This is Part 3 in a series outlining the horror stories caused by campus adjudication of sexual assault cases, the clear lack of due process as well as discrimination and civil rights issues. In Part 1, a wrongfully accused man proved his innocence, yet the college imposed sanctions that damaged his life anyway. In Part 2, a young dating couple’s lives were disrupted for more than two years after someone else decided that she was raped and the university continued to harass them even after she filed her own Title IX action.
Betrayed by a school and crushed by the experience, John Doe is now living back at home trying to put together pieces of his life. He should be with his friends at San Diego State University, but after the unthinkable happened, that’s just not the reality he is living in today.
During his freshman year, John Doe became close with a young woman on campus. According to court documents, in the spring of 2015 Jane Roe filed a complaint with the campus Title IX coordinator alleging that John Doe sexually assaulted her. She claimed she was too incapacitated to give consent after consuming edible marijuana. Four months went past between the date of the alleged incident and the date John Doe received a notice imposing his immediate suspension. At that time, just like established patterns in other cases described in the first two parts of this series, due process took a back seat. He was barred from campus, which included housing, and he lost all credit for courses as well as prepaid tuition. Jane Roe was never given any punishment for (also according to court documents) bringing her own marijuana to John Doe’s room.
John Doe was notified about his disciplinary hearing, to determine if he sexually assaulted a woman, 14 days prior to the hearing. The hearing was grossly biased, and testimony that proved John Doe’s innocence was tarnished by “severely prejudicial conduct,” further described as:
“Dr. Rovner presented a report from Petitioner’s polygraph examination, revealing that Petitioner answered relevant questions truthfully, that Ms. Roe never said she needed a break from sex, and she never said she needed to pause or wanted to stop. Mr. Britt testified that the edible marijuana ingested by Ms. Roe could not begin to even take effect until 30 to 45 minutes after ingested, undermining her claim that she was incapacitated. During the hearing, however, Dr. [Lee] Mintz [director of the Center for Student Rights and Responsibilities at SDSU, who served as investigator and prosecutor] engaged in severely prejudicial conduct; she spent several minutes accusing Petitioner of impropriety, violating FERPA, and re-victimizing Ms. Roe — all before the hearing officer. Petitioner advised SDSU’s counsel of Dr. Mintz’s misbehavior and inappropriate conduct; however, it is unclear whether SDSU undertook any ameliorative actions.”
John Doe was found “responsible” with no information on how to appeal or what his options were, only to find out later that “only a complainant has the right to an appeal.” He was not only permanently expelled, but also banned from any California state school.
He has since filed to have the expulsion removed from his record so that he can attend another school, hoping to move forward.
Edward was one of the “lucky” ones. He explained to me his experience after a young woman he had been dating felt that he may have cheated on her. She accused him of harassment and sexual assault.
Neither the police nor the school found any preponderance of guilt or responsibility, but that didn’t change the fact that a drawn-out three-month process took place. “It was the darkest time in my life,” he told me, saying the entire campus knew about the allegations. He said the looks he received from other students were devastating. He filed a complaint with the school against the woman for filing a false complaint, but instead of the school investigating, it told him he needed to just worry about graduating and put this all behind him. In 2014, he filed a Title IX complaint against the school. His complaint has been accepted by the Office for Civil Rights and he is still waiting for a determination from them. He has since graduated and is thinking about going to law school. He also lobbies Congress for change. He believes the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter should be rescinded.
I also spoke with one mother who described to me the hell her son was put through after being another one of the “lucky” ones found not responsible. Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and a 20-month wait on the OCR to respond to the complaint. Once the OCR finally did respond, the answer was “you are too late.”
On July 1, a letter was sent by 31 senators to the Department of Education and the Department of Justice describing the absolute fundamental breakdown of follow-through on behalf of colleges. The letter states that out of nearly 11,600 colleges nationwide, in 2014 only 9 percent reported any occurrences of sexual assault. How can 91 percent colleges claim that zero instances of sexual assault happened when we see every single day the number of Title IX complaints with an originating incident of sexual assault going up? To further that, how many actual Title IX lawsuits have been filed due to the absolute failing of the system? Due process has been stripped, unfair sanctions have been imposed that alter people’s lives, and many people are living with the side effects of the colleges’ misguided actions.
Who knows where the numbers actually are. How are we supposed to decipher the information through all of the bureaucracy dressed up as concern for our kids? As the senators wrote:
“These directly conflict with the DOJ and CDC data on sexual assault, and strongly suggest that schools are either not taking the reporting obligation seriously or are not creating an environment where students feel comfortable coming forward to report and are vastly underreporting these crimes.”
Who do the colleges think they are fooling by reporting zero incidents of sexual assault when the legal documents exist? The reports have been made to the OCR and lawsuits have been filed. The president and vice president say they “won’t visit any school who isn’t reporting properly.” So what? Instead, they might cut federal funding for such schools. That would get their attention.
Allowing colleges to adjudicate these cases — without any formal process that ensures everyone’s rights, or procedures to make sure due process is left intact — makes no sense. Colleges should be stopped from inflicting so much pain on students and their families.