Showing support

Quintez Cephus, right, greets current members of the Wisconsin Badgers football team last week after a press conference in which he reiterated his request to be reinstated to UW-Madison. On Monday, the university announced Cephus had been reinstated.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced Monday morning that Quintez Cephus, the former Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver, has been reinstated as a student. Cephus was expelled last semester due to allegations that he sexually assaulted two students. Earlier this month, a Dane County jury acquitted Cephus, who then petitioned the university for readmission. 

In the event of an expulsion, UW-Madison applies its own student conduct code and conducts an investigation and hearing process separate from the criminal proceedings. The university’s process demands a lower burden of proof; a person is guilty in criminal court if the jury finds that the evidence shows guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but a person is guilty in the student conduct process if the evidence indicates they are more likely guilty than not.

The Monday morning statement noted that the university had, following the criminal proceedings, obtained “substantial new information” it did not have previously. Cephus did not participate in interviews for the student conduct process because the criminal case was still pending. He later filed suit against the university, claiming that the university had violated his rights by pursuing its investigation while the criminal case was ongoing, but the university stated that it was obligated to investigate promptly.

The responsibility to review the new information and Cephus’ petition fell to Chancellor Rebecca Blank, who reduced sanctions against Cephus and lifted his expulsion but upheld some “findings of responsibility of the student non-academic misconduct code.”

Blank acknowledged Monday that some would disagree with her decision.

“All three of the primary participants in this case are our students, and I know the past year has been painful for everyone involved,” Blank said in a statement.

The Black Leadership Council of Dane County, citing a hostile environment for African American students on campus, called for Cephus’ reinstatement in a letter to Blank last week. Meanwhile, advocates for sexual assault survivors worried that allowing him to return as a student would discourage survivors from reporting assault in the future.

“I understand why the decision was made,” said Erin Thornley Parisi, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center, noting that Cephus was acquitted in criminal court. “But that doesn't change the impact that it might have on the survivors of the alleged crimes as well as other survivors on campus. It is painful for those who still believe that these women were sexually assaulted by him.”

Thornley Parisi said she and the Rape Crisis Center remain focused on their work as advocates.

“We continue to provide services for survivors on campus and that we encourage people to seek the assistance that they need," she said.

Not every survivor will choose to report what has happened to them, and that’s OK, Thornley Parisi said.

“It's not right or wrong to report," she said. "It's not right or wrong to seek help. What we focus on is what is best for the victim.”

Blank said she hopes her decision won’t discourage survivors from reporting.

“To those in our community who have experienced sexual assault, I sincerely hope that there is nothing in this case that will deter you from coming forward for support,” said Blank in the statement. “Our university continues to be prepared to listen and respond.”

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