In a case that has received national attention, a male student athlete was suspended over an incident that he and his girlfriend both say didn’t happen.
Zoe Katz and Matt Boermeester were both University of Southern California students who had been dating for more than a year. Around midnight on January 21, 2017, the couple returned to Katz’s residence after a trip to McDonalds. Before entering, the two horsed around in the alley, laughing loudly. The sound woke up another USC student, who claimed he heard screaming and saw Boermeester pinning Katz against a wall by the neck. Another neighbor claims the pair was arguing.
Boermeester and Katz strongly object to the description of their horseplay. The two went into Katz’s apartment afterwards, and the first witness called her into his room, where he and his roommate said they were concerned for her safety. Katz said she was fine, and wasn’t upset in any way.
But the next day, the roommate who had talked to Katz the previous night spoke to his father, the USC men’s tennis coach. This coach was designated a mandatory reporter, who told USC’s Title IX office what his son’s roommate had heard. Let’s take a moment to point out that this allegation of violence came not from the alleged victim (who denies this ever happened), but the roommate of a third-party non-witness, and was reported to the administration by yet another person.
When Katz was called into the school’s Title IX office, she was told what had allegedly happened to her. She denied the alleged version of events, and said USC’s Title IX coordinators told her: “I’m sorry that you feel that way.” They insisted she was a victim with battered wife syndrome, and wouldn’t accept her account.
Now, an attorney for Boermeester, Mark Hathaway, has filed a petition to have the court compel USC to release a four-minute security video of the night in question. Boermeester and Katz have both witnessed the tape, and say it does not show what was alleged by third parties, but is consistent with their accounts of the night. USC has so far refused to release the tape.
A week after Katz was told she was a victim, USC interviewed Boermeester. The narrative, however, had already been written, and his punishment was just a matter of paperwork.
When news outlets ran with the story, Katz outed herself as the alleged victim in a tweet, and called the stories “false.” Katz’s attorney, Kerry Steigerwalt says the school threatened her after the tweet, telling her: “You’re jeopardizing and interfering with an ongoing investigation. You do that again, there could be consequences for you. Don’t ever tweet anything like that again.”
Katz waited months to issue a formal statement, claiming she was “afraid of USC’s Title IX office” and hoped the office wouldn’t “further retaliate against me in any way.” She also made it clear Boermeester had never abused her. Still, Boermeester was suspended, even though friends came forward to say they hadn’t seen any abuse between the couple.
Boermeester’s attorney believes the tape will clear his client, and told The Federalist: “Cases like this show how the lack of legal safeguards in Title IX actions can lead to absurd results.”
USC appears to have been so committed to showing that it takes Title IX issues seriously it ignored a woman’s claim that she wasn’t abused. Now, let’s think about this for a minute. The school believed that she was a battered girlfriend, too afraid of her boyfriend to admit what he had done. Why, then, did they retaliate and threaten her? The school was so sure she was a victim, it treated her like garbage when she refused to cooperate.
The first thing one sees on USC’s Title IX website is a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Justice cannot be for one side alone but must be for both.” In this case, neither side received justice.