University of Texas at Dallas officials, reacting to a petition drive started by a student Tuesday, have banned former Baylor University fraternity president Jacob Anderson from campus, barred him from participating in commencement activities next week and kicked him out of graduate school.
Anderson, 23, of Garland, was placed on deferred probation for three years after pleading no contest to third-degree felony unlawful restraint in a plea bargain with McLennan County prosecutors. He had been charged with four counts of sexual assault in a 2016 incident at an off-campus fraternity party, but those charges were dismissed in the plea bargain and there is no requirement for him to register as a sex offender.
The plea bargain — and 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother’s decision to accept it Monday — sparked a national firestorm on social media. The judge has been inundated with vicious emails and calls to his office from all over the country, including many who have wished harm on him and sexual violence against female members of his family.
In response to the public outcry over the disposition of Anderson’s case, UT-Dallas President Richard C. Benson issued a statement Wednesday, saying that nothing is more important to the school than the safety of students.
“Two years ago we admitted a student without knowing their legal history,” Benson said in the statement. “Based on recent court action and other information over the last several days, that student will not participate in UTD commencement activities, will not attend UT Dallas graduate school and will not be present on campus as a student or a guest. I am grateful to the UT Dallas students, faculty and other community members who have shared their concerns, disappointment and outrage over this student’s presence on our campus.”
Anderson’s attorney, Tim Moore, of Fort Worth, said Wednesday that Anderson had already started taking graduate classes at UT-Dallas and is very upset at the most recent developments. Anderson is set to graduate with a finance degree and works for a Dallas real estate development company.
“He is not real happy about being banned from the school,” Moore said. “He is going to graduate, but not be in the ceremony. This all just came out of left field. He is very disappointed. He was happy at the school and doing well and looking forward to getting his graduate degree. Now that is put on hold. It is an absolutely overblown frenzy.”
Moore said he tried to talk to the dean of students Wednesday but she wouldn’t talk to him without a privacy release from Anderson.
“I had no idea this would get blown up like this,” Moore said.
The victim in Anderson’s case said Monday in an emotional victim-impact statement that the judge’s decision to accept the plea agreement was devastating to her. She described how Anderson’s actions that night have ruined her life and caused her emotional trauma and nightmares.
She said Anderson raped her behind a tent in the back yard of the fraternity house, forced her to give him oral sex, choked her and left her in the dirt after she blacked out. The woman went to the hospital that night and reported she had been sexually assaulted.
Fort Worth attorney Mark Daniel, who also represents Anderson, told the Tribune-Herald Tuesday that the woman’s victim-impact statement was “riddled with distortions and misrepresentations.”
Kelsey Casto, a 31-year-old senior at the University of Texas at Dallas, started the petition early Tuesday morning after she learned that Anderson is attending the same college. Her petition, posted on MoveOn.org, asks university officials to ban Anderson from campus.
Anderson was expelled from Baylor after the sexual assault allegations and the Baylor Phi Delta Theta fraternity was suspended. The victim in the case has a civil lawsuit pending against Anderson and the fraternity.
Casto’s petition, which had 24,822 signatures Wednesday evening, says in part: “The students at UT Dallas have a right to protection from predators like Anderson. He submitted a plea of no contest and was sentenced to deferred probation, and will not be made to register as a sex offender. That being the case, the school has a responsibility to remove him from this new potential hunting ground.”