Clark University faces rape lawsuit
A student expelled from Clark University after the school found him responsible for raping a classmate earlier this year has filed suit against the college, asserting that campus administrators were mistaken and unfair in their ruling.
Meanwhile, in a similar case, a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former University of Massachusetts Amherst student who said administrators discriminated against him when they expelled him over allegations he sexually assaulted another student.
The two cases coincide with a rise in awareness of sexual assaults at colleges nationwide. The reports have prompted lawsuits and federal complaints not only from victims who alleged administrators downplayed and mishandled investigations, but also from a growing number of alleged assailants who say they have been falsely and unfairly accused.
The suit against Clark, filed Tuesday in US District Court in Worcester, lists several administrators and university employees as defendants. The student, a freshman varsity athlete from Connecticut referred to only by the pseudonym John Doe, says that he and a classmate had consensual sex in January.
Several days later, according to the suit, their relationship ended when she became angry that he did not spend more time with her. Three months later, she filed a formal complaint with the school accusing him of rape.
But the process that unfolded afterward was “fundamentally unfair,” his attorney, Terri D. Leary, said by phone Thursday. The school placed the burden of proof on her client, she said.
Officials at Clark declined to comment on the case, saying the university’s policy is to not discuss pending litigation.
“The safety and health of all of our students is our priority, and Clark University takes allegations of sexual assault seriously,” the university said in a statement.
The student in the lawsuit says the school violated its written policies, did not properly investigate the accusation, and made a hasty, biased judgement. He says he was not given enough notice to defend himself against the allegations, and that administrators ignored text messages he provided to them that he said helped prove his innocence.
The complaint cites factors that may have contributed to administrators’ alleged prejudice, including that the accusations against the student came “at a time of intense debate, both on the campus and among students on social media, where students were criticizing the university’s handling of sexual assault.”
The suit against Clark says that the student should be reinstated; have his attorney and court fees paid for; and be awarded damages in an amount to be determined.
In the case against UMass Amherst, also filed under John Doe, a student argued that administrators had discriminated against him because he is a man.
The suit alleged the university violated Title IX, a federal law banning gender discrimination on college campuses, when the student “was met with overall hostility, dismissal, and pre-judgment as ‘guilty’ before the decision was even rendered.”
But on July 14, US District Judge Mark G. Mastroianni sided with UMass’ request that the case be dismissed.
The student has filed a motion to appeal the ruling.
The student’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment. Officials at UMass Amherst declined to comment.