Students react to stalking allegations
Romello Lloyd, a 26-year-old student living in Bailey Hall, faces two criminal stalking charges and several EOAA reports. Some students said they feel the University should do more. The University said it has to follow often time-consuming procedures in these cases.
Published May 1, 2023
Editor’s Note: This is the second story in a two-part series. Read the first part.
At first, Jane didn’t know who had been sending her “creepy and weird” messages from various social media accounts. She said she started receiving messages when she was 18.
But when the individual started sending sexually explicit and aggressive letters to her house, which contained intimate details of her private life, two and a half years ago, she decided she needed to find out the identity behind the messages so she could take legal action.
“I found everything in the archives of all of my social media, everything that I could find,” Jane said. “Everything that was suspicious, everything that was weird, I took it all, screenshotted it all, pasted it all into documents, printed it out and then circled everything.”
Because the unknown sender had mentioned attending the sixth grade with her, Jane was able to obtain a copy of that yearbook and recognized Romello Lloyd as someone who had repeatedly come to her workplace and her ex-boyfriend’s workplace multiple times around 2015, asking for her and acting strangely.
“He would show up to my work and drop off weird gifts,” Jane said. “And he asked me for a kiss once, when, like, no one was there … At that time, I knew that I was receiving creepy messages. But I wasn’t putting it all together.”
She was able to gather enough evidence pointing to Lloyd as her stalker to file her restraining order in 2021. She said the process was difficult and time consuming, and she received little guidance along the way. Lloyd also wasn’t served the order until February.
Jane said she remembered thinking: “How much of my life is going to be wasted on this?” She said the stress from the situation caused her to request extensions in her classes, but she struggled to receive the support she felt she needed.
“I only have three classes right now because I’m in my last semester,” she said. “Two of them are accommodating, but one of them is completely not accommodating, which I find to be highly frustrating.”
Students turn to social media
Several University students, including Emma and Martin, recently took to social media platforms like Reddit to detail their experiences with Lloyd and find others who said they have had similar experiences. Many of these students said these experiences affected their daily lives and they are frustrated by what they see as inaction by the University to stop the behavior.
Nina, a fourth-year who chose to use a pseudonym for safety reasons, said Lloyd messaged her over Reddit a couple of years ago, asking if they could meet so he could paint her. A painter at the time, Nina messaged Lloyd about the possibility; not knowing his name, she said she assumed he was also a woman.
When Nina talked to him on the phone, she said she realized he was male and “sounded pretty rude,” so she decided not to move forward with the planned meeting at his home.
She said a few weeks after the call, she received text messages from Lloyd saying he recognized her in public based on photos and thought she was interested in him. She said she eventually blocked him.
But contact didn’t stop there. Nina said during several months, someone she believed to be Lloyd sent her hundreds of voicemails, some of which she saved.
“I felt like they got creepier and creepier,” she said. “They got very sexual in nature.”
“Next time I see you, you need to let me f*** you,” a voicemail sent Jan. 9, 2021, said. “This is wrong that you did this to me. Why are you blocking these phone calls? Why are you doing this to me?”
Nina said she considered filing a restraining order but felt doing so would give him more information about her, so instead, she changed her phone number.
Reports of feeling unsafe in UMN housing
Recently, students living in Bailey Hall have reported uncomfortable experiences with Lloyd, including Sara, who chose to use a pseudonym because of safety concerns. Sara said she lived on his floor last fall and left the University partially because he made her feel unsafe.
After Sara first moved in, she said Lloyd added her on Snapchat and sent her a photo of his room number, telling her he was giving people free massages. She said she later found out he was reaching out to girls around the dorm.
Sara said he used the dorm’s group chat to send sexual messages, and others in the dorm began warning each other about him being “creepy.” Sara said she and her roommate had multiple run-ins with Lloyd, including him “lurking” in stairwells or close to her room, making them feel uncomfortable. She said she complained to her Residence Director multiple times but felt she wasn’t taken seriously.
Sara’s roommate eventually filed an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) report against Lloyd in March.
“I’m in a dorm that we pay to live in and we’re trusting that [the University is] keeping us safe,’” Nina said.
Sara’s roommate’s aunt, Maria Hall, said she felt the University’s response to Lloyd’s behavior in and outside the residence hall was “disappointing.” Hall is also a former University student.
“I can’t imagine some of the other women who are also feeling this and what the parents are going through trying to help your child feel safe, and you keep hitting these walls,” Hall said. “I feel like we’ve followed every procedure, we’ve followed every process.”
Hall, who started posting on social media about her niece’s story, said the number of women at the University who have reached out to her about their own experiences with stalkers or harassment and not “getting any traction” is “unacceptable.”
“It feels like these processes and procedures are in place to protect the suspect instead of protecting these young women,” Hall said.
Hall said she is now working on providing free self defense training, including how to respond to stalking and harassment, for young University students. She said she was able to organize a seminar at her niece’s sorority house and has started communicating with University leadership about bringing training into residence halls.
However, Hall said more needs to be done at the system level to address issues of student safety. She said she thinks the University should be more proactive to ensure students are not at risk of causing harm to those around them, especially in University housing.
“You know, when you are approving applications for student housing, are there background checks being done?” Hall said. “Are we doing our due diligence to make sure that we are not placing someone that is a potential predator or you know, has a history of this kind of thing, in a home with all these students?”
UMN housing requirements and reporting
Several court documents confirmed Lloyd still lived in Bailey Hall as of April 17.
Housing and Residential Life (HRL) Interim Director Susan Stubblefield said in an email statement to the Daily the University’s housing application requires students to report whether they have been convicted of a criminal offense or if they have a pending charge against them. If a student answers “yes,” they must provide further information, which is used to consider whether to admit the student into University housing.
Lloyd was first charged with stalking in February 2022. Stubblefield said HRL is unable to disclose private data about students, so the Daily was unable to confirm Lloyd’s answer to this question on his housing application for fall 2022.
HRL also works with the Office of Admissions to confirm students have been admitted to the University, Stubblefield said. Admitted students are then assigned to housing based on their preferences and date of application.
When students sign their housing contracts, they must agree to abide by Community Behavioral Standards.
The University’s Office of Community Standards is able to remove students from University housing and can consider off-campus behavior if it applies to the Student Code of Conduct, Stubblefield said.
Stalking is listed as a prohibited behavior in the Student Code of Conduct.
HRL is unable to comment on any specific resident complaints, Stubblefield said. In general, students are advised to reach out to HRL staff with any concerns; staff members can then file a report. Sexual misconduct allegations, including sexual assault and harassment, stalking and relationship violence, are reported to EOAA.
When sexual misconduct is reported to EOAA, HRL staff often receive little to no information about the case and grievance process, Stubblefield said.
EOAA investigations can take several months
EOAA provides students with information about supportive measures, including potentially moving their housing, moving their classes and getting extensions on assignments, EOAA Director Tina Marisam said.
“Folks that come to our office are often in a lot of pain, so our aim is to make it as humane and compassionate an experience as possible,” Marisam said.
Marisam said EOAA also provides students with information on reporting options. Students can open police investigations, but EOAA also has an internal investigation process. Students can choose to open an investigation with one or both entities; the University only has jurisdiction over student status, while a police investigation could result in criminal penalties.
At least three students have filed EOAA reports against Lloyd. EOAA is a confidential entity and Marisam said she was not able to confirm how many reports have been filed against Lloyd.
Some of the students who filed reports said they have been frustrated with the lengthy process and what they feel is a lack of sufficient communication from EOAA.
In cases of sexual misconduct, EOAA undergoes a grievance process to determine whether a student has violated the University’s sexual misconduct policy. Marisam said this process is highly regulated by federal Title IX regulations and involves many steps.
Stalking is prohibited conduct under the Board of Regents Policy: Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, Stalking and Relationship Violence. Stalking is classified as conduct that would “cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or the safety of others; or suffer substantial emotional distress,” according to the policy. This conduct can include following, observing, surveilling and threatening another individual.
