Sexual Assault Allegations Arise in Student Government Meeting

Student government member levels allegation at Thursday meeting

BY LAURA SCUDDER, NEWS EDITOR; ALEXA TIRONI, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR; TRAVIS MCMILLAN, STAFF WRITER

Sexual assault allegations were leveled at a public student senate meeting on Thursday, Feb. 27, against Cedric Price, speaker of the student senate. The allegations were brought forth by Sarah Kurian, the undersecretary of university life for Title IX and Clery Act compliance in student government’s executive cabinet. 

In a written statement to Fourth Estate on Saturday, Price denied the claims. “I consider sexual assault allegations to be very serious. Victims should speak out and share their stories. However, I did not sexually assault Sarah Kurian,” Price wrote. 

At 4:34 p.m. on Thursday, Price officially called the student government meeting to order. 

Members of Mason 4 Survivors (M4S) were present at the meeting in order to read a statement from Kurian during the public comment portion of the meeting, according to student organizer Ashley Stewart. 

A M4S representative, Sara Deriso, was originally supposed to read the statement for Kurian, who at the time had chosen to remain anonymous. However, Kurian decided to deliver the statement herself during the meeting. 

Kurian’s statement detailed her perspective of what allegedly happened with Price as well as her past experience with sexual assault. Kurian also felt as though she could not turn to Title IX because of the history between the department and sexual assault survivors. 

Kurian confirmed that she spoke to a student government advisor that is a mandatory reporter and they filed a report on her behalf. Price continued in his written statement that he would be moving forward with the Title IX investigation.

“I want to make it clear that I recognize there is a horrible history of black men being falsely accused of sexual assault — and it is wrong,” Kurian acknowledged in one part of her statement, going on to explain her perspective of the alleged situation. 

In an interview with Fourth Estate, Kurian explained why she changed her mind about remaining anonymous during the meeting. 

“I ended up just feeling like it needed to come out of me because before it would have been fine coming out anonymously, but I felt like this was my story and my experience and Cedric was trying to take that away from me, and I really wanted to take that back for myself,” she said. 

Kurian also explained why she felt like she had to bring her story forward. 

“As a leader of student government, and as a leader of the student body, I felt the senators that he worked with and the student body deserved to know who was sitting in that position and who could potentially be running for president,” Kurian said. 

Price did not comment on the allegations for the duration of the meeting. However, Price began speaking prior to the meeting, according to student government member Taylor Moore, along with multiple other sources. 

According to Moore, a listserv email was sent to student government members on Feb. 26 with a note that said: “Speaker Price is sending a strong request that all senators show up by 4:15 p.m. in room 1204 as he has something to provide of appreciation.”

Moore explained that when students arrived the next day, Price began detailing an alleged incident which occurred between him and another student government member — later identified as Kurian — earlier in February.

After detailing the alleged incident from his perspective, Price explained the steps he’s been taking in the aftermath and his plans for his future in student government. 

“I will not be stepping down from student government,” Price said to the room, according to Moore. 

Moore said that Price explained that he plans to move forward in student government as he believes he has done a good job during his time with the organization. 

Ben Endres, a student government advisor, stated a day after the public meeting that his main goal is to support students.

“For me, it’s — I want to make sure to continue to support them and support students that need it, and also continue to offer resources and trainings and things if we need it and come to that decision, but student government governs themselves. I’m here more to support them and meeting their needs,” Endres said. 

When asked about his prior knowledge of the situation and the events of the meeting, Endres responded, “I’m not gonna go into what I did or didn’t [know] because it’s all, I mean, even if I didn’t know, it’s private information.”