A Boston College graduate accused of sexual assault has filed a lawsuit alleging that the university violated federal anti-discrimination laws and its own policies governing sexual-assault allegations.
The suit, filed Wednesday in federal court, says BC rushed to find the student responsible for sexual assault and deprived him of a fair hearing. The process branded the student as a sexual predator without giving him a chance to tell his side of the story, the complaint alleges.
The suit was filed against the college trustees and five top administrators by Washington, D.C., attorney Charles B. Wayne and Boston attorney Matthew J. Iverson.
BC spokesman Jack Dunn said the suit is baseless and the college intends to fight it vigorously in federal court. The student’s attorneys declined to comment.
College officials in 2012 charged the student, referred to in the lawsuit as John Doe, with sexually assaulting a female student on a student cruise in Boston Harbor.
The male student was also charged in Suffolk County District Court. Those charges were dismissed in May 2014 after physical evidence and video footage exonerated him, according to the suit.
In the separate, internal inquiry at BC three weeks after the alleged 2012 incident, an administrative hearing board made up of three administrators, one professor, and one student found him responsible for indecent assault and battery and suspended him for three semesters, court documents say.
The student’s family is seeking $3 million in damages and asking for their son’s record to be expunged. The family is also seeking a permanent injunction against the school, ordering it to comply with Title IX, the federal law that mandates gender equity on campus.
“The university’s concern is not a fair and equitable procedure in accordance with due process guarantees, but how the school will look to the outside world and to the tuition-paying students it hopes to attract,” the suit says.
The 60-page complaint describes how the former student, who was a reporter for the college newspaper The Heights, was assigned to cover an October 2012 cruise hosted by a student group. He was arrested that evening after police identified him as the suspect in the alleged assault of a sophomore on the boat’s dance floor.
The former student, who majored in history and Hispanic studies, was a first-semester senior at the time. He maintains that police and school officials accused the wrong person.
The lawsuit characterizes BC’s actions as a “counterfeit disciplinary process with a predetermined result, all of which was contrary to law.”
The former student graduated in May 2014 after serving his suspension. After he graduated, the school granted his family’s request to re-investigate the case, but a preliminary review found no grounds for reexamination, court papers show.
The suit calls that re-examination a “sham” and a “warmed-over justification” for the flaws of the first disciplinary process that ignored the video and forensic evidence, as well as a polygraph.
The former student’s parents, who do not live in Massachusetts, both attended Boston College, along with about 20 members of their family, according to the suit.
A local attorney who specializes in Title IX said this type of suit by accused assailants has become more common as colleges target sexual assault more aggressively.
“What seems like some sort of backlash or failure to keep Title IX right is actually Title IX working well,” said Colby Bruno, senior legal counsel for the Boston-based Victim Rights Law Center.