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Student accused of sexual assault says he was denied a hearing before being suspended

A Cornell University student is suing his school for allegedly being denied a hearing after being accused of campus sexual assault.

The student, identified as John Doe in his lawsuit, was suspended for sexual assault and is now requesting that the court pause the school's disciplinary proceedings until the lawsuit is resolved. He also seeks $500,000 in restitution for his punishment. Doe claims in his lawsuit that Cornell's investigation (or lack thereof) violated New York State Education Law. The law requires students to have "the right to a process in all student judicial or conduct cases, where a student is accused of sexual assault" and "access to at least one level of appeal of a determination before a panel."

John was not provided a process (unless you count an accusation and then a suspension with nothing in between as a "process") and was not able to appeal before a panel.

John alleges that his accuser, identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, came to his fraternity house the night of the alleged incident and pursued him. His lawsuit claims that after they began kissing, she pinned him to his bed and punched him in his groin when he rolled her off of him. Jane told campus investigators that John pulled her hair and choked her.

John made clear that neither he nor Jane was drunk during the incident and that they didn't have sex.

His lawsuit alleges that no-contact orders were issued to he and Jane, but that only he was temporarily suspended. He also claims school investigators "presupposed his guilt" by suspending him without getting his side of the story. He says investigators spoke to him "in an accusatory and intimidating manner."

John successfully appealed his suspension in October 2015, but after Cornell's investigator recommended he be suspended (again) in the middle of the spring semester, the school followed through. Cornell reversed its decision at the end of April. His suspension will be stayed while the school revises one of its policies.

John alleges the multiple suspensions — especially without being given a chance to defend himself — have caused him "grave emotional distress and mental anguish." He alleges his academic career has been harmed.

John is requesting a hearing to tell his side of the story. If the court approves his current petition, Cornell will have to stop its investigation and proceed to a hearing.

This is yet another example of a school railroading an accused student. Most schools at least allow a sham hearing, but here Cornell didn't even grant John that.

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