Student suspended for Title IX complaint sues Yale
A senior suspended from Yale for sexual assault sued the University last month for alleged gender discrimination — the fifth such case filed against Yale by a male student since the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct was formed in 2011.
In March, the UWC concluded that the senior — referred to in court documents as John Doe — engaged in “non-consensual unprotected sexual intercourse” and recommended that Yale suspend him through the end of the fall 2019 semester. The News has identified the plaintiff based on publicly available information in the complaint and confirmed it with individuals who have knowledge of the lawsuit. However, the News has chosen not to name the student given that he is not a public figure on campus.
The allegations against Yale read almost identically to those of four other cases filed by current or former students who allege that they were victims of Yale’s system for adjudicating sexual misconduct, which they claim institutionally discriminates against men.
On Jan. 30, a female sophomore — referred to as Ann Roe in the complaint — filed a formal UWC complaint against Doe for failing to obtain her consent before penetrating her without a condom. According to the complaint, the two students had been engaging in consensual sexual intercourse with a condom in the early morning on Dec. 9 at Doe’s off-campus apartment. Although there were diverging accounts of how the condom came off, Roe alleged that Doe penetrated her and thrusted twice without her consent.
On March 15, the UWC found “a preponderance of evidence that [Doe] violated Yale’s sexual misconduct policy in the form of sexual assault” but did not make a recommendation for penalty in its report. According to Doe’s complaint, Yale College Dean Marvin Chun wrote to Doe on March 26 to inform him of his decision to accept the panel’s conclusions and suspend Doe until the end of the fall 2019 semester, effective immediately.
Chun declined to comment on the case. Doe did not respond to multiple calls and text messages requesting comment.
According to the court documents, Doe filed a Title IX complaint with the University on April 3 alleging discrimination on the basis of sex and demanding immediate reinstatement as a student after receiving notice of his suspension on March 26. But Assistant Provost for Academic Integrity Jason Killheffer informed Doe that the University will not investigate his complaint and instructed him to appeal to the UWC instead. On April 16, University Provost Ben Polak also denied Doe’s UWC appeal.
In a complaint filed to the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut on April 25, Doe claimed that the University suspended him “all because his condom came off and the group of individuals reviewing his case … were clearly biased against him as a male.” Doe filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and an injunction and requested that the court immediately prevent Yale from enforcing the suspension to allow him to submit his final assignments and graduate with his peers in late May.
“John’s future literally hangs in the balance of this abhorrent allegation and arbitrary and capricious ruling from Yale’s Panel reviewing sexual misconduct that is reminiscent of a [modern]-day witch trial,” the complaint states.
According to the Yale College Undergraduate Regulations, a suspended student “forfeits all privileges of enrollment,” including class attendance, participation in organized extracurriculars and the use of University facilities. Per the regulations, suspended students may only return to campus during their suspension periods if they have obtained written permission from their residential college deans or the Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarríbar. But Doe, whose suspension remains in effect, has continued to post celebratory pictures on Facebook to mark the submission of his thesis and smiling photos with friends in the days leading up to commencement. According to two individuals with knowledge of the situation, he remained among his peers on campus as of last week.
In an interview with the News, Doe’s lawyer Jorge Hernandez said he is “not sure … how [Yale] would characterize [Doe’s] current participation in the school.” While Yale’s Vice President for Communications Nate Nickerson declined to comment specifically on Doe’s case, he said there are “many reasons why a suspended student might request and receive permission to return to campus.” In an email to the News on Thursday morning, Chun declined to comment on what these reasons may be. The court has issued a protective order for Doe’s lawsuit, and many of the legal documents are sealed from the public. It remains unclear why Doe is on campus, despite the suspension.
In response to the lawsuit, on May 2, Yale filed a court memorandum defending Doe’s suspension. The memorandum contended that even if the court were to order the University to rescind the suspension, Doe would be unable to finish his semester requirements and graduate this month. Per the court documents, Yale also argued that the plaintiff waited 5 1/2 weeks to file a complaint because he knew that “a full hearing at which all evidence is aired would end in failure.” In addition, the memorandum argued that the court should deny Doe’s motion for a temporary restraining order because the plaintiff cannot prove that the suspension would inflict irreparable harm on him.
A day after Yale filed the memorandum, the court denied the plaintiff’s request for a temporary restraining order on the University’s suspension. But according to Hernandez, the court has yet to hold a hearing or rule on the motion for a temporary injunction, which requires a lower standard of proof.
On May 3, Yale filed another reply further refuting Doe’s claims in the complaint. According to the response, Doe attended both the standard sexual consent trainings for first years and sophomores as well as additional trainings required to become a Community and Consent Educator and a first year counselor. The response argues that given this fact, “Mr. Doe is particularly cognizant of Yale’s definitions of consent.”
“In his opening statement to the panel, Mr. Doe wrote: ‘I am terribly sorry for the way that Ms. [Roe] had felt. I thought we had a mutual understanding of what occurred between us. I was wrong and bear the responsibility of [sic] that,’” Yale’s response reads. “In other words, Mr. Doe admitted that there was no mutual consent, and he ‘bears the responsibility of that.’ That statement alone supports the Panel’s finding of his responsibility for the violation.”
The response continues by stating that Doe repeatedly admitted his wrongdoing and expressed remorse for it in his UWC testimony, but adds that the expression of remorse “does not mean that there was no transgression in the first place” and does not exempt him from punishment.
In the complaint, Doe’s lawyers painted a picture of a hardworking student whose future has been “effectively crush[ed]” by the University’s unfair suspension. According to the complaint, Doe devoted hundreds of hours practicing for orchestra, a cappella and dance groups at Yale and held leadership positions in several student organizations. While Doe has a job offer from “the industry leader for his field of study,” the complaint argued that a finding of sexual misconduct would “crush his chances to obtain the opportunities he has worked to gain.”
According to the complaint, Morse College Dean Angela Gleason told Doe — who has a history of mental health issues — that he would lose access to his health coverage and Yale Mental Health & Counseling services due to his suspension. Doe continues to experience “severe depression, anger, physical anguish, humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress to the point of not being able to sleep or concentrate properly or interact with other people as he did before he had was suspended,” the complaint stated.
Still, Yale’s memorandum states that the University has allowed Doe to “continue seeing his therapist without interruption, despite the fact that he has been suspended.” An email from Gleason to Doe dated April 28 — which was included in Yale’s May 3 response — states that the University decided to grant an exception to allow Doe to continue his therapy sessions until his regular therapist finishes his rotation at Yale Health this June.
The complaint also alleged that the neutral fact-finder hired by the University failed to consider the apparent discrepancies in Roe’s account of the sexual intercourse. According to the court documents, Roe discussed the encounter with three male students. While she did not state who removed the condom to the first, she told the second student that Doe removed the condom and indicated to the third that she took the condom off, per the complaint. According to Doe’s account, the condom came off by itself in Roe’s vagina. Moreover, the complaint stated that while the UWC panel questioned Doe “aggressively and with a demeaning tone,” questions towards Roe were “very polite and conciliatory.”
“The UWC Panel was biased against John and in favor of Ann by favoring Ann’s version of events in spite of inconsistent statements made by Ann,” the complaint stated. “Ann’s statements made to [the three students] show she made no physical or verbal statement too John regarding the brief period of unprotected intercourse.”
The University is slated to defend itself in court in another Title IX-related case this summer, when the much anticipated lawsuit by expelled former basketball captain Jack Montague heads to trial.