A University of Colorado Boulder student has settled with the university after filing a lawsuit alleging mishandling of the investigation into whether he sexually assaulted another student.
The settlement comes at a time when colleges and universities across the country are being sued by students who claim they were not given adequate due process. Now the settlements are coming in, and accused students are increasingly being redressed by the universities that denied them basic due process.
The school’s attorneys initiated the settlement proceedings with the student, referred to as “John Doe” in court documents, and his attorneys. Under the settlement agreement, John will receive $15,000 from the university. The university also released what it would say to prospective schools that John, who agreed to withdraw from the university, to which he may apply.
"In response to any question about whether Mr. Doe would be welcome back to the university, the university will respond in the affirmative," school officials wrote in the settlement agreement, according to a copy obtained by the Colorado Daily. "In response to any question about Mr. Doe's academic standing at the university during his tenure there, the university will respond, 'Prior to his withdrawal, Mr. Doe was a student in good academic standing.'"
Additionally, if asked by another college or university about John's disciplinary record, the university will say: “In fall 2013, [John Doe] was subject to a student conduct investigation and was found to have violated two code provisions."
The school will not provide any more information on John's disciplinary record unless he signs a waiver.
Attorney Kimberly Lau, who helped represent John and negotiated the settlement on his behalf, said she was “pleased” with the outcome.
“While we will not outline the specific details of the settlement, we can say that our client’s integrity is intact, his transcript is clean, and he will now be able to move on with his life without Jane Doe’s false allegations holding him back,” Lau told the Washington Examiner.
Lau also told the Examiner that the settlement is structured in such a way so that, combined with his clean transcript, there is no reason for other universities to question his disciplinary record.
The “false allegation” Lau referred to was the basis of her client’s lawsuit, obtained by the Examiner, which alleges the university found John responsible for sexual misconduct despite the accuser admitting she initially lied about the encounter.
John met Jane Doe (as she is referred to in the lawsuit) at a house party. The two were drinking but, according to John, not “drunk or intoxicated.”
The two flirted and eventually began kissing. The two eventually went back to John's apartment and engaged in sexual intercourse, which John said was consensual. Days later, Jane would tell the Boulder Police Department otherwise.
Jane would later admit to university investigators that she “may have stretched the truth” because she was “pissed off,” according to John's lawsuit. She also told the police that she didn’t accurately describe her evening with John and that she thought he was nice guy but then “realized he’s just another douchy frat dude.”
Jane also told police that she wanted to get revenge against John for rebuffing her and wanted “the s*** to be scared out of him.”
Jane also made factually inaccurate statements to the police, including claiming she didn’t have John's contact information despite texting him the day after the sexual encounter. Other lies, revealed during the investigation process, included Jane claiming she was forced to stay in John's room that night, that John didn’t walk her home the morning after the encounter and that she resisted John removing her clothing.
When John brought up these lies to campus investigators, the school justified Jane’s actions on her behalf, according to the lawsuit.
“Bizarrely, CU Boulder reasoned that Jane Doe’s admission that she lied to the police somehow mitigated the lies themselves because she was subsequently honest about having lied to CU Boulder,” the lawsuit claims.
Ignoring Jane’s admitted credibility issues and the police investigation finding “no evidence to support the claim of sexual assault,” along with excluding John's text message evidence, and finding John responsible based on a biased process is what led to the lawsuit.
The university found John responsible and suspended him for three terms, a punishment noted by the lawsuit as being unprecedentedly harsh. The decision, according to John's lawsuit, came about from ignoring exculpatory evidence and allowing the investigation to go forward despite Jane admittedly lying about the encounter, wanting to get revenge and a police report finding no evidence to support the claim.
With that in mind, a settlement seemed like the best option.
UC’s chief legal officer, Patrick O’Rourke, told the Colorado Daily he believes the settlement was a business decision, which “saves the university tens of thousands of dollars in defense costs” and “was a prudent use of the university's resources.”
For John, his life might finally be able to move on, but he is not the only student — or the last student — to be punished by a kangaroo court that ignores evidence.