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Suit: UC violating rights of accused students


A University of Cincinnati athlete and a former UC law student sued the university Tuesday, alleging UC presumed them to be guilty of sexual allegations made against them, violating Ohio's Constitution.

"In practice, the UC system is biased against those accused of misconduct," the suit filed by local attorneys Josh Engel and Mike Allen, noted.

The suit was filed against UC and Daniel Cummins, UC's assistant dean of students and director of university judicial affairs. Cummins didn't immediately respond to a Tuesday call, email and tweets. UC spokeswoman M.B. Reilly said the school was following federal laws and guidelines and is doing all it can to protect all of its students.

"Colleges and universities are being asked to be all things to all students with out students in conflict," Reilly said, referring to U.S. Department of Education guidelines for investigations allegations of sexual assault. "We are required to take immediate action."

The athlete was called into his coach's office in October expecting to be named team captain. Instead, he was accused of violating UC's sexual harassment policy. He wasn't told who made the allegation or the substance of the allegation, the suit notes, but was suspended from athletic participation and wasn't given the chance to rebut the accusations or defend himself. Despite filing an open records request for the accusations, the athlete wasn't provided them by UC.

He was reinstated five weeks later – but UC still didn't tell him the name of his accuser or the specifics of the accusation.

The law school graduate was accused of sexual assault in an incident off campus in March. He was found responsible in a disciplinary hearing by Cummins' office. The incident wasn't reported to UC police, there was no evidence to support the allegation and he denied any wrongdoing, the suit notes.

The suit accuses UC and Cummins of trampling the rights of the accused by presuming them guilty, the opposite of the way the U.S. legal system operates. "The UC Code of Conduct is facially unconstitutional," the suit notes.

UC, the suit notes, using the preponderance of evidence, or "more likely than not," as the burden of proof in these cases. In legal settings, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. The way UC administers its policy in such cases, the suit adds, does little to be fair to the accused and instead focuses on victim advocacy.

"(I)n practice," the suit notes, "UC often imposes restrictions and punishments based solely on an allegation without allowing for any hearing or even conducting an investigation." It also notes students found responsible in these hearings can be kicked out of school.

UC's goal, Reilly said, was to be fair to all students and make them all safe. "They're all our students," she said.

UC and other schools, the suit noted, are under pressure by the U.S. Department of Education, which provides funding for public universities, to crack down on sexual assaults on campus but are doing it in a way that is violating the rights of the accused. "(H)igh-ranking administrators at UC are determined to find students accused of misconduct responsible in order to 'look good' for the Department of Education," the suit notes.

The suit doesn't name the athlete or law school graduate for fear of retaliation if their names become public. It seeks to find that UC and Cummins violated the Ohio Constitution with the process and findings in favor of the athlete and law school graduate. It also seeks to stop all similar UC hearings because, the suit alleges, they violate Ohio's Constitution.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Norbert Nadel has set a hearing for motions on the case for Monday.

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