A Georgia Institute of Technology student who sued his school two weeks ago over an expulsion for sexual assault has been reinstated — but not by a judge.
The student, identified in his lawsuit as John Doe, was seeking an injunction to have his expulsion overturned when the school's Board of Regents reversed the decision and reinstated him. Because of this turn of events, lawyers for Georgia Tech have argued the request for an injunction is moot.
"At the time Plaintiff filed his complaint and his motion. [sic] his appeal to the Board of Regents seeking to overturn the decision to expel him was still pending. The Board of Regents has now heard the appeal and has made the decision to overturn the President. [sic] by reversing the finding and the sanction of expulsion and reinstating the Plaintiff," the lawyers wrote in their response to the injunction request. "As a result of this. [sic] Plaintiff's request for preliminary injunctive relief is moot."
The Board of Regents was not expected to act on the accused student's appeal for several months, which is why the lawsuit was filed and the injunction requested.
Doe was accused one year after a sexual encounter took place, and despite Georgia Tech's policy that accusations must be reported within 30 days, he was investigated and expelled. Doe alleges the encounter was consensual and that the accusation came because he rebuffed the advances of his accuser in the year between the encounter and the accusation.
The process at Georgia Tech for investigating allegations of campus sexual assault is deeply flawed. In addition to not following their own reporting rules, the school uses a single-investigator model, meaning that just one person investigates and determines culpability. This kind of model is ripe for bias, as was demonstrated in a previous lawsuit against the school.
In this case, the school's investigator, Peter Paquette, interviewed the accuser twice and provided him ample time to respond to requests. The investigator then interviewed only witnesses provided by the accuser, and didn't tape or transcribe any of them, giving Doe no way to accurately respond to the claims. Doe was given only one hour to review a 13-page, single-spaced summary of the investigation.
Unsurprisingly, the investigator determined Doe was responsible for sexually assaulting his accuser. And here's where things get messy. The investigator wrote in his summary that "both the victim and the respondent provide accounts that are reasonable to believe" and that, given the nonverbal actions of the accuser during the sexual encounter, Doe reasonably believed "he had consent."
Despite this, Paquette found Doe responsible for sexual assault. Doe appealed the decision to the Appellate Committee, which overturned Paquette's decision. The accuser's parents then filed an appeal to the school's president a day after the deadline to file (and despite Georgia Tech policy stating the accuser must be the one to file). The president overturned the appeal and upheld the initial finding of responsibility.
As if this weren't even more confusing, Doe then appealed to the school's Board of Regents, which vacated the president's decision, saying he misstated school policy and didn't review the investigative material. The Board of Regents returned the case to the Appellate Committee that initially overturned the finding of responsibility, only this time, the committee found Doe responsible after the school's president directed them to do so.
Doe again appealed to the Board of Regents, but since they weren't supposed to meet on the subject for months, he sued. But inexplicably, the Regents met much sooner than planned and reinstated Doe.
In an email to the Washington Examiner, Doe's attorney Andrew Miltenberg was pleased with the current situation, but expressed dismay at the lengths it took his client to get to this point.
"Our immediate, critical concern was that our client be able to start the semester on January 11, 2016, and enroll in the specific classes he needs to pursue his degree. We are very pleased that the Georgia Board of Regents, once again reversed Georgia Tech's decision, and has reinstated our client, effective immediately," Miltenberg wrote. "We remain extremely disappointed that it took a lawsuit and the threat of an injunction to accomplish this, especially as Georgia Tech was given numerous opportunities, by both the Georgia Board of Regents and our client to get this case right. Our client has suffered through a quixotic ordeal that has taken both an substantial emotional and financial toll on him and his family."
"Our client and his family are adamant that no one else suffer through the same painful, protracted and often Orwellian investigative and hearing process, and once we finalize the details of his reinstatement, we will address next steps in pursuing this case," Miltenberg added.