Enrollment of Student Accused of Rape Brings Up Ban the Box Questions

Diamond Naga Siu
NYU didn't completely ban the box this past August, and students with previous violations of rape and sexual assault are still allowed to attend the university.

While NYU didn’t outright ban the box at the beginning of August, it did opt to specifically evaluate violent criminal histories during the application process. However, even with the box, students with a history of rape and sexual assault prior to attending NYU are allowed to enroll in the university.

As reported by NYU Local, ex-Cornell student Wolfgang Ballinger is now enrolled in NYU, even though he was suspended at Cornell for accusations of sexually assaulting a female student last semester.

NYU spokesperson John Beckman confirmed that Ballinger is enrolled in online courses at NYU but added that he is not a presence on campus.

“While federal privacy laws prohibit me from going into detail about a student’s specifics, I can say that Wolfgang Ballinger was not admitted to any academic program at NYU,” Beckman said. “He is not a matriculated student here.”

Despite this, LS sophomore Lois Evans said that she does not think it is okay for sex offenders to be allowed into any university, especially with the given statistics of rape on campus.

“People are being sexually assaulted by students with no prior offenses as it is,” Evans said. “I think it puts the whole school at risk — both in terms of mental and physical safety — because it implies that sexual assault or rape is not as bad as taking a life or inflicting any other type of violence against someone.”

This is why Evans conditionally supports banning the box and thinks that the changes must be more nuanced than it is right now.

CAS senior Nancy Uddin expressed similar sentiments and said that she supports banning the box but that she also thinks the university should try working on making a safer space for the community by considering the ramifications of letting in the abuser.

“I advocate for transformative justice, so abusers can definitely transform,” Uddin said. “But there needs to be tangible evidence of the people working towards changing and unlearning.  They need to be held accountable and to be transparent about their pasts.”

She thinks that this can be done if all universities — not just NYU — utilize more feminist principles in their everyday practices and infrastructures. Uddin said that improved policies could uplift marginalized communities.

Incarceration to Education Coalition, the school organization that focuses on banning the box, understands this conflict and even said that sexual violence is an issue that personally resonates with members of the organization.

“Many of us are and have been survivors of sexual assault and the carceral system,” IEC said in a statement. “Recognizing that many people directly impacted by the punishment system are survivors of sexual assault themselves, we know these two issues will never be mutually exclusive. This is a difficult and complex issue for us and our community as a whole.”

IEC said that it is deeply committed to justice as well as the abolition of rape culture, and the organization said that it would engage with this topic more in a community conversation next week.

Evans said that the issues of rape and sexual assault on college campuses have been and continue to be too overlooked during the application process.

“This very subtly suggests that non consensual sex isn’t a ‘real crime,’” Evans said. “The problem is society as a whole. We’re guilty of reinforcing these ideas until we consciously make an effort not to, but it’s rape culture at its finest for lack of a better word.”

Email Diamond Naga Siu at [email protected] 

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7 COMMENTS

  1. “Despite this, LS sophomore Lois Evans said that she does not think it is okay for sex offenders to be allowed into any university, especially with the given statistics of rape on campus.”

    I’m sorry, but who is a sex offender? Not Ballinger. Until someone is proven GUILTY of a crime, he is INNOCENT! Is Ballinger not allowed to continue his education? He is not allowed to make himself a better person, and expand his knowledge and interests, considering he is still innocent under the eyes of America and society?

    Sex offenders are and sexual assault is heinous, and everyone – Lois Evans, and Washing Square News Included – should be cautious of labeling someone as so until they are proven to have done so. Lets say he is innocent (which, again, he is as of right now), imagine the emotional consequences he will have to , and has already, endured, and articles like these are just insensitive to everyone. As long as someone is still innocent and has their rights has an American citizen, we should all be deemed the same respect. Shame on you.

    Also, he was not suspended from Cornell, he is on interim suspension.

  2. What’s with the title of this article? It “brings up Ban the Box questions” … to whom? As pointed out in the first paragraph: the Box, in place, does not necessarily prevent someone like Ballinger from enrolling.

  3. He was indicted in July of these charges; they are not simply accusations. ” He was indicted on a charge of first-degree sexual abuse on July 14″ — a direct pull from your cited link. This is a huge huge huge difference and a reflection of poor journalism. Please correct.

  4. JJ – he was indicted on 1 charge, and just because someone is indicted doesn’t mean they are convicted or a felon. It just means it is going to be further investigated.

  5. Reality Check: NYU does NOT care about the physical or emotional well-being of its students. They certainly do not care if someone is raped or not. They are happy to ignore victims of rape, sexual assault, and other crimes as long and cover them off. All they care about is making a profit off of student debt. This is a multi-billion dollar corporation masquerading as a non-profit.

  6. Sorry, Ms. Evans, Ballinger is not a sex offender in the eyes of the law. Also, convicted sex offenders are typically allowed to enroll in online coursework FROM PRISON. Also, he both lives and works on the NYU “campus” or lack thereof; his home is a stone’s throw from about six different dorms, and his family’s business (Webster Hall) is as well, of course–thus his status as a (non-degree) student in no way affects your safety. How can you talk about feeling unsafe on campus when you chose to attend a school that has none? Despite the low crime rate of the city in general and the Village in particular, there is the occasional violent episode on your “campus,” and there ain’t nothin’ “campus security” can do about it. Avoid Webster Hall if you fear for your safety (and/or your social capital).

    Campaigns like these are why some feminists–myself very included, obviously–complain that today’s youth are whiney and hypersensitive and hypocritical. By acting as judge, jury, and executioner in a he-said-she-said case, you college kids (e.g., Emma Sulkowitz) make a mockery of the same sexual assault victims you’re trying to do right by.

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