Accuser forced to face student accused of sexual assault in lawsuit against U-M

Monday, July 16, 2018 - 2:34pm

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A federal judge ruled Friday the University must allow a student accused of sexual assault to question his accuser in a special live hearing.

The lawsuit alleges the University denied a student accused of sexual assault due process in the investigation of the sexual misconduct. Furthermore, the case claims the student was discriminated against as a male accused of sexual assault and alleges the University withheld the student's transcripts as a result.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow said the accused student is likely to be successful in his claim that the University denied him due process.

"(A)t this very moment, the University may be denying Plaintiff due process protections to which he is entitled,” Tarnow wrote in the ruling cited by The Detroit Free Press. “The Court cannot, and will not, simply stand by as the fruit continues to rot on the tree. This case is ripe for adjudication."

While Tarnow will allow a live hearing, he will not allow the accused to directly question his accuser. The hearing will feature a third party cross examination.

The ruling ultimately challenges the University’s current policy which allows the victim to talk separately with an investigator. In the current system, the accuser and accused are not forced to engage with one another in questioning or inany part of the investigation.

The University’s policy seeks to provide privacy for both the accused and accuser.

“In the interest of privacy, investigations will not involve a hearing or require that participants meet together,” the policy states. “If the evidence supports (based on “a more likely than not” standard) a finding of responsibility, the matter will proceed to the sanctioning process.”

University Public Affairs is unable to comment at this time due to the ongoing litigation.

The ruling on July 6 comes after a case filed June 4 by Deborah Gordon Law on behalf of a male U-M student referred to as “John Doe.” According to the case, a female U-M student approached the University Office for Institutional Equity on March 12, accusing the male student of sexually assaulting her in November 2017.  The male student claims the two students’ relations were sober and consensual.

The male student claims the two texted back and forth after the encounter, even having dinner together. He claims the female student asked about the nature of their relationship and whether they would continue to have intimate encounters in the future. According to the male student he said they could only be friends.

The lawsuit states the female student filed a complaint shortly after and a no-contact order in April. The female student later alleged he violated the order when she saw him in a University dining hall even though the male student’s Mcard record shows he was not at the dining hall at that time.  

According to the lawsuit, due to the allegations of sexual misconduct the University put the male student’s transcripts on hold, temporarily keeping him from officially committing to a graduate school. The student’s lawsuit both questions the University’s investigation as well as the alleged withholding of the student’s transcript.

In a previous ruling on June 14, Tarnow ordered the University release the student’s transcripts. When reached for comment at the time, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald explained the administration had released the student’s transcript voluntarily before the court order.

The University released an official response to the lawsuit the day after the court ordered the release of the transcripts. The University states the male student's rights to due process were not violated because both parties were questioned by OIE.

 

“Under the University’s Policy, the investigator — the finder of fact — has had the opportunity to evaluate the parties’ credibility and Plaintiff has had, and continues to have in his ongoing investigation, a full opportunity to ‘respond, explain, and defend,'" the U-M response reads. “There is accordingly no due process problem with the University’s Policy.”