Another former student sues university, alleges gender bias in expulsion process

Posted on Jun 17 2018 - 3:41pm by Taylor Vance

A former Ole Miss student has filed a lawsuit against the University of Mississippi alleging he was a victim of gender bias in the university’s disciplinary process, becoming the second former student to accuse the university of gender discrimination this year.

According to the lawsuit, in the fall of 2017, the University Judicial Council ruled that the student was “responsible” for violating the university’s sexual misconduct policy and suspended him from Nov. 16, 2017, through August 2018. The student appealed the suspension ruling, but his appeal was denied and his suspension was increased to an expulsion from the campus.

A federal judge has allowed the former student to use the pseudonym “John Doe,” similarly to the case regarding former student “Andrew Doe,” The Daily Mississippian reported on in May. Both lawsuits were filed by Jackson-based attorney J. Lawson Hester.

The defendants in John Doe’s lawsuit include The University of Mississippi, the state of Mississippi, State Institutions of Higher Learning, five “Does” and UM employees Tracy Murry and Honey Ussery.

The University responded to Doe’s lawsuit by filing for a dismissal of the case on April 18, claiming Doe violated the university’s sexual misconduct policy. The university’s response was filed by Paul B. Watkins Jr. of the Oxford-based law firm Mayo Mallette.

A woman identified as “Jane Roe” reported in March 2017 that Doe had assaulted her. Doe was investigated by the University Police Department, the university’s Title IX office and the University Judicial Council.

“Jane Roe testified at the second hearing that she told Doe repeatedly that she did not want to have sex with him, but that he proceeded to have sex with her,” the university’s response states. “Doe testified that he did not hear Jane Roe say she did not want to have sex, but he acknowledged that the parties were initially ‘unsure’ whether they wanted to have sex.”

According to the lawsuit, on March 30, Roe visited Doe’s dorm room, where the two engaged in sexual relations. At midnight, a dormitory administrator knocked on the door and informed Doe and Roe that visiting hours were over. The lawsuit does not name the dorm in question.

Roe reported to the Title IX office on March 31 that she believed she had been sexually assaulted by Doe. The Title IX office reported this to UPD, and UPD conducted their own investigation.

“When interviewed by (UPD), Jane Roe advised that she did not initially believe she was raped but her friends told her that he was,” the lawsuit alleges. “Roe asked the officer to delay contacting John Doe about her allegations until after a sorority party on April 5, 2017, because she thought she might see Doe at the party that evening.”

The Title IX office interviewed Doe, and he claimed the accusation was false and the sex was consensual. The lawsuit claims the Title IX investigation did not accept key pieces of evidence that he brought forth and the investigation was biased against him.

The lawsuit also alleges Doe was “denied basic procedural due process and was not allowed to subpoena witnesses or cross-examine other witnesses.

The university’s response claims the Doe failed to show any evidence of sex bias and claims his theory of gender bias is “erroneous” and his due process rights were not violated.

“Doe relies only on conjecture and sex-neutral allegations in support of his erroneous outcome theory,” the university’s response reads. “…Doe wholly overlooks his obligation to also plead facts showing a particularized causal connection between the flawed outcome and actual sex bias.”

The university has not respond to questions regarding pending litigation, and the University Judicial Council and Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution have refrained from discussing any case with parties not involved in the case.

The Daily Mississippian filed a Public Records Request to obtain access to the transcripts and final rulings from the University Judicial Council hearings and the Appellate Consideration Board, but the requests were denied citing the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.

Doe’s attorney could not be reached with questions.