Inside a Durham courtroom last week, a Duke University student, dressed in a crisp suit and tie, shifted uncomfortably in the witness stand. For a day and a half, 23-year-old Lewis McLeod had faced sharp questioning by a Duke lawyer alleging him of sexual misconduct with an 18-year-old freshman last fall at the Sigma Nu fraternity house.
Last month, three days before final exams, Duke expelled McLeod, a senior who was on the Dean's List, under what the university is calling a new sexual misconduct practice. (However, university administrators, foreseeing a potential lawsuit, permitted him to take his final exams.) He is the first Duke student to be expelled for sexual misconduct in recent history. Because of his expulsion, he cannot get his degree, and without a degree, he cannot accept a job offer from a Wall Street investment firm, where he is to begin in July.
However, McLeod has never been charged with, or convicted of, sexual misconduct in a traditional court. Durham police declined to pursue criminal charges against McLeod, who says the sexual encounter with the freshman was consensual, and that she was coherent that night. He alleges Duke's disciplinary panel gave him an unfair hearing. Earlier this month McLeod won a temporary restraining order prohibiting Duke from following through with the expulsion.
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