Petition to play

Photo by Quinn Fitzgerald.

Student’s suspension causes controversy on campus

Some Franklin College students are rallying behind a football player who was suspended from the team’s Nov. 18 playoff game.

The senior player was suspended after “a paper typed by the student didn’t meet ‘Franklin College’ standards,” according to a petition created by senior linebacker Jeffontae McClain on Nov. 16.

The suspension stems from allegations against the student “that have been proven false,” the petition reads. 

“The student was cooperative throughout the investigation and found not guilty yet still ended up suspended,” it says. “If you would like to help bring justice to the situation please sign this petition.”

It received 76 signatures out of its goal of 1,000—42 of which came from supporters located in Franklin.

“If innocent then there is zero reason for a suspension or any disciplinary action,” a supporter named Logan H. said on his signature. “Especially when that disciplinary action affects other students in a negative way.”

Supporter Nawwaf E. also signed the petition and commented, referring to an incident that occurred in 2016.

“The punishment is nonsense and makes no sense to enforce it a year after the occurrence,” he wrote.

A Franklin Police Department report obtained by The Franklin filed July 25 details a rape that occurred in October 2016.

Officer Brian Goldfarb reported that he met with the alleged victim at the Franklin Police Department in July 2017 at 1:35 p.m. 

“The victim reported that in October 2016, she was raped on the Franklin College campus by a student,” the report reads.

Another detective took over the investigation following Goldfarb’s initial report. The investigation was closed, and no charges were filed. Franklin Police Chief Tim O’Sullivan declined to discuss the incident in detail with The Franklin because it is a sexual assault case. 

The Franklin reached out to both the alleged victim and the student accused for comment. Both declined. 

The reason behind the student’s suspension from the football team’s Nov. 18 NCAA playoff game against Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, remains a mystery, though.

Athletic Director Kerry Prather and Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Ellis Hall said they are not permitted to discuss the student’s disciplinary incident in its entirety because it involves personal information. Neither could confirm why the student was suspended, if the investigation is ongoing or if there was an investigation at all.

A student’s academic, financial, personal counseling, disciplinary and other information is protected by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, known as FERPA.

The player’s suspension led several current and former students to speak out against the issue on Twitter.

“It hurts to watch a man blatantly be treated wrong and not be able to do anything about it,” senior quarterback Chase Burton said in a tweet.

Zay Thornton, a 2017 Franklin College graduate, played as a defensive back and is still in contact with people on campus. He used Twitter as a platform to voice his concerns with the college administration’s efforts to handle the situation.

“Franklin College by far is the most crooked school I’ve ever seen,” one of Thornton’s tweets reads. “Can’t believe I really went to that place and thought I was making some kind of change.”

Thornton said he was upset that his leadership, and everything he strived to accomplish while on campus, seemed to be for nothing. 

“This situation frustrated me a lot because the person, he played an entire season and then it wasn’t up until, I think, the day before they were leaving when the decision was made,” Thornton said. “If the situation was—I’m not saying it’s not important—but if it was that big of a deal, it was something I feel like should have been handled before the season started.”

Prather said the athletic department works closely with the academic affairs office on every issue regarding the student conduct policy. 

“If we learn, in the athletic department, of a violation, we share that information with the student affairs folks,” Prather said. “At some point, in each of the judicial processes that involve a student-athlete, they share the information with us.”

The judicial process allows the student to admit responsibility at any point, putting an end to the investigation.

“Our process is not a legal process. It is an educational one,” Hall said. “We’re a private college. People voluntarily join here, and when they become a member of the community, they’re expected to abide by our policies and regulations.”

After the judicial process is completed, the student-athlete must meet with his or her head coach and Prather to discuss the ramifications of the actions.

“Participation in athletics is a privilege, and it is based on a certain set of expectations,” Prather said. “There really is no right to participate. You have to meet academic requirements. You have to meet requirements with respect to just complying with the general rules of the campus and all of that.” 

Sports Information Director Ryan Thomas said the athletic department is not authorized to comment on the situation.

Head Football Coach Mike Leonard and McClain did not respond to interview requests.


The college’s judicial process, which can be found in The Key, follows the steps below.

  1. A report may be filed by anyone that states the time, place and details of the situation.
  2. College administrators review the report and determine whether the situation violates college policy. If a situation appears to violate the policy, everyone involved—the reporting party, responding party and others—receive a notification of investigation stating what policies may be in violation and who will investigate the incident.
  3. One or more investigators meet with the responding party to listen to his or her explanation of the incident. Then, they meet with others involved in the incident, including the reporting party.
  4. After the information is gathered, investigators determine the outcome based on preponderance of the evidence, which is different than beyond a reasonable doubt. In preponderance of the evidence, a party can be found guilty if 51 percent of the evidence is proven. Beyond reasonable doubt says the party is only guilty if 85 percent of the information can be proven true.
  5. Another report is filed by the investigators, and the responding party may review it. They are permitted to submit any changes they feel are necessary. The reporting party who initially filed the claim may also review the report. A decision is made following these reviews.
  6. If the student is proven guilty, they will receive a letter outlining the policy violation and the penalty.
  7. The student may accept the outcome and penalty, accept the outcome, but disagree with the penalty, or not accept the outcome and penalty.
  8. If the student disagrees entirely, the report goes to a hearing, which comprises of three Franklin College community members and a non-voting chair. The members will listen to the investigator’s side of the story, as well as the student’s, then decide the outcome.
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About Ashley Steeb 29 Articles
Ashley Steeb is the sports editor for The Franklin. She is a Multimedia journalism major with minors in History and Public Relations. Ashley covered the 2016 Republican National Convention for and is a contributing author in the Greatest Sports Stories in the History of Indiana. In her limited spare time, Ashley loves watching Butler basketball, San Francisco Giants baseball, Golf, and NASCAR. This is Ashley's third year on The Franklin staff and her first year in a leadership role. She previously held positions as a reporter for the News, Sports and Opinion sections.

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