Photographer escapes charges

December 2, 2005

Penn officials dropped all charges against the student embroiled in a controversy over free expression yesterday.

The Engineering junior who took pictures of a couple apparently having sex against a Hamilton College House window had been accused of sexual harassment and violating Penn’s Code of Student Conduct.

Representatives of the photographer called the outcome expected but said the case raises larger questions about how the conduct office operates.

Meanwhile, an attorney for the woman pictured in the now-infamous photograph has said that his client will pursue further legal action.

Officials also plan to drop charges against a second student who took similar photographs, said Andrew Geier, the Psychology graduate student advising the first student.

Geier said the second student took pictures but did not distribute them.

The OSC initially proposed that the Engineering junior be put on disciplinary probation and write a letter of apology and an essay stating what he had done wrong.

The photographer was prepared with a counterproposal yesterday — that the University dismiss the case and issue an apology — but the charges were dropped before he could present it.

No University administrators, including OSC Director Michele Goldfarb and President Amy Gutmann, would comment on the matter. Instead, officials issued a brief statement saying that though they had decided to drop the issue, they were still disturbed by the photographer’s behavior.

"We are concerned about the wide dissemination of the intimate photos in a manner [that] subjected another member of the Penn community to embarrassment and ridicule," the statement said. "We have asked the student photographer to apologize and sincerely hope he does."

No explanation as to why the charges were dropped was given, and requests for further comment were denied.

Geier said not to expect any apology from the student, adding that he believes that it is the University that should be apologizing. He expressed disappointment that the school has not acknowledged any wrongdoing.

He said the student, whose name was blacked out on confidential documents obtained by The Daily Pennsylvanian, would not comment.

Attempts to contact the female student in the photographs — whose name the DP is withholding — were unsuccessful, but attorney Jordan Koko issued a statement on her behalf.

"My client is emotionally shattered from this extremely disturbing ordeal. The intense focus on this matter into my client’s identity and image has imposed exceptional emotional and psychological harm," the statement read.

Koko added that his client’s privacy was invaded in violation of state law and her constitutional rights. He said she "will pursue all her legal options."

Multiple legal experts said that they do not believe anyone’s privacy was violated by the photos.

Alan Kors, a History professor and renowned defender of freedom of expression who had come to the photographer’s defense, believes that the situation points to a larger problem on campus.

"If this Office of Student Conduct was willing to pursue this case with these facts, then what cases don’t we know about?" he asked. "That is frightening because most [students] plea bargain."

Geier said that before he agreed to advise the student, the photographer was on the verge of agreeing to the OSC’s initial proposal.

Kors called for a University investigation into the office and its definition of students’ rights as well as what constitutes certain violations.

"We have got to know what criteria of student conduct this office is working with," he said, adding that the OSC is "clearly out of its mind and out of control."

Kors did not attend yesterday’s meeting because of a conflicting class.
The photographer felt vindicated and looked relieved, Geier said. He added that he was not surprised by the result of the meeting.

"They were desperately looking for a way out," Geier said, noting all of the negative attention the University has received.

"They did not want this to go on any longer."

Schools: University of Pennsylvania