PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Hundreds of Brown University students silently marched across campus Wednesday to protest the college's handling of recent sexual assault allegations, saying the school is trying to protect its reputation rather than the victims of assault.
About 400 protesters gathered at the school's Wriston Quadrangle before marching across the street to University Hall, which houses the university president's office. They then walked silently through the building's hallways before forming a circle outside near the Van Wickle Gates of the Ivy League school.
Many participants taped $1 bills across their mouths, saying it symbolized how the victims have been silenced. Organizers have been using the hashtag #MoneyTalksAtBrown on social media sites to draw attention to the allegations.
"Overall, we feel Brown is more concerned with protecting its image than protecting the community and the students who live here," said Jeanette Sternberg Lamb, who helped organize the protest. "Money and influence were two divisive factors here."
The university recently dropped its inquiry into drugging allegations by two female students, one of who claimed she was sexually assaulted, when they attended a party hosted Oct. 17 by the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
In November, the school announced that one of the students had tested positive for the date-rape drug known as GHB. But just last week, university officials said the laboratory had recanted its findings after outside medical experts challenged the results.
Sternberg Lamb and other organizers have questioned the school's decision to drop the inquiry. They say the school might be protecting one of the two men accused in the allegations because he is related to a school official.
Sternberg Lamb told The Associated Press later that she wanted to make clear that she doesn't know whether the accused's family ties played a part in the school's decision but that some students are concerned about it.
The school has rejected the suggestion that any personal ties to the school influenced the decision, saying in a statement that a "student's family connections" would not be a factor in student conduct cases.
"The University is confident in the integrity of the process and the decisions that were made," said college spokesman Mark Nickel.
Protestors have asked the school for an official apology for how it has handled the allegations and for a hearing for the accused.
"This is happening on campuses all over the U.S.," Sternberg Lamb said. "I hope the university takes this on and realizes how much it matters to the entire community."