Brown found this student responsible for sexual assault. So why was he appointed their star graduation speaker?

A university panel said he sexually assaulted another student

A student who was found responsible for sexual assault has been appointed the star speaker at Brown University’s commencement this Saturday.

University officials appointed Benjamin Miller-Gootnick as student orator for Brown’s midyear graduation even though they know he was found responsible last month for sexually assaulting a student who was too drunk to consent.

A staff member who works in the Dean's office confirmed to The Tab this morning that Miller-Gootnick is scheduled to speak tomorrow. He has been chosen as one of two student orators to deliver a speech in front of the graduating Class of 17.5 – those who finish their degrees halfway through the academic year.

But just weeks ago, a college panel reported that it was "more likely than not" that Miller-Gootnick sexually assaulted a female student in a laundry room after a night out, knowing she was black-out drunk.

The Tab has seen Title IX documents from a source within the university that describe how Miller-Gootnick was suspended in November upon being found responsible for "sexual assault: sexual touching."

The panel ruled that “any sexual contact initiated by Mr Miller-Gootnick while in the laundry room would be nonconsensual due to [redacted]’s state of incapacitation.”

He was punished with an immediate 18-month suspension and mandatory consent counseling. He has appealed the findings of the panel. The Tab understands he also attempted to file a Title IX complaint against his accuser, claiming he was the one who was sexually assaulted. His complaint was unsuccessful.

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Ben Miller-Gootnick, who was found responsible for a sexual assault in a Title IX investigation

Miller-Gootnick has been recognized with a number of awards during his time at Brown. He won the Joslin Award for "extraordinary service" to the Brown community and is a member of the Swearer Center for Public Service. He also boasts impressive work experience on his resume. Having graduated from Sidwell Friends – the Washington D.C. high school that Malia Obama attended – he interned in the White House in 2015, and campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

When we contacted the female student, she declined to speak to us. As a survivor of sexual assault, she did not waive her right to privacy.

Emails leaked from the university reveal that the officials organizing Saturday’s graduation know about the finding against Miller-Gootnick but are proceeding with the ceremony regardless.

In another message seen by The Tab from Maud Mandel, Brown’s Dean of the College, she said that the sanctions against Miller-Gootnick are not in place while he appeals the verdict.

She said:

“I have reviewed this matter and can share the following: During the pendency of the appeal in this case, the University has not imposed a sanction on the respondent and the respondent has not otherwise been restricted from campus. Absent imposition of a sanction or restriction, the respondent has the right to participate in all university exercises including in an academic honor that was rewarded through an independent process.”

We contacted Miller-Gootnick but he did not wish to comment. A lawyer representing him said that he could not speak on the record at this time.

Brown University has yet to respond to multiple requests for comment.

UPDATE

A Brown spokesperson has responded to us and said: "We have one speaker for this year’s mid-year completion ceremony: Maya Faulstich-Hon."

It is not known whether the university dropped Miller-Gootnick as a speaker or if he withdrew himself.

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