May 22, 2015

College discredit: Acquitted of rape, still shamed

5-22-15 Michigan:

In the eyes of the law, Matt Rolph, 22, is innocent of the sex crimes he was charged with following a rape accusation in 2014. But in the eyes of the college Rolph attended at the time of this accusation, he's still seen as a rapist.

A 13WHAM News Investigation into Rolph's story raises new questions about campus policies as well as state and federal laws in place to deal with sexual assault accusations. This report is the result of many on and off the record conversations with many people and institutions involved in Rolph's case. It should be noted that one conversation that is lacking is that of Rolph's accuser, whose identity remains confidential.

The Accusation and Campus Investigation

The Rolph Family home sits just blocks north of the Hobart and William Smith College Campus. A campus that Matt's father Peter roamed as a student and many times since while attending events as an alumnus. Peter met his wife Annie on campus and the couple raised two children, Matt and younger sister Carly, who seemed destined to attend HWS.

"I've kind of known I would go to school at Hobart since middle school," Rolph said. "I got a great education there, I learned so much and I made so many friends."

In February 2014, Matt Rolph was a senior at Hobart and his sister was a junior at William Smith. He was carrying extra credits and on course to graduate in May. That's when he had a sexual encounter with a senior student at William Smith College. The two had been intimate numerous times in the past, but this encounter eventually led to her accusing Rolph of rape.

While she shared accounts of this encounter with friends, almost immediately a formal accusation wasn't made to anyone of authority for nearly six days. That claim started a campus investigation and review. A hearing was held in April.

Rolph's father was a member of the HWS community, but he was not allowed to attend the hearing with his son because he's also a lawyer. So Rolph's sister attended instead.

"I thought that when they would ask me about things they would follow up on them, that they would try to figure out what happened," Rolph recalled of the process. "I'd been told just go in there and tell the truth, it would be enough, but it wasn't."

The family felt comfortable and confident following his appearance at the hearing, but the very next day the school informed Matt Rolph he was being expelled. He appealed, but that was denied weeks later.

I'll remember the day I got expelled until the day I die as probably one of the worst days of my life," Rolph said in a tearful interview with 13WHAM News. "I've been permanently separated from the HWS community, which means I'm no longer allowed on their property even though it's three blocks away from my house."

The ruling remains true today. On May 17, 2015 Matt's sister graduated from HWS. The entire Rolph Family was in attendance with one exception, Matt.

"I'm so proud of Carly, she's going to graduate with a great Chemistry degree, she's going to go on to have a bright future and I can't be there to watch her finish up her schooling...I'm so proud of her and I can't be there to see her get her diploma," Rolph said through more tears.

Annie Rolph personally appealed to Hobart and William Smith College's President, Mark Gearan, for a one-day exception to her son's campus expulsion. ..Continued.. by 13WHAM News

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