'No grounds' to expel student sex offender: University of Calgary
Connor Neurauter is seen in an image used on an online petition.
Published Thursday, January 11, 2018 4:51PM PST
A student permitted by a B.C. judge to finish his semester before serving a sentence for sexual interference will not be expelled, the University of Calgary says.
The provost and vice-president said in a statement Thursday that the school has "no grounds on which to expel him."
"We would like to clarify that Mr. Neurauter has not been on campus since Tuesday, Jan. 9, and we have advised him not to return to campus for the remainder of the term," Dru Marshall wrote.
The statement was issued in response to an online petition that garnered nearly 50,000 signatures in a matter of days.
Those who added their names asked the university to expel Bachelor of Science student Connor Neurauter, saying the court system failed the victim but the university had "the opportunity to help change the narrative."
Neurauter was sentenced to more than three months in jail for sexual interference with a 13-year-old girl. Specific details are covered by a publication ban, but the case involved nude photos of the girl, and the incident occurred when he was 18.
Neurauter, now 21, entered a guilty plea to the interference charge last week, a decision his mother told CTV News was made to spare his victims the trauma of a trial. A charge of possession of child pornography was stayed.
He was sentenced to 90 days in jail, but the Kamloops, B.C. judge approved a joint submission that he be permitted to finish his term first. The student's sentence will begin on May 4.
The decision prompted outrage on campus and elsewhere, and an online petition put pressure on the University of Calgary to do right by his victim.
The petition's creator wrote that previous court proceedings had also been delayed to accommodate his studies, exams and a hockey tournament, and that even the Crown was accommodating.
While those behind the posting asked the school to expel him for violating its sexual violence policy, the provost said the policy does not apply in this case.
"The matter in British Columbia occurred before Mr. Neurauter was a student at the University of Calgary. This is important, because our policies do not apply to activity that occurred before the person was a member of our campus community," Marshall wrote.
Many who signed the petition gave the reason that expulsion would show that U of C sides with victims, or that it takes students' safety seriously, but Marshall wrote that failing to do so is not proof that Neurauter's rights are being prioritized.
"This does not mean that the university condones sexual violence or harassment," he said.
"On the contrary, we aspire to be leaders in creating a safe and inclusive learning environment that helps advance all of our students and improve society as a whole."
Marshall wrote that school staff encourage respectful conversation and debate about complex issues, and that situations like Neurauter's challenge everyone to consider all the facts while determining a best course of action.
He did not say whether Neurauter would return to campus eventually, but mentioned that management was working with the student to "come to a resolution that respects all involved."
Ahead of the decision from U of C, an expert who works with survivors of sexual violence said the judge's decision sends a message that victims may not be taken seriously.
In a country with a reporting rate of six per cent when it comes to sex crimes, stories like Neurauter's may discourage more from coming forward, she said.
In an interview with CTV News on Wednesday, Neurauter's mother said she's concerned for her son's safety. Both have read threats made against him online, and she said university staff member told her students are waiting in classes in which he's enrolled to see if he shows up.
Neurauter's parents encouraged their son to take the plea bargain that included the delayed sentence, Susan Neurauter said, but added that she regrets it now that she's seen the reaction.
"He made the decision to go to school well after this had taken place just in effort to get his life on track. He didn't rape anyone. He didn't assault anyone," she said.
"He made some very, very poor choices. He's gone to counselling. We're working on figuring this out."
With files from CTV Calgary and CTV Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber