Duquesne University Update Regarding Dannielle Brown Matter
Duquesne University continues to receive emails and calls urging it to agree to the three demands of Dannielle Brown. We understand and respect the concerns so many have for Ms. Brown. The University shares these concerns. Marquis "Jaylen" Brown was a well-liked and respected student and member of the campus community. His tragic loss remains a source of pain for the entire Duquesne family.
At the same time, Duquesne must correct inaccuracies and misperceptions that continue to be circulated. First, the University has already agreed to all three of Ms. Brown's initial demands. It did so multiple times, including in a July 21, 2020 written communication with Lee Merritt, Ms. Brown's attorney at the time.
With respect to Ms. Brown's demand for an independent investigation and for information, the University agreed to provide her with its Public Safety file as well as video recordings from inside the residence hall on the night of the tragedy. These materials have been ready to be shared for several weeks. Duquesne is waiting for Ms. Brown and her attorney to return a standard Confidentiality Agreement to comply with federal and state privacy laws. Such an agreement protects the privacy of individuals who are identified in the Public Safety file, such as other students, as well as information that cannot be made public (such as driver's license information) but can be shared with Ms. Brown and her attorney through a confidential process. Nothing in that agreement is unique to Duquesne or out of the ordinary.
Since the time that the Confidentiality Agreement was sent (on August 7), Attorney Merritt communicated that he has stepped down as Ms. Brown's attorney. Duquesne understands that Ms. Brown is now represented by new counsel; however, the identity of this new attorney is not known. The University looks forward to working with this new counsel to facilitate Ms. Brown's investigator's review of the Public Safety file and other material.
To be clear, nothing is preventing Ms. Brown and her investigator from undertaking an investigation on her own, including conducting witness interviews. The University has done nothing to prevent her or her investigator from doing so.
The University is aware that Ms. Brown's demand is for "full access without stipulation." There are laws in place that govern student privacy, which prohibit such full access, without an appropriate Confidentiality Agreement. Moreover, Ms. Brown has asked publicly on several occasions why the University will not simply talk to her. On February 15, 2019, Ms. Brown filed a lawsuit against Duquesne University in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. Once litigation is filed and she is represented by counsel, the University is required to work through her attorney.
Finally, Ms. Brown has stated publicly that she has made no request for money in this case. This is not accurate. More than two weeks ago, on July 30, she made a multi-million dollar written monetary demand through the lawyer representing her at the time. This occurred after Duquesne had already agreed to Ms. Brown's initial three demands. Duquesne believes a monetary demand is unjustified under the circumstances - where its officers acted with due care and it has no responsibility for the unforeseeable events that led to JB Brown's death. Nonetheless, the University offered to contribute $100,000 to a foundation in JB's honor. The offer was in addition to Duquesne's agreement to continue moving forward expeditiously to obtain body cameras in conjunction with the union, to conduct training programs, and to allow Ms. Brown and her counsel to inspect the Duquesne police files. Thus far, however, there has been no indication that these offers have been accepted, even though the University has agreed to all three of the initial demands.
Duquesne University looks forward to outreach from Ms. Brown's new attorney, in order to seek resolution of this matter so that she can return home safely. The University is willing to make available a space in a conference room downtown in which Ms. Brown and her new attorney can review the file as soon as that individual contacts Duquesne and completes the required paperwork.
Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.
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