Updated May 19, 11:46 p.m.
A male Columbia student filed a federal lawsuit against Columbia University on Monday for violating his Title IX rights after he was found responsible by administrators of sexual misconduct, the Daily Princetonian reported.
According to the complaint, the student—a member of the crew team only named as John Doe—alleged that administrators succumbed to external pressure from student activists, violated his Title IX rights, and sought to make an example out of the student athlete.
Doe said in the complaint that a female student, named as Jane Doe, filed a complaint against him in September 2013 for nonconsensual sexual activity, five months after John Doe said the two engaged in sexual activity in May 2013. After the University found John Doe responsible this February, it suspended him until the fall of 2015.
The complaint said that Columbia discriminated against the plaintiff because he was male and that “there was a rush of judgement, pandering to the political climate on campus and pressure from woman's groups [sic], with little thought, if any, given the actual specifics.” In its discussion of the campus climate that affected the decision, the complaint also referenced the Blue and White's series of articles on sexual assault policies and activism of groups like the Columbia University Democrats.
The complaint, filed in the New York Southern District Court, said that Columbia showed a “lack of impartiality and pre-judgement against an accused male student” during the disciplinary proceedings.
Many of the plaintiff's complaints with the hearing process are similar to those outlined by student activists and survivors over the past year, and particularly those detailed in the Blue and White pieces.
John Doe's suit alleges that when he met with Title IX Investigator Jilleian Sessions-Stackhouse in September to provide his testimony, Sessions-Stackhouse took inaccurate and incomplete notes, and did not interview several witnesses that he said were present the night of the incident.
The suit said that in January, when John Doe met with Interim Assistant Director of Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct Virginia Ryan, Ryan failed to correct mistakes in the written report and still did not interview the other witnesses requested by John Doe. It also said that Sessions-Stackhouse pursued “an admission of guilt'” when questioning Doe.
Prior to the hearing panel in February, John Doe said in the suit, he was not informed he would be required to make a statement in front of the panel. The complaint also said that many of the questions he raised during the hearing were dismissed as “irrelevant” by panelists. Doe was found responsible and sanctioned with suspension until the fall of 2015.
According to the suit, both John and Jane Doe individually appealed to the University to reduce the sanction. Columbia ultimately denied the appeal.
This lawsuit comes after a year of student activism pushing for the University to improve how it handles sexual assault cases—in April, a group of 23 students filed a federal complaint to the Department of Education and the Department of Justice, alleging the University had violated Title II, Title IX, and Clery Act requirements. Last week, a student filed a police report for an alleged sexual assault that took place in 2012 after she became frustrated with the University's response.
Andrew Miltenberg—the attorney representing John Doe—of Nesenoff & Miltenberg LLP was not immediately available for comment Monday.
The University declined to comment, as Columbia does not comment on ongoing legal matters.
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