Suspended MSU student sues college for gender bias in rape trial
- Michigan State University suspended a student accused of rape for two years.
- But the student has sued the university, claiming that the school violated his due process rights by using a lead investigator who used to serve as a sex crime prosecutor and denying him the chance to cross-examine his accuser.
- The former student's case comes during the public comment period for proposed changes to Title IX aimed at aiding accused students.
A former Michigan State University student is suing the university, accusing its investigation into his alleged rape of a freshman as flawed and “gender biased.”
The former sophomore and fraternity member claims MSU denied him due process and unjustly punished him, reported WLNS.com. His lawsuit, obtained by Campus Reform, was filed Dec. 20 in a Michigan district court.
The alleged assault took place on Feb. 24 in the student’s dorm room after a fraternity party. The student, referenced in the lawsuit with the pseudonym John Doe, says he and a female freshman had consensual sex.
The lawsuit claims that “Doe did not initiate any sexual activity. He only reciprocated what Roe initiated” and describes a sequence of events in which Doe allegedly asked if Roe was doing “ok” multiple times. Roe, for her part, allegedly did not ask Doe for consent to perform oral sex on him. After the alleged assault, Doe claims Roe seemed uncomfortable and quickly left his dorm.
She then took a rape kit exam at the hospital and, four days later, filed a complaint with MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity, which includes the Title IX office.
Lawyers for Doe gave Wilx10 News several reasons why the investigation was flawed, asserting that the lead investigator had previously worked as a sex crime prosecutor and used a prosecutorial approach, Doe did not receive a live hearing or get to cross-examine Roe or witnesses, investigators did not sufficiently vet witnesses, and that Doe lost the trial as a result of "gender bias on the part of the investigator and intense pressure at Michigan State to convict the males accused of sexual assault."
MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity found Doe guilty of violating the school’s Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct policy. The alleged rape victim asked for Doe to be suspended from MSU for at least two years.
Doe claims he is collateral damage to reactionary measures in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal, according to WLNS.com.
MSU suspended Doe for two years, according to the lawsuit. If he can return, he will be banned from joining a fraternity or attending Greek life events.
The school denied Doe’s appeal on July 31. No criminal charges were ever filed against the man and MSU did not respond to a request for comment from Campus Reform, but the school told KLIX.com that it is not commenting on the litigation.
“I’m glad he’s suing the school,” MSU public policy senior Emily Pallarito told Campus Reform. “He had every right to cross examine and [it] was not right of the examiner to take a prosecutorial stance.”
“I can see that MSU only wanted to do what appeared ‘right’ for the sake of its name,” Pallarito said, but noted that Roe “willingly left the party with [Doe] and had lengthy opportunity to turn around. If the party was at the frat house and they went back to his dorm, that’s a hike. According to these articles, her guilty conscience convinced her it was rape.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed changes to Title IX in November. If enacted, these changes would mandate due process during sexual assault cases via requiring from schools presumption of innocence for the accused, with the school bearing the burden of proof, live hearings of cases occurring in institutions of higher education, and the adoption a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, among other measures.
"Far too many students have been forced to go to court to ensure their rights are protected because the Department has not set out legally binding rules that hold schools accountable for responding to allegations of sexual harassment in a supportive, fair manner,” DeVos stated in the November news release.
The proposed changes are in a public comment period, which will last until mid-January.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @SergeiKelley