Man sues Brown University, accuser in sex-assault allegation
The Brown University students met last October at a party where they flirted and kissed. Their intimacy escalated later in his dormitory room. But what he viewed as consensual groping and fondling, the woman claimed were unwanted sexual advances that spiraled into an assault.
She filed a sexual-misconduct complaint with the Ivy League school, and that led to his suspension for 2-1/2 years. Now, as a plaintiff named John Doe, he is suing the school in U.S. District Court. He accuses Brown of violating his due process rights and discriminating against him based on his gender, in violation of Title IX.
In another lawsuit brought by the same lawyer in the same court, a John Doe, of Texas is suing a Jane Doe, of California, accusing her of defaming and slandering him by filing a false sexual-misconduct report that led to his 2-1/2-year suspension from an "elite" liberal-arts university in Rhode Island and his being labeled as responsible for a sexual offense. That lawsuit does not name Brown but details the same chronology.
The man is being represented in both actions by Manhattan lawyer Andrew T. Miltenberg, who has launched lawsuits challenging schools' handling of sexual-assault allegations on similar grounds throughout the nation. The action against Brown is among 90 cases challenging the manner in which colleges and universities adjudicate alleged sexual assaults, according to the website www.boysmeneducation.com. All of the cases involve complaints by men.
Miltenberg would not confirm that the same man is the plaintiff in both the suit against Brown and the suit against the female student. He declined to comment other than to say, "We feel that the complaint relates a very compelling set of facts against Brown." Brown officials declined comment beyond what was contained in court filings.
Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. It has typically been used to safeguard female students' rights, as in the landmark 1992 sex-discrimination case at Brown in which several female athletes sued after funding for their gymnastics team was cut. As a result, the university was forced to restore financing to the women's gymnastics and volleyball teams and promote other women's sports to varsity.
In John Doe's case, Miltenberg is flipping that use of Title IX, arguing that the schools' investigative and disciplinary processes reveal "gender bias against males in cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct."
Such arguments have met with varied success in courts elsewhere. A federal judge in New York dismissed a case brought against Columbia University, finding that that male student had offered only "conclusory statements" and failed to provide any clear evidence that he was suspended due to an anti-male bias. A judge in Massachusetts dismissed a a case challenging the University of Massachusetts at Amherst's policies on the grounds that the Title IX allegations were not sufficiently detailed and specific. In Oregon, however, a court ordered Reed College to turn over nearly seven years' worth of disciplinary records to lawyers as cases there proceed. The Massachusetts and New York cases are being appealed.
According to the lawsuit against Brown, John Doe was enrolled in the Class of 2017 and earned straight A's his freshman year. He hoped to pursue a career in neuroscience.
On Oct., 11, 2014, Doe, then a sophomore, met Jane Doe at a party at Barbour Hall, a dormitory. They began kissing as the party came to an end. Jane Doe texted a friend shortly after that she might be about to "hook up," the suit says.
They continued kissing and touching in his room at Marcy House, it says. Jane Doe told him that she didn't want to go any further, but they continued touching and lay down together after a pause. She guided his hand over her body before stating again that she didn't want to go any further. She left, kissing him and telling him she would see him at her birthday party the next night, the suit says.
A week later, the director of student life, Yolanda Castillo, informed John Doe that a no-contact order had been issued relating to Oct. 11; he was not to leave his room. The next day he learned Jane Doe had made a "serious allegation of sexual misconduct" against him. Then-Vice President of Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn ordered his immediate removal from campus. He faced conduct charges of sexual misconduct and illegal possession of alcohol, the suit says.
Campus police did not issue a report on the incident, the suit says. John Doe was not criminally charged.
He asserts that the woman's inconsistent accounts contained "stunning" departures from his recollection, including that he pushed and bruised her, didn't allow her to leave and continued touching her genitals after she told him to stop. She claimed to university officials that she was lying when she led him to believe that she was enjoying the intimacy, the suit says.
He alleges that the Student Conduct Board, comprised of university staff and a student, found him responsible for misconduct and suspended him for 2-1/2 years after an unfair hearing in which board members failed to challenge or question her account and refused to let him present certain evidence and testimony. Brown erroneously put the burden on him to prove his innocence, it says. "The hearing was a mere formality to conclude John Doe's predetermined guilt." The provost upheld the suspension on appeal.
In addition to asserting that Brown showed gender bias, John Doe accuses the school of negligence and of breaching his rights as an accused student.
Brown is asking the court to dismiss the suit, citing the dismissal of the Columbia case. "Plaintiff wrongly believes that sensationalistic and unsubstantiated pleading is somehow an acceptable substitute for well-pled and substantiated allegations," the school said. It faults John Doe for failing to make a legitimate Title IX claim.
In the other suit, John Doe accuses Jane Doe of knowingly making false statements to campus police that severely damaged his educational and career prospects. He alleges that Jane became furious at him when he didn't speak to her at a party on Oct. 12, 2014, the day after they were intimate, and that she repeatedly made defamatory statements to fellow students that they then repeated during the flawed investigation and adjudication process before the Student Conduct Board. As a result, his reputation at the university was damaged, precluding him from being admitted at a school of equal caliber, thus derailing his education and future career in medicine. Despite his exceptional academic record, he said he has been rejected at seven schools. He is seeking unspecified damages and legal fees.