Washington and Lee University has settled with a former student who filed a lawsuit alleging gender bias as the motivation for his expulsion over a sexual assault accusation.
The student, identified as John Doe in the lawsuit he filed in late 2014, was expelled after an investigation in which he was not allowed legal representation or cross examination, and which was conducted by an administrator who allegedly told his accuser that "regret equals rape."
John and the university have "compromised and settled all matters in controversy," according to new documents filed in the case. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Typically, accused students win very little in settlements; they might get their record cleared and a small amount of money that doesn't even cover their legal fees.
John's case was one of the few to survive a motion to dismiss on the grounds that he could not prove gender bias. Judge Norman K. Moon allowed the case to go forward, writing that because the person who conducted the investigation had allegedly told a group of women that regret over a sexual encounter was sufficient grounds to accuse someone of rape, it was conceivable that John was shown bias from the start.
John had slept with a girl referred to as Jane Doe in his lawsuit. John said Jane told him, "I usually don't have sex with someone I meet on the first night, but you are a really interesting guy." The next morning the two exchanged phone numbers and a few days later became Facebook friends and exchanged friendly messages.
But that summer, Jane worked at a women's clinic that handled sexual assault issues. Over the summer she came to reclassify her encounter with John as nonconsensual. Eventually — eight months after the encounter and only after seeing John on the list of those accepted to a study-abroad program she was entering — she reported the incident as a rape to the school's administration.
John was given six hours notice to come in an explain himself, but wasn't told why. When he met with the school's Title IX officer, Lauren Kozak (of "regret equals rape" fame), he wasn't shown Jane's actual complaint.
He was also denied legal representation, and when he asked for time to postpone his meeting with Kozak to gather more evidence or seek advice, she told him she would continue the investigation without his side of the story, forcing him to respond right then.
Kozak only interviewed two of John's four witnesses because, she allegedly told him later, she had enough facts to expel him already. John's witnesses stated they had seen him and Jane after the encounter and everything seemed to be normal.
Even two of Jane's witnesses contradicted her claims by saying she gave no indication of any trauma until after she worked at the women's clinic. Jane also appeared to have visited two therapists who convinced her she was sexually assaulted.
John was allowed to submit questions to be asked during his hearing, but many were rejected, paraphrased incorrectly or asked out of order.
Jane contradicted herself during the hearing. She told investigators she was not intoxicated the night of the encounter and didn't recall a conversation with John on a porch. At the hearing, she claimed she was "considerably intoxicated" and could recall the conversation on the porch. She also contradicted herself during the hearing, at one point saying John was disrespectful and yet later describing him as sweet.
Despite these inconsistencies, John was expelled. Naturally, he sued. In a statement issued Friday, Washington and Lee denied charges of gender bias and said evidence discovered during the lawsuit determined Kozak couldn't have given the "regret equals rape" seminar on the date specified in John's claim. The school said the matter was settled "to the mutual satisfaction of both parties."
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.