University drops sexual misconduct ruling after settlement

Monday, September 14, 2015 - 12:19am

The University dropped a sexual misconduct ruling against former student Drew Sterrett in accordance with a lawsuit settlement the University signed on Sept. 1. The agreement was signed by Sterrett on Sept. 8.


Per the settlement, the University will reverse its previous findings, which found Sterrett in violation of the school’s Student Sexual Misconduct Policy. The University also cannot investigate the case further. In return, Sterrett agreed to not return to the University or to disparage the University. The settlement is pending approval from a federal judge.


Sterrett was suspended from the University in Fall 2012 after the school found Sterrett in violation of the University’s sexual misconduct code by engaging in non-consensual sex with a female friend in his dorm room. Sterrett was given the option to return to the University on the condition he admitted to committing the sexual assault.


In response, Sterrett filed a lawsuit against the University. Deborah Gordon, Sterrett’s attorney, said the University’s handling of the case was a deprivation of constitutional due process rights.


According to Sterrett’s lawsuit claim, he and the female friend who later filed the complaint were “socializing” and had sexual relations in his dorm room, where she proceeded to stay overnight. She filed the complaint with the University five months after the incident, but did not contact the police.


Sterrett further claims in his suit that the University told him if he delayed his interview with the University to consult a lawyer, the investigation would go on without him. Gordon claims this was an infringement of her client’s rights.


“We are very pleased with the settlement,” Gordon said. “It null and voids the findings against Mr. Sterrett and cleans his records against and removes the prior findings against him.”


The female student who claimed Sterrett engaged in non-consensual sex with her said in a statement that by the University, by signing the settlement, is not following through on its commitment to support survivors of sexual assault. She also cautioned other students from going through the school’s Title IX process.


“Worst of all, I have come to believe they do not care about individual students seeking help and are more concerned with producing the paperwork which demonstrates compliance with U.S. Department of Education mandates,” the student said in a statement provided through her attorney, Douglas Fierberg.  “With the multiple efforts and initiatives the University has undertaken and administrators have espoused, the biggest threat on campus has now become the Title IX Sexual Assault Policy as implemented by the University.”


University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in an e-mail that students have a number of options for seeking support in the wake of a sexual assault, including strictly confidential resources.   


“The University offers extensive, research-informed educational programs designed to reduce sexual misconduct and increase reporting,” he wrote. “We strive to continually improve our processes to improve the experiences and outcomes for students who report sexual misconduct to the University.”