The grievance process starts with EOAA’s investigation. Then, the parties have a chance to come to an informal resolution; otherwise, the Sexual Misconduct Hearing Committee may hold a live hearing. The hearing committee, not EOAA, makes the final determination whether there has been a policy violation. A party is allowed to file an appeal of the decision.
The hearing committee, which is composed of four trained students, staff and/or faculty systemwide and one external lawyer, also decides on any discipline that is imposed, Marisam said.
There is a range of disciplinary decisions the panel can choose from including a warning, University housing suspension or expulsion, withholding a diploma or degree and suspension or expulsion from the University.
“The grievance process can be lengthy,” Marisam said. “For us to go through all those steps can take six months or more, which is a long time for the parties who have been through these situations.”
Marisam said during an EOAA investigation, the office generally meets with complainants at least twice and provides them with all of the evidence the office has gathered throughout the investigation.
“Our goal is that nothing they see in the final report should be a surprise to them,” Marisam said.
She also said the office often has about 100 ongoing complaints at a time, so an EOAA associate will try to provide updates to individuals every few weeks.
She said the office typically receives more than 700 complaints annually, and they prioritize more severe cases. For example, if the situation is impacting a student’s ability to access education or if there are risks of safety or repeat offenses, those cases become a priority.
“Even if we prioritize a case, they’re still fairly lengthy,” Marisam said. The lengthy process is often due to Title IX guidelines, she said.
Since an investigation can take several months, parties in a case sometimes graduate or leave the University during an investigation. Marisam said when this happens, EOAA still continues the investigation.
“So long as the complaint against the student is filed while they’re still a student, we will complete the process even if they leave the University the next day,” Marisam said. “We want to hold folks accountable where it’s appropriate.”
Aurora Center provides support throughout the process
Outside of filing an EOAA investigation, the University’s main resource for students in cases of stalking and sexual harassment and assault is the Aurora Center, which is a completely confidential service.
“First and foremost, we take care of where the client is at emotionally, physically, and then begin to build out options based on their experience and their priorities,” Aurora Center Director Katie Eichele said. “Oftentimes, a victim-survivor is going through trauma … nor do they often know what to expect when they are navigating all of these systems.”
In cases of stalking, one of the strategies the center starts out with is providing clients with a “do not contact letter” that communicates if a person continues to contact the victim, they will take legal action. Eichele said this is often effective.
However, she said an accused individual sometimes does not accept that type of communication, and their behavior may escalate.
“That could be a former ex-partner, it could be just a random stranger, who then has this obsession fixation on an individual, so when that happens … we recommend considering a restraining order,” Eichele said.
Center advocates are often involved in EOAA investigations to help complainants navigate that process. Eichele said if an EOAA investigation is not thorough and meticulous enough, an accused individual can say the University did not follow Title IX processes and they deserve to have any findings and sanctions overturned.
“That actually is more devastating to a victim-survivor to hear,” Eichele said. “That yes, we found them responsible and there’s evidence, but because the University didn’t follow their procedures, it’s all upside down and overturned now.”
Even though the University’s investigative process can take a long time, Eichele said EOAA generally still acts faster than the criminal justice process, which can take more than a year.
Another benefit of the University’s process is the standard of evidence is based on preponderance of evidence instead of beyond a reasonable doubt, Eichele said. This means if more than half of the evidence states the accused individual is guilty, then they are typically found guilty.
Eichele said regardless of the type of investigation, going through these processes can be difficult for victim-survivors because they oftentimes have to relive trauma and hear the accused person’s response to the allegations, which is generally that the victim-survivor is lying.
She said it is especially difficult for many victim-survivors to see the accused person continue their daily life during an investigation.
“It feels like a little bit of a dig for victim-survivors,” Eichele said. “‘Like they’re [the accused] not even thinking about the harm that they did to me, and I’m having to deal with it every day.’”