Monday, February 23, 2015

More Campus Sexual Assault Litigation Updates

Title IX lawsuits related to campus sexual assault remain in the news:
  • University of Colorado-Boulder has settled a lawsuit with a student who claimed the university discriminated against him in violation of Title IX in the process of finding him responsible for the sexual assault of a fellow student in 2013.  The university will reportedly pay the student $15,000, and the student, in turn, has promised to withdraw. Per the terms of the settlement, if asked for a reference the University will not disclose anything other than the fact that he was found responsible for two violations of the code of conduct, and that prior to his withdrawal he was in good academic standing. The university's general counsel referred to the settlement as a "business decision" to avoid the high cost of litigation, while the plaintiff's attorney was happy that the settlement preserved her client's anonymity in connection with the "false accusations" of assault.
  • A fraternity at Wesleyan University has sued the university challenging its requirement that residential fraternities become coed over the next three years; a policy change in the wake of (and presumably responsive to) accusations of sexual assault that have taken place at fraternity houses. The lawsuit, filed by the local chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon, one of the two residential fraternities affected by the new policy, claim that it singles out male organizations in violation of Title IX.  Reports elsewhere suggest that the reason Wesleyan's only sorority was not affected by the policy is because they do not maintain on-campus houses -- a fact that could make it difficult for the DKE plaintiffs to sustain their argument that Wesleyan's policy is differentiating based on sex.
  • A female student has sued the University of New Mexico alleging that the university responded with deliberate indifference to her report that she had been drugged and sexually assaulted by two football players while other players watched and recorded it on video.  She claims that the university conducted a lackluster investigation in order to shield the players from  disciplinary action, including by ignoring witnesses and failing to consider evidence. The accused students were temporarily suspended from the football team during the off-season, but were reinstated prior to the conclusion of the investigation. Meanwhile, the plaintiff alleges that she was harassed and re-victimized as football players continued to share video of her from the night of the assault.  She suffered emotionally as a result, and was unable to attend classes. She eventually lost her academic scholarship, forcing her to withdraw from UNM and enroll at a school with higher tuition. Her lawsuit seeks damages to compensate her for those losses.
  • A female graduate student has sued the University of Stony Brook (part of the SUNY system) alleging that the university violated Title IX in the hands-off manner it handled the disciplinary process of the student she accused of assaulting her in his dorm room.  University officials conducted an investigation but when it came to the hearing required the plaintiff to present her own case against the accused student after only providing her a week to prepare her case. The accused student was found not responsible for assault because it appeared to the disciplinary committee that the sexual contact between them was consensual.