. Instead of publicly blaming or second guessing the victim, campus officials need to start believing that being drunk isn’t an excuse for a man to have sex with a woman.
If Green is as smart as the disciplinary board claims he is, he should have known that a woman falling over drunk on her way back to a dorm can’t consent at all.
We have no doubt that some men believe that they are so good that a woman’s inability to consent and their bright futures mean they’re off the hook for abusive behavior. That doesn’t mean that they are — and it sadly takes student protests to convince disciplinary boards that their thinking is all wrong. And it’s not just on college campuses that this happens.
Women know this more than ever after the past few months of high-profile sexual assault and harassment allegations against men that, in some cases, were very well-liked by their peers and fans. It’s sad that the default is to assume that the victim is lying or somehow deserved to be assaulted, or that it’s impossible for a smart, likable man to not understand how consent works. Even “good guys” do bad things, and the broader context of their existence doesn’t absolve them of equal responsibility when they f*ck up, especially at the expense of someone else’s safety.
What often gets lost in this conversation about whether or not it’s possible for a “good” guy to rape someone is the fact that the victim’s reputation is ruined, they suffer from PTSD, feel gaslighted, and usually suffer at school or work. The consequences are very real for the victim, no matter what happens to the alleged rapist. So there should at least be some for the “good guy” who still manages to take advantage of a woman when she can’t, or doesn’t, consent.