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Columbia MBA Says She Was Drugged & Raped By Classmate

Columbia Business School. Courtesy photo


The video, she would later discover, would prove he had lied. But from what she could piece together, along with his conflicting stories about what happened that evening, convinced her that he was her assailant. At another business school event, she openly accused him of leaving her unconscious on the sidewalk and told him that she didn’t want to have anything to do with him.

She had told her parents that she fell, suffered a concussion and went to the emergency room for treatment. But when she visited them in Houston on Nov. 6, Brehm revealed that she believed she was drugged and assaulted. “I had a very long conversation with my father about what to do,” says Brehm. “He asked whether I even wanted to go back to Columbia. My parents are helping me with my tuition, and he was outraged by the amount of money he had given the school when they couldn’t protect their own students.”

That night in her parents’ home was yet another restless one. She began writing the email to her classmates, finishing it on her flight back home. Before landing, she had heard from Dean Zelon Crawford who wanted to see her as soon as possible. That afternoon she walked into the dean’s office and, with an accompanying friend, sat at Crawford’s round table. Only last year Crawford won the school’s Robert W. Lear Award given to those who most clearly demonstrate commitment and interest in working with students.


Dean of Students Zelon Crawford

According to Brehm, however, Dean Crawford showed little empathy in the meeting. Brehm says that the dean suggested she was defaming a fellow student by bringing her allegations forward. “I reminded her that I didn’t name the student, but ‘Yes, am I the one that is under fire here?’”

Dean Crawford, she recalls, warned her to be very careful and told her not to have any other written communction with her classmates. The dean gave no indication she would investigate the charges Brehm was making, didn’t even express concern for any of the women who said they had been drugged. When Brehm left Crawford’s office, Brehm felt that the dean believed she had fabricated the story. “I felt deflated when I walked out,” recalls Brehm. “I felt like I was being attacked. I asked for added security and a do-not-contact order. She made everything sound unreasonable and insisted that Columbia had incredible security at all events. My friend told me that woman is not your friend.”

Shockingly, Brehm would never hear directly from Dean Crawford again. It’s possible, of course, that the lawyers muzzled the dean, given the potential legal consequences of a follow-on message. But Brehm would never even receive a follow-on email from Crawford to see how she was doing.

Soon after leaving the meeting, however, she learned from the NYPD detective who interviewed her that the video footage obtained from the Jane Hotel shows her male classmate with her when she collapsed on the sidewalk. Instead of helping her, she says, the detective told her that the man immediately fled the scene after some of her friends came to her assistance.


Just before Thanksgiving, on Nov. 20th, a Title IX investigator at Columbia, Jennifer Kelly, informed Brehm that she gained a no contact directive against her alleged assailant. According to the email from Kelley, the accused is named and “prohibited from contacting you until further notice. Such prohibited contact includes, but is not limited to: personal contacts, written communications, text messaging, social media and other electronic communications, and communications through a third party, whether on or off campus, which may be considered in conflict with the spirit of this directive.”

What happens next is anyone’s guess. Will her assailant ever be brought to justice? Will the university’s handling of the complaint result in a civil lawsuit and a legal battle? Brehm believes that she has traveled an ordeal that would resonate with many sexual survivors. “I’ve gone from confused, fearful, and scared to empowered, fearless and brave,” she says. Brehm knows one thing: She wants to finish what she started and with her MBA pursue some role in women’s advocacy.

“I want to continue my education,” she says. “I am feeling motivated to get back. I want this to be an opportunity for the university to do good. “I was angry but I don’t think the whole university is rotten. I am very pleased with my peers, my academic advisor, and my donor for supporting me. A lot of people have really stepped up.”


About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.