University disputes claims it did not properly investigate SMTD professor accused of sexual assault

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 - 3:06pm

The University of Michigan recently denied allegations it mishandled claims against SMTD professor David Daniels.

The University of Michigan recently denied allegations it mishandled claims against SMTD professor David Daniels. Buy this photo
Courtesy of www.danielssings.com

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include Gordon's response to the document filed by Schwartz.

The University of Michigan denied allegations it mishandled sexual assault claims against School of Music, Theatre & Dance professor David Daniels in court documents filed Friday. An attorney for the University said Andrew Lipian, a Music, Theatre & Dance graduate student who alleges Daniels sexually assaulted him, declined to participate in investigations conducted by the Office for Institutional Equity and the Division of Public Safety and Security.

Lipian filed a lawsuit in October accusing Daniels of drugging and sexually assaulting him on March 24, 2017. He also alleged the University failed to investigate Daniels after being made aware of complaints against the professor, claiming “OIE did nothing” and “No file was opened.”

However, according to a document filed by University attorney Brian M. Schwartz, Lipian has have failed to provide information to the University for the U-M to conduct an appropriate investigation into the allegations.”  

“To date, and despite multiple follow-up requests, neither Plaintiff nor his attorneys have provided to OIE or the UMPD any e-mails, text messages, or other communications that are relevant to Plaintiff’s allegations against Daniels,” Schwartz wrote. “...In other words, Plaintiff argues ‘OIE did nothing’ while simultaneously preventing OIE from fully investigating the allegations and seeking discovery about the investigation.”

According to court documents, in August 2018, an SMTD faculty member learned about the incident and reported it to OIE. In a motion to dismiss filed in December, the University argued Lipian failed to show the University’s response to the allegations against Daniels amounted to “deliberate indifference.”

Deborah Gordon, Lipian’s attorney, said Lipian did not file a complaint with OIE and therefore are not obligated to participate in the University’s complaint process.

“My client did not file a complaint with the OIE,” Gordon said. “We decided to file a complaint in federal court. We observed that when the OIE had a complaint about Professor Daniels, they failed to properly investigate it or investigate it at all. Having said that, we did not make a complaint. We are pursuing our manner in federal court. We are under no obligation to participate in their (the University) process.”

Gordon explained her client was only contacted once by OIE.

“OIE emailed him (Lipian) once and said we are looking into your concerns,” Gordon said. “It did not mention a name of a person they were investigating.”

Daniels is the subject of numerous sexual misconduct allegations and was placed on paid leave in August, when New York-based baritone Samuel Schultz accused Daniels and his husband, Scott Walters, of raping him in Houston in 2010. Daniels and Walters were arrested on sexual assault charges in January and were released on bond in February. They face up to 20 years in prison.

Daniels has denied the accusations against him and filed a countersuit against Lipian in December.

In a text message to The Daily, University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen declined to elaborate on the court filing.

“(We) don’t have anything to add beyond what was in the filing,” Broekhuizen wrote. “It speaks for itself.”

Gordon filed a response to the University on Monday, citing the University's unwillingness to hold depositions of University officials. Her response also includes email exchanges between her and Schwartz where the two are trying to schedule deposition dates. 

“Defendant is clearly desperate to block Plaintiff's access to these officials for as long as possible, and to discourage Plaintiff's access to these officials for as long as possible, and to discourage Plaintiff from vigorously pursuing discovery using whatever means necessary — including specious (and costly) accusations about Plaintiff's counsel entirely unmoored from governing law or the factual realities of this case,” Gordon wrote. “Defendant is panicked by the notion that evidence of their unwillingness to reign in a serial sexual harasser will come to light through depositions of University officials.​”