'U' releases student’s transcript in sexual assault lawsuit

Wednesday, June 20, 2018 - 7:53pm

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Alec Cohen/Daily

The University of Michigan officially responded Friday to a lawsuit challenging its sexual misconduct policy and released the plaintiff's transcript, which had previously been withheld.

Filed June 4 by Deborah Gordon Law on behalf of a male U-M student, the lawsuit claims the administration discriminates against males accused of sexual assault by conducting incomplete investigations.

The case states a female student approached the U-M Office for Institutional Equity on March 12, accusing the male student in question of sexually assaulting her in November 2017. She filed for a no-contact order against him in April and later claimed he violated the order in a University dining hall, though the male’s Mcard records allegedly prove otherwise. The male student said they did have sex in November, but it was sober and consensual, and he declined when she suggested having sex again.

As a result of the female student’s allegations, the case alleges the University administration put the male student’s transcript on hold, temporarily keeping him from committing to a graduate school. The male student said he was also interviewed by an employee from the Office for Institutional Equity. Due to the University’s sexual misconduct policy, which doesn’t allow for cross-examination, the case states there was no questioning between the two parties.

Citing a 2017 case, Doe v. Cincinnati, the lawsuit claims the University denied the male student of his due process rights by not providing cross-examination. The lawsuit also claims the administration was unfair in withholding his transcript based on hearsay. There have been no findings against the male student thus far.

“Defendants provide complete due process protections, including cross-examination, for students facing all forms of discipline other than that involving sexual misconduct,” the lawsuit reads. “Defendants have no explanation for this separate and unequal policy. In addition, Defendants are discriminating against Plaintiff on the basis of his gender in violation of federal and state law.”

On June 14, U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow ordered the University to release the student’s transcript. When reached for comment, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald clarified the administration released the transcript voluntarily prior to Tarnow’s order.

The administration released its official response to the lawsuit the day after the federal order. According to the University, the male student’s due process rights were not violated because the Office for Institutional Equity investigator spoke with both parties. The response added the male student’s enrollment does not constitute a protected property interest in the University’s procedures, so his complaint falls outside of the scope of the Due Process Clause, a protection against the arbitrary denial of life, liberty or property.

“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, citing another case. “There is accordingly no due process problem with the University’s Policy.” 

The University also addressed the lawsuit’s points about cross-examination and its citation of Doe v. Cincinnati, claiming the previous case did not actually say cross-examination is always necessary. In the University’s interpretation, Doe v. Cincinnati said cross-examination is required when a witness’ credibility is at stake, but the University’s investigation was a thorough assessment.

“Contrary to Plaintiff’s characterization of Cincinnati, however, the Sixth Circuit has not held that a live hearing with cross-examination is required in all cases, and Cincinnati is not controlling under the circumstances present here,” the response reads.

The administration also requested the court deny the plaintiff’s demands. The lawsuit had asked the University to provide the male student with a restraining order, stop the investigation and refrain from using its sexual misconduct policy in any instances when a witness’s credibility is under question.