A male Lynn University student has settled with the Florida school after he was suspended for a year over a sexual assault accusation local police ultimately determined was “unfounded.”
The details of the settlement, like so many in such cases, are confidential. The student, identified in court documents simply as John Doe, filed his lawsuit against the university on May 27, 2016. Lynn attempted to get the lawsuit dismissed, but Judge Robin Rosenberg denied the university’s motion, stating that the student “sufficiently alleged causal connection between allegedly erroneous outcome in disciplinary proceedings and gender bias on part of university.” The judge also accepted his breach of contract claim.
Lynn then filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit without a jury trial, which had been scheduled to start on May 30, 2017—one year after the original complaint was filed. Doe filed opposition evidence and legal memoranda asking the court to deny Lynn’s motion, his attorney, Angel Castillo, told The Federalist. A hearing on the school’s motion was scheduled for March 14, 2017. One day before the hearing was scheduled, the court was notified that both parties had reached a confidential settlement. On March 17, the parties filed a stipulation stating the lawsuit would be dismissed and each side would be responsible for their own attorney’s fees.
“This was a very challenging case involving a still-developing area of the law, discrimination under Title IX, and we are pleased that the parties were able to reach an out-of-court resolution that was satisfactory to everyone involved,” Castillo told The Federalist.
What Led to the Suit
Doe met his accuser at a dorm party in September 2015. The two, according to Doe’s lawsuit, had sex around 8:30 p.m. that night. His accuser (not named because the accused isn’t) claimed she was too drunk to consent. Doe argued that she “showed no signs of being intoxicated.”
Police concurred after viewing campus video surveillance that showed the accuser right before and after her encounter with Doe, walking normally and talking to friends. Within 30 minutes of her encounter with Doe, she was seen holding two cups of liquid from the dining hall, and balancing on one foot and pushing the elevator door button with the other. Footage from just after the encounter showed the accuser with her arms around two other men, laughing and smiling. Again, she used her foot to kick the elevator door button.
Police deemed her accusation “unfounded,” and even the accuser made statements suggesting she was not raped. She said her friends “encouraged her” to report, as did her parents. Despite clear evidence indicating no rape occurred, Lynn University still suspended Doe for one year. During his campus hearing (a separate, quasi-judicial system college campuses set up to comply with federal regulations), the accuser was allowed to review all evidence, and her attorney was allowed to represent her. Doe was not granted the same treatment.
This Injustice Is Common, Thanks to Obama Regs
Doe’s story isn’t out of the ordinary, although he had the benefit of video evidence. Even with that evidence, Lynn was determined to punish him. It’s a common occurrence on college campuses, as schools—fearful of negative press and federal threats—work to “prove” they are dedicated to addressing campus sexual assault by punishing almost any accused student, no matter what the evidence shows.
Because schools are obligated to adjudicate these matters thanks to Obama-era guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, the typically male accused students have little recourse to clear their names outside of the legal system. Some men have successfully filed complaints with the USDOE’s Office for Civil Rights, but many have been turned away.
Getting justice then becomes a matter of luck and access to money. Across the country, male students accused of sexual assault have had to pay thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars attempting to clear their names of wrongdoing. Often, these court battles drag on for years, and families become weary. They become willing to accept settlements that simply remove the alleged transgression from the student’s transcript.
This may be the case in the Lynn incident, since the student isn’t receiving compensation for his attorney’s fees, but because most of these settlements are confidential, we can’t know for sure.
But the settlements do show that the due process crisis on college campuses might be changing, as more courts find schools discriminated against accused students and more settlements are reached. Falsely accused students can win, but their wins don’t make national news.