CLEVELAND — Cleveland State University students have found a unique way to warn classmates about sexual predators after learning a man accused of rape was featured in a CSU promotional video.
Zach Hiidel, a 21-year-old senior, was indicted on two counts of rape and one count of felonious assault Aug. 27 in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. He’s accused of using a pill bottle and a soda can to rape a woman on Feb. 16.
Hiidel appeared in the university’s “Find Your Fit at CSU” video until The Cauldron, CSU’s student newspaper, published a report Nov. 4 detailing the allegations against him.
After the report was published, graffiti warning students about alleged sexual predators appeared on the walls of women’s bathrooms on campus.
One said, “We need to protect ourselves from sexual predators.” Underneath the statement, there was list of 12 names. Hiidel’s name was number two on the list.
Editor-in-chief Kourtney Husnick, who reported the story, said the video featuring Hiidel was posted at the top of the school’s Facebook page.
“If you went to the Facebook page for CSU, four seconds in, you saw his face,” she said. “For me, for my staff, that was a concern, because he's a face of the university and no one was acknowledging that this happened.”
Two weeks after the report, CSU posted a new video to the top of their Facebook page.
The school’s handling of Hiidel’s rape allegations also caused Sally Gabra, a CSU senior, to act.
"I was genuinely disgusted,” said Gabra.
She’s planning a campus demonstration to raise awareness about sexual violence.
“We want people to feel safe,” she said. “That’s the main thing. “
News 5 reached out to Hiidel’s attorney, Tim Riley, who provided us the following statement:
“We have thoroughly reviewed the facts of this case and the University Investigators Report completed by the Cleveland State University Office of Institutional Equity. We are confident that a jury will come to the same conclusion as the report prepared by Cleveland State University, which found Zach did not violate the Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Violence and Retaliation.”
Cleveland State University officials refused to answer questions about the case and didn't confirm their investigation cleared Hiidel of wrongdoing or to respond to any of our additional questions regarding the rape allegations against him.
Instead, William Dube, Director of Communications and Media Relations, emailed News 5 the following statement:
“The safety and well-being of our students is our highest priority. Complaints of sexual violence are thoroughly investigated and referred to the proper authorities for follow-up. If the accused is found responsible, appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including expulsion, is taken.
"CSU provides students with a host of support services and accommodations as needed during investigations of sexual assault along with a number of robust policies designed to protect students. All allegations of sexual misconduct should be immediately reported to Campus Police or the Office of Institutional Equity for further action.
"We take any concern for safety expressed by our students very seriously. We have already reached out to concerned students to learn more about their concerns, improve communication, and seek ways to further improve campus safety.”