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Barbara Howard: Gordon College is a small Christian school in the north shore town of Wenham. It has 1,700 students, and again, it is drawing scrutiny — this time for the way it has handled reports of sexual assault.

WGBH Radio’s Cristina Quinn and Joshua Eaton of the online news site ThinkProgress have been looking into complaints against Gordon for more than a year. Cristina is with me now in the studio. Thanks for coming in, Cristina.

Cristina Quinn: Thanks for having me, Barbara.

Barbara Howard: So Gordon has been roiled in controversy over its stance on homosexuality, and we'll get into that a little later, but what's the latest on reports of sexual assault?

Cristina Quinn: Right, well, we spoke with 10 women about their experiences with sexual assault at the school, and these are women who are current and former Gordon College students. Most of them said they believe the school system to investigate assaults failed them. Women who reported assaults often lost their faith, left the school. One woman even gave up a full scholarship, and all of them struggled with the emotional fallout.

Barbara Howard: Well, what was it in the college’s response that caused that?

Cristina Quinn: Well, under Title IX federal law, schools have to address sexual assault or sexual harassment allegations with certain protocols. Gordon College has a Title IX team made up of administrators. In some cases we looked at, that team investigated charges of assault, but often for a variety of reasons these cases fizzled out.

Barbara Howard: Well, like what? Can you give me some examples?

Cristina Quinn: Well, there’s a student who enrolled in Gordon College after being expelled from Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy for allegedly raping a fellow student. After he got to Gordon, three women say he raped or assaulted them, and he continued attending classes at Gordon until last summer. That was when he was arrested for allegedly assaulting a 15-year-old girl in Brockton. In another case, a woman confessed to the school that she had sexually assaulted her roommate, another woman. She told us that she was worried about her behavior and worried about her roommate, and she says the school told her that there was so little time left in the school year she had to stay in her room and, you know, by the way, have your roommate give us a call if she needs something.

Barbara Howard: So she self-reported, it sounds like?

Cristina Quinn: Yeah, she turned herself in. And we also spoke with the victim, and the victim later asked an administrator in an email if the school would have handled the assault differently if it had happened between a man and a woman instead of two women, and he responded that yes, in fact they would have addressed it more seriously if the alleged perpetrator was a man.

Barbara Howard: Well since then, has anything been done at Gordon to improve the practices, the responses?

Cristina Quinn: So in 2014, the Department of Education put out guidelines for these kinds of cases, and so Gordon started revising its policies and training faculty and staff on Title IX. But even after that, students say there have been problems. For example, there’s one student who has been identified by six individual women who say that he sexually assaulted or harassed them. Gordon College investigated and concluded that he does pose a threat to women. However, the punishment for these alleged assaults was that he had to move off campus, and he was still allowed to be on campus for his classes. Eventually he was suspended for something unrelated.

Barbara Howard: So now, you had mentioned that one of the alleged perpetrators was a transfer student from Eastern Nazarene College, where he allegedly raped another woman. Did Gordon College even know about those accusations?

Cristina Quinn: So we don’t know if Gordon College knew. Easter Nazarene told us that they don’t include disciplinary actions, including expulsions for sexual assault, on student transcripts. And in Massachusetts, they are not required to.

Barbara Howard: Well that’s pretty surprising. I think it’s fair to say that sexual assaults do happen on many, many college campuses. Is there anything, though, about a Christian college that makes it different?

Cristina Quinn: Christian universities that place a premium on sexual purity have unique challenges. So at Gordon, students can be disciplined for having premarital sex, for being in same-sex relationships, or any drinking, even if they’re over 21, and that’s because the school sees those acts as sinful. So imagine if you’re drinking and you’re raped. You may not want to come forward because you’re afraid that you’ll be disciplined for drinking. The school says it has an amnesty policy for drinking and sexual assault, and it is on their website, you just have to look for it. Students we spoke with, however, didn’t seem to know about it or told us they just ... they didn’t believe it.

Barbara Howard: Now this isn’t the first time Gordon College has been in the news, right?

Cristina Quinn: That’s right. Back in 2014, Gordon made national news when its president D. Michael Lindsay joined other Christian leaders in calling for a religious exemption to federal workplace protections for gay and transgender workers. So that set off a wave of protests on the campus. Most recently, the entire faculty senate resigned after the president overrode their unanimous recommendation for a professor’s promotion. This particular professor had been openly critical of the school’s position against hiring gay and transgendered workers. So there’s a lot of upheaval that continues on campus.  

Barbara Howard: OK. Thanks for joining us, Cristina.

Cristina Quinn: Thanks, Barbara.

Barbara Howard: That's WGBH Radio's Cristina Quinn. She and reporter Joshua Eaton have been investigating sexual assault at Gordon College in Wenham. Their findings have been published on the website ThinkProgress. WGBH News has reached out to Gordon College for comment. As of 4:30 this afternoon, we had not received a statement in response.