Christian college branded student a rapist by hiding evidence from him, appeals court rules

April 30, 2019

Investigator who ‘omitted’ witness answers can participate in next proceeding


In a college sexual assault case where witnesses give contradicting testimonies, the investigator cannot withhold information from the accused student without compromising the fairness of the hearing.


A California appeals court faulted a Christian college for doing just that, violating its own policies in the process.


In a ruling last week written by Associate Justice Martin Tangeman, the three-judge panel found that Westmont College improperly denied an accused student the ability to ask questions to both his accuser and relevant witnesses.


The loss marks the sixth consecutive defeat for a college in a California appeals court, according to Brooklyn College Prof. KC Johnson, who closely tracks Title IX litigation.


Westmont, an evangelical liberal arts school, was criticized by the court for deeming “nontestifying witnesses more credible than their testifying counterparts” without any explanation. It also selectively picked through the written statements by nontestifying witnesses, citing portions that put Doe in a bad light.


“John Doe” had been found guilty of sexual assault by Westmont’s Student Conduct Panel and received a two-year suspension. The appeals court ordered Westmont to set aside the “determination and sanctions” and “conduct further proceedings” in line with the ruling.


Dean of Students Stu Cleek (below), who withheld evidence from Doe as the investigator and also served on the panel, will “not be prohibited” from serving as an adjudicator in the next proceeding as long as it’s fair, the court ruled.


Westmont College declined to comment to The College Fix.  “Due to the nature of this legal case, we’re unable to comment so we can protect all the parties involved,” Nancy Phinney, director of college communications, said in an email.


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