During the 1986 Spring semester, Brown University found itself embroiled in an extremely embarrassing and uncomfortable scandal involving their students and allegations of sex work. On March 13, 1986, Rhode Island police announced they had raided the house of Stanley Henshaw III near campus, and had evidence connecting at least 10 Brown University students with a sex worker ring in Providence. The ring had been operating for multiple years by then, and was alleged to have been started by Henshaw, a local insurance executive.
The police charged multiple Brown University students with sex work crimes, and also charged Henshaw with nine felonies, including drug possession. Within days of the arrest announcement, the scandal was already making national headlines. Even several talk show hosts, including David Letterman and Phil Donahue, were trying to get the scoop on the incident so they could ridicule the university in front of their audiences.
The trial was highly publicized, and it came out that school officials had first become aware of the sex worker ring in 1985, when they informed authorities. In the end, Henshaw escaped conviction on all sex work-related charges, though he was found guilty of both marijuana and cocaine possession. Today, the scandal is all but forgotten, but at the time it was one of the worst public relations nightmares in the university’s history.