Former student sues Ole Miss, alleges gender bias in disciplinary process

Posted on May 4 2018 - 5:50am by Taylor Vance

A former Ole Miss student is suing the University of Mississippi and the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, alleging he was a victim of gender bias.

The lawsuit asserts that the student was expelled from the university in March 2017 for having sex with a female who was under the influence of alcohol. The lawsuit says that the sex was consensual, and that they both were intoxicated, but the female student was not disciplined or expelled.

The lawsuit, which was filed by Jackson-based attorney J. Lawson Hester, is different than most lawsuits dealing with sexual assault – a federal judge has allowed the former student and the female to remain anonymous under the pseudonyms “Andrew Doe” and “Bethany Roe,” respectively.

The lawsuit alleges that the actions of the university, the office of conflict resolution and student conduct and the Ole Miss Title IX office exhibited “a gender bias against males and an underlying motive to protect the university’s reputation and financial status.”

The lawsuit says that Doe and Roe were both Ole Miss students in November 2016 and had been introduced to each other by a mutual friend. That month, the two attended Roe’s sorority formal and “had an enjoyable time,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also claims Doe later invited Roe to attend his fraternity’s Christmas party, which occurred on December 2, 2016, and Roe accepted his invitation. Immediately prior to this event, the two went to a “pre-game” party with Doe and some of his friends.

“While at the fraternity party, Doe and Roe drank champagne, socialized and made out with each other,” the lawsuit says. “Eventually, Doe asked Roe if she would like to go to his apartment. Roe said, ‘Yes.’”

At approximately 10:30 p.m., a taxi driver picked Doe and Roe up from the fraternity party and took the couple to Doe’s apartment, where the two engaged in sexual intercourse.

At approximately 11:30 p.m., a friend of Roe’s contacted local law enforcement to report that Roe had been taken to Doe’s apartment against her will and was sexually assaulted there.

“Law enforcement went to Doe’s apartment and awakened him to inquire about the incident,” the lawsuit says. “Confused and shaken, Doe complied with officer requests and explained that he and his date had consensual sex.”

The copy of the University Police Department report from the investigation shows that UPD went off-campus to The Retreat to conduct the investigation.

After conducting the initial investigation, “no action was taken by UPD,” according to a spokesperson from the department.

The lawsuit says Roe reported to UPD that she “did not believe she was sexually assaulted by Doe.”

A Title IX representative interviewed Roe and launched an investigation. The lawsuit alleges that Doe never met with the Title IX office and was never provided with specifics regarding the allegations.

The Title IX office reported its findings to the office of conflict resolution and student conduct, and a University Judicial Council hearing was conducted.

“When Doe arrived for his hearing, he learned that all panel members had not yet been selected,” the lawsuit says. “The hearing was delayed in order for the university to find a third panel member. Approximately 15 minutes before the hearing actually began, one of the panel members was presented with the case file for the first time.”

The University Judicial Council and the office of conflict resolution and student conduct chose not to release Doe’s final judicial council ruling, citing that the ruling is a part of Doe’s academic record, which falls under the protection of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.

The Daily Mississippian has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain access to the judicial council’s ruling.

University Judicial Chair Alex Crouch declined to comment on questions regarding the judicial council’s process.

Doe appealed the expulsion ruling, and his expulsion was reduced to suspension from the university until fall 2020.