Here Come the Lawsuits over Sex Hearings:
Accused Males Take on Columbia and Drew

rapist-list-columbia-university.jpg

Colleges and universities almost certainly face a deluge of lawsuits from accused males over the mishandling of sexual misconduct hearings. Columbia and Drew, for instance, have joined the ranks of universities sued by male students claiming that unfair processes led to disciplinary action against them.

 

At first blush, the Drew case involves a typical he-said-she-said situation, but in fact there were several twists. The accused student, Kevin Parisi, suggests that his accuser, Kai Boulware, had a motive to lie about the consensual nature of their one-time intercourse–to protect her relationship with her boyfriend, Jacob Levy. Parisi claimed that Boulware told him that her boyfriend pressured her to make the complaint, and that she had told another acquaintance the intercourse was consensual. (The acquaintance subsequently confirmed this in a conversation with a private investigator.) The complaint also alleges that Boulware refused to cooperate with a police investigation of the case.

The twist in this case is that the evidence was so weak–indeed, the acquaintance’s testimony wholly undermined Boulware’s portrayal of events–that Drew found Parisi not culpable. But this occurred after a three-month process (during most of which Drew did no investigation, including, the complaint alleges, not looking into Parisi’s assertion that Boulware had contacted him in violation of a university-demanded no contact order). For that period, Drew ordered Parisi to remain off campus, including staying away from his dorm room, except for attending class.

Punishment First, Judgment Later

Civil libertarian critics, such as FIRE and Hans Bader, have pointed out the disturbing nature of OCR’s demanding colleges implement “interim” measures that amount to a punishment first, judgment later. The Parisi case is a good example of the toll that such policies can take on the innocent; he’s suing Drew on the grounds that the university’s treatment of him discriminated on the basis of his gender.

A second recently-filed case, at Columbia, is more typical of the recent spate of Title IX cases. (Both parties are anonymous in the complaint.) Five months after what the complaint describes as a brief hookup, the Columbia accuser filed a college complaint against a male member of the Columbia crew team. The accuser hadn’t sought medical attention the night of the incident, and she never reported it to the police. She did, however, text the eventually accused student, expressing concern about how the tawdry nature of their hookup would affect both of the students’ social standing if word of it spread. In the end, Columbia deemed the accused student a rapist and suspended him for 1.5 years.

The complaint focuses on the unfairness of Columbia’s process (about which I’ve written previously)–no attorney in the hearing, minimal right to cross-examination and call witnesses, preponderance-of-evidence threshold inviting a guessing game by the tribunal. The complaint suggests (as occurred at Drew, and as we’ve also seen at Vassar in the Peter Yu case), Columbia didn’t meaningfully investigate potentially exculpatory witnesses–in this instance, fellow students who saw the pair chatting before they hooked up. Nor, according to the complaint, did Columbia even inform the accused student about the basically toothless assistance (the non-attorney advisor) to which he was entitled as a part of Columbia’s process.

Finally, as occurred in the Witt case at Yale, Columbia had one last surprise for the accused student–despite the promised confidentiality of the university disciplinary process, his name was leaked to the campus newspaper.

The Columbia complaint describes a student who naïvely felt the university would conduct a good-faith investigation–trust that was badly misplaced. (Since the accused student didn’t have an advocate, he hadn’t even prepared an opening statement for his hearing, and the witnesses he thought would undermine his accuser Columbia never were interviewed.) The complaint not unreasonably hypothesizes that Columbia acted as it did lest the university further inflame the witch-hunt atmosphere we’ve seen at Morningside Heights in recent months.

What, precisely, is the current atmosphere at Columbia? It perhaps reached its low point when fliers were posted around campus listing four male students as “rapists”–based solely on their being found “‘responsible’ by the University.” Leave aside the fact that calling someone a “rapist” who hasn’t faced criminal charges, much less been found guilty in a court of law, would seem to constitute a borderline (at the least) libelous statement.

An Absurd Definition of ‘Sexual Assault’

Instead, consider Columbia’s extraordinarily broad definition of “sexual assault,” which goes far beyond anything in the criminal justice system, in two respects.

First, the university defines sexual assault as not only rape, as understood in the criminal justice system, but also “any intentional sexual touching, however slight, with any object without a person’s consent. Intentional sexual contact includes contact with the breasts, buttocks, groin, or touching another with any of these body parts, or making another person touch any of these body parts; any intentional bodily contact in a sexual manner.” How many people would consider such behavior–while indefensible–to constitute rape? To Columbia, however, forcible sexual penetration and nonconsensual “sexual touching, however slight” are both “sexual assault.” And the fliers suggest that the message has been received.

Second, while the university notes that sexual assault, by definition, comes without consent, it modifies this provision in a critical way: “Alcohol and other drugs can lower inhibitions and create an atmosphere of confusion over whether consent is freely and affirmatively given.” Taken literally, then, any alcohol use by the female party to sexual intercourse could call into question whether a Columbia tribunal will subsequently brand a male student a rapist, since even if the female gave consent, the university claim non-consensual contact on grounds of “confusion over whether consent is freely and affirmatively given.”

In this atmosphere, accused students appear to be guilty until proven innocent, even as Title IX claims suggesting that the definitions above (coupled with procedures that deny accused students the right to counsel) unlawfully act against the rights of accusers.

