MINNEAPOLIS — When the Chinese billionaire Richard Liu was arrested two months ago in Minneapolis on suspicion of rape, he wasn’t in town for business. Mr. Liu, a 45-year-old internet tycoon, was a student at the University of Minnesota, taking in lectures by day and enjoying dinner parties by night.
As prosecutors weigh whether to charge Mr. Liu, the case represents a setback for a university that has made progress on how it handles sexual misconduct. In recent years, the university has dealt with a series of sexual assault and harassment episodes involving students and faculty members, which have prompted a state audit and new campus policies. Now, the university is once again in the national conversation, and the focus this time is on a relatively new and lucrative academic program.
Mr. Liu, who has denied wrongdoing, was in Minnesota for a global business program, aimed at Asian executives, that is on track to generate over $10 million for the school in tuition since starting last year. His accuser, who has not been publicly identified, is a young Chinese student at the university who volunteered for the program.
The case “puts the university administration in an impossible situation” as it tries to simultaneously protect its students and its reputation, said Kristen Houlton Shaw, the executive director of the nonprofit Sexual Violence Center in Minneapolis.
需要同时保护学生和自己的声誉的校方，在这起案件中“陷入左右为难的处境”，明尼阿波利斯非营利性组织性暴力中心执行理事克里斯滕·霍尔顿·肖(Kristen Houlton Shaw)表示。
“The program he’s participating in is a major moneymaker — it brings in these highfliers and heavy hitters from around the world,” she said. “Their prospective students are watching.”
The police conducted an initial investigation into the rape accusation and passed along the findings to the Hennepin County attorney’s office, which says it has no deadline for deciding whether to press charges.
Mr. Liu was released less than a day after his arrest, and he returned to China. His company, JD.com, which takes in more revenue each year than any e-commerce competitor but Amazon, says he was falsely accused.
The university has not publicly spoken about the episode, and would not say whether it had started its own investigation. The university declined to say whether Mr. Liu was still enrolled in the program or eligible for a degree.
“The University of Minnesota cannot comment, per federal law, on matters related to any specific allegations involving any student at the university,” said Caitlin Hurley, a spokeswoman for the school.
Ellen Schneider, a senior there, said many fellow students had not even heard about Mr. Liu’s arrest until she wrote a column in the school newspaper criticizing the university’s response. “It is just disappointing,” Ms. Schneider said. University administrators “did not take a stand as they should have done.”
The University of Minnesota has been a draw for Chinese students. At the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, the second language on many signs is Chinese. The main university campus east of downtown is ringed by bubble tea shops, hot pot restaurants and grocery stores where Mandarin is commonly heard.