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Brown student sues university, fellow student over rape allegation

February 8, 1997

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ A Brown University student filed a libel lawsuit Friday against a female student who accused him of rape and the Ivy League school for punishing him for a crime he says he didn’t commit.

The federal lawsuit, filed by 21-year-old Adam Lack of Nora Springs, Iowa, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from the school and the female student, a sophomore from New York City who identified herself only as Sara when she spoke out at a campus rally.

``Adam’s had a very bad time. He has been a leper on campus,″ said his lawyer, David Casey.

Lawyers for the woman and the university would not comment, saying they had not reviewed the lawsuit. Sara is accused of libel; Brown of libel, breach of contract, negligence and gender discrimination.

The case has polarized the campus, with Sara’s supporters making her a symbol of sexual assault victims and Lack’s backers complaining that he was unfairly branded a rapist and persecuted by the school.

Their encounter took place during a party at the Delta Tau fraternity on Feb. 3, 1996. Sara said she drank 10 shots of alcohol and vomited just before Lack brought her to his room. She says she was drunk and does not remember their sexual encounter.

Lack claims they had consensual sex, that she appeared sober and that she asked him to get a condom beforehand. After spending the night, she gave him her phone number and urged him to call, the lawsuit said.

Six weeks later, after she had talked to a women’s peer counselor, university police and a dean as part of the school’s procedure for handling rape cases, Sara filed a complaint with Brown, choosing not to go the police.

``It took a while for it to actually set in,″ Sara explained in an interview with the Providence Journal-Bulletin. ``When I got home, I wasn’t that upset. The more I thought about it, the more upset I got.

``I had been violated in a situation I had no control to do anything about,″ she told the paper.

But from Lack’s point of view, ``She appeared lucid and composed and initiated all aspects of the sexual encounter,″ Casey said. ``There is no reason to believe she does not recall what happened.″

A university disciplinary council found Lack guilty of sexual misconduct and placed him on probation for a year. But in an unusual move, a dean upgraded Lack’s punishment to a one-semester suspension.

Lack appealed and Provost James Pomerantz reduced the penalty to probation for two semesters, finding Lack guilty of ``flagrant disrespect,″ a violation of the university code.

Lack claimed in his lawsuit that Brown’s disciplinary proceedings were flawed because he was punished for unsubstantiated accusations. He also claimed the university violated federal civil rights laws against gender bias when it charged Lack with misconduct but failed to charge Sara for violating the university code on underage drinking.

Sara, too, was disappointed with how the university handled the case because Lack never served the suspension and because she had no recourse after his punishment was reduced.

``I would hesitate to encourage another woman to press charges,″ she said at a rally against rape last fall.

Lack is on leave from Brown this semester but hopes to return to complete his senior year. Sara has remained in school.

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