Friend or Foe

In an era of hooking up, when does a date become rape?

Last year, CSU's hearing officers considered 678 cases. The vast majority of them were relatively minor and resulted in some lesser sanction. Eighty-eight cases, or about 13 percent, were found to require "no action." Only four students were expelled; twenty-two were dismissed. Zero were suspended. "I don't believe time alone heals," Anne Hudgens says, explaining that she's philosophically opposed to suspensions.

Alleged sex assaults are definitely among the more serious infractions her office prosecutes, Hudgens says. They're also more complex, she adds, painting her staff more or less into a corner. If the hearing officer determines that there's at least a 51 percent chance that the accused student is guilty of a sex crime, then CSU's legal exposure almost requires that the student be booted out of school -- lest another such accusation be made against him and the school taken to civil court. "There is definitely a liability concern," says Hudgens. "If we believe somebody committed a sex offense, we've got to separate him from the university."

Hudgens declines to discuss Mike and Sarah's case specifically, other than to say that the vast majority of CSU's rape cases, like theirs, are date and acquaintance situations. Many of these cases do not meet the standard of evidence necessary to prosecute them criminally, she adds.

Geoffrey Grahmn
Mike Kochevar recovered his belongings from CSU last week, after the district attorney declined to press charges.
Anthony Camera
Mike Kochevar recovered his belongings from CSU last week, after the district attorney declined to press charges.

Another disparity between criminal and campus policies involves alcohol. While it is undisputed that all four of the teenagers were drinking the night of the alleged rape -- and that alcohol almost certainly played a key role in the assault -- only Mike was charged by the school with underage drinking.

Hudgens won't explain how the university decides whom to charge with illegal drinking. "We would take an interest in any student's needs and what they require to make their lives better," she says.

Mike told his side of the story during two and a half hours of testimony at his October 18 hearing. "It was a very fair hearing," Sarah says. "They looked at my history -- and I regret some of it -- and his history." Eight days later, Hudgens finished her own report. "I don't find either you or Sarah completely truthful in your versions of the incident," she wrote in a letter to Mike, "and there is much about both of your behaviors that is problematic."

Nevertheless, the judicial affairs director gave the nod to Sarah.

"It is easier in the picture to see why you would push her sexual boundaries that night than it is to see a reason why she would falsely report an assault," Hudgens wrote. "You have been dismissed from Colorado State University as of November 2, 2001."

To support her decision, Hudgens cited a number of factors. Most of them, she admitted, relied on the recollections and opinions of Mike's roommate. "From [his] perspective," Hudgens wrote, "casual sex is no big deal to either one of you. He can't think of any reason why Sarah would falsely accuse you of rape. It would be completely unexpected for Sarah to go hysterical about any sexual contact. He does not see her as someone who would seek out the staff, police or go to the hospital for attention."

However, she added, "He does think it's pretty confusing that Sarah seems quite unaffected by this."

Rather than attempt to determine whose version of the night of October 2 was more credible, Hudgens appears to have sought out information that might illuminate the nature of the relationship in general. She noted, for example, that Mike had talked with his roommate about the fact that Sarah wasn't having sex with him; in the roommate's opinion, Sarah considered Mike a friend, while Mike "thought of her as an object to conquer."

In interviews, Sarah did not hide her sexuality; Sarah admitted having "self-described regretted sex without blaming anyone but herself," Hudgens said. And the administrator found a satisfactory explanation for Sarah's seeming passivity that night during the initial sexual contact: "Given her history of other sexual encounters with you, which involved fingering and oral sex, without significant response on her part," she wrote, "it appears unlikely that she would have had a huge negative response to repeated behaviors."

Hudgens was interested in the roommate's recollection that, just before Mike turned off the light that night, he told him, "My mom told me about a guy who got accused of rape." (Mike denies having said this.) Finally, Hudgens found it significant that Sarah reported the assault almost immediately after leaving Mike's room. "Her emotional state and timing for leaving your room is consistent with the concept that she was upset with what occurred in your room," she wrote.

In order to be considered for re-admission to the school, Hudgens said Mike had to prove himself ready: "You must complete a psychosexual evaluation to be conducted by a State Certified Sex Offender Evaluator. You must seek a full evaluation of your use of alcohol and other drugs through a person or agency specializing in the treatment of substance abuse. You are not eligible to return to Colorado State University during the period of time that Sarah remains enrolled as a student.

"You must remain law-abiding. At the time you are seeking re-admission, you may not have a history of any criminal convictions or pending criminal charges not related to this incident. You must remain free of any disciplinary action at any college or university you attend. You must remain free of any disciplinary action in an employment setting."

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