Assault of Bucknell Student leaves University, LGBTQ+ community shaken

The+corner+of+Bell+Alley+and+South+Sixth+Street%2C+where+the+alleged+assault+occurred.

The corner of Bell Alley and South Sixth Street, where the alleged assault occurred.

Just one day after the closure of an investigation into a May attack on “Fran’s House,” the campus’s LGBTQ affinity house, the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department have opened a new investigation into an assault on a transgender Bucknell student. 23-year-old political science student Dylan Rogers alleges that she was attacked by six men in the early hours of July 10th, while returning home from a downtown Lewisburg bar. The assault, which left Rogers with a concussion and various bruises, is being investigated as a potential hate crime by the BVRPD.

About a week after the attack, Rogers spoke with The Bucknellian over Zoom. Reassuring us that she was “stirred, but not shaken and not broken,” Rogers states that, after being sucker-punched on her left temple, she then was “surrounded” and “punched and grabbed on all sides” by her assailants.

“Someone hits me in the back of the head; some people come and break it up,” she continued.

After the incident, Rogers received treatment for a concussion at Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg. She then filed a police report with the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department, who told the Sunbury Daily Item last week that they were “looking into the hate crime possibility as we conduct interviews,” but qualified that “based on scene statements, that [motivation] was not indicated.” The Department later confirmed to The Bucknellian that, while an investigation is currently open, “there has been no criminal complaint or other arrest filed with the District Judge related to this case.” According to a July 10 call for service, three students are listed as witnesses to the incident.

In response to request for comment, University Director of Media Relations Mike Ferlazzo noted that “Bucknell has received a report of the off-campus incident and is working with the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department on the active investigation.” “We take matters of student safety very seriously,” he continued, “but in view of the active criminal investigation, we have no further comment at this time.” 

This alleged assault came two months after a large group of students allegedly associated with the banned fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) attempted to enter “Fran’s House,” the University’s LGBTQ+ affinity house. Before their removal from campus, TKE had occupied the building now used by Fran’s residents. In a July 12 email to the campus community, University President John Bravman stated that a subsequent investigation into the incident “found no evidence that the students outside of Fran’s House on May 13 were motivated by bias against the residents and their affinity as an LGBTQ+ community.” In the same email, the President pledged to establish Tower House as the permanent home for the LGBTQ+ community on campus, now officially titled “Fran’s House.”

Alexander Greenawald ‘23, resident advisor for Fran’s House for the upcoming 2021-22 school year, remarked that “[w]hile I am glad about the establishment of Fran’s House as a permanent residence [for the LGBTQ+ community at Bucknell], it is only the beginning of addressing the ongoing campus climate and the underlying roots of this problem. Even before the incident in May, many students have reported feeling uncomfortable and unsafe on campus and the surrounding area.” 

The conclusion of the investigation has left people feeling even more insecure about where they fit on campus and worried about future incidents,” he continued, observing that “Bucknell should be a space for everyone to feel safe and pursue their futures and their education, and having students afraid to walk down the street or even leave their house for fear of harassment or attack is not conducive to that goal.”

Rogers, who has previously been involved in LGBTQ+ and disability activism, told us that her incident combined with that at Fran’s House is part of a larger pattern. She said, “Though these two [incidents] received large amounts of attention both in our community and externally, things like this happen every day to students, ranging from [Bucknell’s 25–33%] higher than the national average sexual assault rate, to all the assaults that go unreported on our campus.” 

In 2020, the Association of American Universities shared the results of their nationwide Campus Climate Survey, reporting that among “undergraduate students, 26.4% of females and 6.8% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.” Independent surveys by the University’s Sexual Assault Research Team recorded a 2020-21 victimization rate of 38.6% for women and 17.2% for men, including “[nonconsentual] contact, attempted rape, or rape by coercion or assault.” That figure for “rape or attempted rape” was 21.4 and 6.9 percent for women and men, respectively. They also reported that University LGBTQIA+ students were over 40% more likely to indicate a sexual assault than their heterosexual peers. 

“It’s kind of hard to take conversations about addressing these issues [of assault and discrimination] seriously when, in the two or three years I’ve been here, I’ve seen three or four fraternities kicked off [campus],” she continued. “I’m certainly not trying to attack any individuals within these organizations, but more pointing to a systemic issue here.”

Greenawald appeared to concur with Rogers’ analysis, describing that “[t]he campus climate that led to these events taking place, especially in regards to the relationship between Greek Life and the rest of Bucknell’s campus, is unacceptable, and we need to make sure that there are movements to hold people responsible for their actions and for better education on the issues of diversity and inclusion on campus moving forward.”

“I hope that at least one good thing to come out of this is some real change to the fraternity system, if not its abolishment as a whole, which is where I would lean towards,” Rogers said.

Greek life has long been a source of contention among members of the campus community – one notable incident occurred in 2019, when a group of students dropped a banner during an Admitted Student Open House, listing a panoply of fraternities as the “Best Place for Party” [sic] alongside a more stark secondary caption––“[Best Place] to Get RAPED: Fraternities.” Additionally, after May’s incident at Fran’s House, a group of TKE alumni penned an open letter supporting “work against the culture of ‘toxic masculinity’ on campus,” while urging the administration to commit to “the structural and cultural changes needed to make this happen.”

When asked about the response to the incident from the University community at large, however, Rogers spoke in effusive terms. “When the news of the event broke, I was getting reached out to left and right; everyone was extremely supportive,” she noted. While stressing the significance of her identity to the attack, Rogers also cautioned against reducing stories like hers to statistics. “One of the things that often gets lost in these stories is the individual. It becomes so much of, you know, ‘PoC Trans Girl Attacked,’ and no one ever actually talks about who that trans girl is,” Rogers said. Reporting around these events “often becomes about the violence we [transgender people and people of color] experience, when I believe our accomplishments outweigh that much more.” 

For her part, Rogers plans to continue her research in the computer science department with Professor Darakhshan Mir, and “hopefully get a paper published” before submitting applications to PhD programs in the same field. She also expressed a desire to serve in the domestic civil society program AmeriCorps, noting that the attack has “reaffirmed what I want to do” and that her “level of empathy” with assault victims “will lend well towards the kind of intervention work that is often done by programs like AmeriCorps.”

“Call me a silver-linings girl,” she conceded. “I always try and take the bad things that I’ve gone through and turn them into good.”

 


Our full, unabridged conversation with Dylan can be read at the following link

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