Lawsuit accuses TAMU of anti-male bias in sexual assault case

A Texas A&M University swimmer filed a lawsuit against the school on Monday, claiming that he was wrongly held responsible and disciplined by a Title IX investigation in 2015.

According to the lawsuit, Austin Van Overdam was found responsible for the alleged sexual assault of female TAMU student Hannah Shaw, whom he met on the social media dating app, Tinder. 

After exchanging several messages on the platform, both students agreed to meet up in person—an encounter that led to three sexual acts later that evening, the document claims. Eight months after their only meeting, Van Overdam was informed that he was under investigation by the university for alleged sexual assault.

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Specifically, Van Overdam was charged with two counts of sexual abuse, one charge of sexual contact, and one charge of dating violence. 

During the hearing conducted by the TAMU Student Conduct Office, which heard testimony from both parties but reviewed no other evidence, Shaw claimed that she consented to two of the three sexual acts while Van Overdam maintained that all sexual contact was consensual, according to the lawsuit.

Despite the contradicting testimony, the administrative hearing panel found Van Overdam responsible for one of the four charges, deeming that the first and third sexual acts were consensual while the second was not, consistent with Shaw’s testimony.

As a result, Van Overdam was suspended from TAMU for one semester.

[RELATED: Male student sues Dartmouth over ‘sexual misconduct’ finding]

“Texas A&M University continues to ignore the clearly contradictory testimony and continues to support the narrative,” Van Overdam’s Title IX lawsuit alleges. “Texas A&M University is supporting Shaw as a purported ‘victim,’ buckling under public pressure, and hiding behind its discriminatory policies and procedures.”

The lawsuit further alleges that TAMU “creates an environment in which male students accused of sexual misconduct are nearly assured of a finding of responsibility,” arguing that this “denies the accused his fundamental due process rights and deprives these male students of educational opportunities solely on the basis of their sex.”

According to Van Overdam’s legal claim, his testimony “was totally discounted while Shaw’s contradictory narrative was deemed more reliable without reason or explanation,” asserting that “this discrimination was based solely on Van Overdam’s gender in violation of Title IX” [emphasis in original].

“As a direct and proximate result of Texas A&M University’s unlawful sex discrimination against Van Overdam, he has and will continue to suffer harm, injury, and damages,” the document reads, asking the court to hold TAMU liable “for discrimination against him solely on the basis of his sex” and award “compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.”

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In a separate press release, Van Overdam’s attorney, Gaines West, praised the resilience of his client, stating that the student “is striking back.” 

“Shaw’s conduct and words just don’t add up,” West asserted. “A&M should have been all about discovering the truth. Instead, A&M seems more concerned with being politically correct, rather than embracing that the Title IX law is meant to protect both women and men.” 

TAMU did not immediately respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment. 

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