As colleges adopt a de facto presumption of guilt in undertaking investigations for which they are in no way competent, they will be hit with more and more of these kinds of lawsuits. And it’s fair to say that the presidents and administrators of these institutions are bringing it on themselves.

(Photo: A list of alleged rapists scrawled onto Columbia University’s bathroom walls. Credit: Jezebel.)

KC Johnson

KC Johnson

KC Johnson is a history professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author, along with Stuart Taylor, of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America's Universities.

6 thoughts on “Here Come the Lawsuits over Sex Hearings:
Accused Males Take on Columbia and Drew

  1. I have a similar case where it shows Drew’s incompetent Title IX staff. My case happened within the last year and Drew’s Title IX staff sets out to only protect the school and not the students. My case also showed proof exposing how the higher ups covered up a professors actions for years and because they didn’t want any commotion they swept my case under the rug. I regret not getting to tell my story for others to hear about what a great deal this school goes through to cover up cases to make them look like the holy ones.

  2. Also important note, its safe to say that a legal document cannot and should not be signed when the agreeing party is any kind of non-sober. As a dude, if you see the kind of barbarism that these dudes engage in it’s disgusting. You have these dudes bragging about the “loosening up” they do by giving their female friends and acquaintances alcohol or drugs that are much stronger than anticipated.
    Then they bring these limping girls home. At the moment it didn’t really hit me as wrong until I thought about it more. I’d be freaked out if a gay dude did that to me and then had sex with me in that state. I’d want to call that rape wouldn’t you?
    I’m confident in my masculinity and I think its up to good men like me to take charge and live the example of being a good and honorable man instead of being a goddamn sissy and whining about how some asshats make me look awful by association. I’d bet these fools are afraid of what they did because they were probably like me and didn’t think they were doing anything wrong because of how common it is.

  3. This site is pretty stupid for not minding the privacy of the alledged incident. If you are going to complain about one university not respecting peoples privacy than you as a publication should be also equally accountable yes?

  4. It truly amazes me that young men are still going to college. It is a total waste of time and money for most of them, and now getting to be downright dangerous. If I had a college aged son I’d tell him to skip it, and start his own business. In four years he’ll be light years ahead of the young men coming out of college with liberal arts degrees only to find out there are no jobs. At least very few ones that will allow them to pay off their student loans in any reasonable time frame.

  5. These new campus rape courts run by the gender-studies students…mixed with the law enforcement perversions and “manufactured statistics Alliances “that are manufacturing faulty and inflammatory rape statistics….and you have a perfect recipe to pervert the course of justice.
    I believe that when American law enforcement started to “take the pork” in return for their participation in the manufacturing statistics Alliances, they they not only soiled American law enforcement, they also stepped over some constitutional boundaries they should not have crossed.

  6. An interesting aside on this is that if these lawsuits are Title IX discrimination cases filed in US District Court (i.e. “Federal Court”), and if there isn’t ruling precedent (or if they reverse it), they then become the ruling precedent for that district (usually the whole state) — if appealed, they become ruling precedent for the whole multi-state Circuit.
    It is not uncommon for the various Circuits to be in conflict with each other, for one to have ruled one way on something and another the exact opposite way. Unless/until the US Supreme Court then the law in each particular Circuit is whichever way that particular Circuit Court of Appeals went — and OCR is required to follow this.
    Someone high up in OCR once explicitly told me that it is not uncommon for one of the regional offices to have to do things differently because of a Circuit Court decision that doesn’t apply outside of that Circuit. Remember too that OCR is required to interpret laws (i.e. Title IX) the way that the courts have interpreted either the laws themselves or essentially similar laws.
    A good example of this is the case of _Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson_ — this is where a lot of the stuff that OCR is doing now came from — the “hostile working environment” (as a form of sex discrimination) became the “hostile educational environment” and all the rest — OCR following SCOTUS precedent.
    Now if a Federal Court rules that a university discriminated against a male student, that is a definition of what constitutes illegal discrimination, a definition of what is prohibited by Title IX. And OCR is required to decide its cases in light of said ruling, its required to enforce Title IX as the court has interpreted it.
    Hence if a Federal Court rules that, say, the “preponderance” standard discriminates against men, that it is sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX, OCR is *required* to also rule that way within the area covered by the court decision (i.e. District or Circuit). OCR also has to “educate” institutions as to what the rules are and such.
    If these are Federal lawsuits alleging discrimination under Title IX, and if a court rules in the male student’s favor, whatever the court rules not only becomes a hard line which OCR itself can’t cross, but also a definition of Title IX’s applicability to men, which OCR must now enforce.
    Yes, the interpretation only applies to the particular state or group of states in a Circuit, but still, thus could become interesting as it is hard to say that something is wrong in one part of the country without saying it is wrong everywhere.
    MY POINT: This well may be the end of the “Preponderance” standard and the rest of the Kangaroo Kourt stuff. If a Federal court rules that stuff discriminates against male students, it’s gone — absent a Congressional Amendment to Title IX, it now says you can’t do this.
    This would not only require OCR to stop mandating IHEs do so, but further *require* OCR to *prohibit* any institution from doing so. For example, UMass Amherst has used the preponderance standard (for all offenses) since the 1980s, I believe that the entire U-Maine System does as well. A precedent in the First Circuit that this was discriminatory would *require* OCR to also rule that way.
    This is starting to get *really* interesting….

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