Lack of housing background checks leads to alleged rapist living on campus

Lack of housing background checks leads to alleged rapist living on campus

Excerpted from a University Press story by Kendall Little

Eight months before becoming a Florida Atlantic University (FAU) student, Riley Hayes allegedly engaged in sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old girl when she was physically unable to resist, according to the state of New Hampshire.

Hayes was 17 at the time. Court records identified his alleged victim only as L.B. because she is a minor.

Police in Conway, N.H., arrested Hayes on Feb. 26 — the day after he turned 18 years old — and charged him with aggravated felonious sexual assault. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in New Hampshire state prison.

Four months ago, the university admitted Hayes and allowed him to live in Heritage Park Towers on the Boca Raton campus without a screening or background check.

Carroll County Superior Court clerk Abigail Albee scheduled Hayes’ hearing for Oct. 20 at 9 a.m. The judge ruled that the hearing must be done in private because minors were involved. The UP could not reach Hayes for comment, but did receive a statement from one of his attorneys.

“As we have said previously, Riley has pled not guilty because he is not guilty,” Hayes’ attorney Robin Melone said. “We will not try this case in the court of public opinion where people have already tried and convicted Riley on the mere allegation. Riley very much looks forward to his real trial.”

There could be other students in Hayes’ situation living on campus. Interim Dean of Students Audrey Pusey said that the university’s admissions and housing forms include a box for applicants to check if they have a criminal record. However, the box is not foolproof.

“It’s kind of like the honor code,” Pusey said. The university cannot force students to disclose their criminal history.

However, if university officials discover that a student has a criminal record and did not disclose it, housing policy dictates that the university can remove that student.

University officials eventually removed Hayes from campus housing on July 8 for a reason officials have yet to disclose.

Pusey stated that university officials are not always aware of students’ backgrounds, including any criminal activity prior to their arrival on campus. “Sometimes the community knows before we do,” Pusey said.

Several students say that’s the problem.

“I understand that the administration can’t catch every single thing, but when it’s brought to their attention, they stay silent,” said Joi Dean, president of the university’s chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Students seeking on-campus housing must be enrolled in classes and taking at least nine credit hours. University officials then send housing applications to the housing contract appeal committee to be evaluated. All first-year students are required to live on campus unless they file for an exemption, according to the university’s housing website.

The university is not required to accept housing contracts, but according to Stacy Mosley, the associate director of housing and contracts, very few contracts are canceled by the university — especially for criminal reasons.

“I’ve been here seven years and can only think of one or two criminal cases,” she said.

But housing applicants are not subject to background checks prior to moving in.

“It would require student consent to do a background check and that would be over 5,000 background checks,” Mosley said. “We can’t. We don’t do background checks.”

Mosley says that university administration is responsible for making any modifications to housing processes.

Back in July, members of several student organizations on campus sent a letter about Hayes to Pusey and two other university officials hoping for action.

“While we understand the school’s hands are tied to a certain extent, we hope FAU takes this opportunity to establish our campus as a safe place,” the letter read. “Regardless of guilt or innocence, the safety of minor students and the general student body is what is most important. We would like to know what the school plans to do to reassure students that their safety is being looked after.”

For the full story, please click here.

Site Designed and Developed by Agency Creative