UMass student sues university over sexual misconduct case
Kira Barrett ‘18
Assistant News Editor
A former University of Massachusetts student is suing the flagship campus for its handling of a sexual misconduct case against him. He is citing “gender-based discrimination,” claiming that the university’s system is “biased against males.”
On Sept. 2, 2016, “Jane Doe” filed a complaint to the university stating that the student (known as “John Doe”) had sexually assaulted her.
John maintains that he had her explicit consent at the time of the incident. In response, the university withheld John’s diploma despite the coursework he completed for that academic year.
Now, 330 days after the initial allegation, the university is looking to schedule a hearing for the case. John’s defense team claims that the University’s delayed actions “constitute violations of John’s constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law.”
John told MassLive earlier this month that “he is stuck in limbo” over the prolonged investigation.
John’s lawsuit is not unique. Many other men have used Title IX’s prohibition of gender discrimination in their defense, claiming that there is a bias against men in cases of sexual misconduct.
Recently, the Department of Education changed rules to be more empathetic to men accused of sexual assault, overturning Obama-era rules.
In a letter recently released by the department, these documents “have led to the deprivation of rights for many students – both accused students denied fair process and victims denied an adequate resolution of their complaints.”
Smith College Associate Professor of the Study of Women and Gender Carrie Baker argues that suits like Doe’s have been encouraged by the Department of Education.
“The department … is much more favorable toward men accused of sexual assault than the previous regulations,” Baker said.
Specifically, Baker points to a section of the Question and Answer on Campus Sexual Misconduct released by the department. It states, “Sex stereotypes or generalizations may violate Title IX,” which Baker said refers “to attitudes about men and sexual assault.”
Betsy DeVos, the recently appointed head to the department, has held a series of “listening sessions” for men accused of sexual assault.
In an article published by Think Progress this summer, DeVos said that the accused’s stories “are not often told” and that “all their stories are important.”
The same article said that an estimated “2 to 10 percent of rape allegations are false – making her remarks an example of false balance.”
The head of the Civil Rights Division of the department, Candice Jackson holds similar views as her colleague DeVos.
Jackson said to The New York Times that 90 percent of accusations “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’”
In an article in Ms. Magazine, Baker wrote that Jackson’s comment was an “utterly false and misleading statement.”
The eventual outcome of John’s case will be an important factor in the ongoing debate surrounding male defendants in sexual misconduct cases.