A University of Texas male student filed a lawsuit Monday with the U.S. District Court in Austin alleging he was unfairly suspended by President Greg Fenves who overturned an arbitrator’s determination which exonerated the student in a 2016 sexual assault case.
The lawsuit raises serious concerns over due process and conflicts of interest. It questions why the university’s president was allowed to reverse the arbitrator’s decision or step on existing campus policy definitions of “intoxicated” and “incapacitated.” It suggests bias and that Fenves took a “tough-on-sexual assault” stance to protect his reputation and the University in a “misguided attempt to ensure that UT does not suffer the same public relations disaster” that happened at Baylor when they did not take an “accuser’s allegations seriously.”
This complaint also highlights that his accuser is the daughter of a “wealthy University donor” and claims that the girl’s father donated a significant sum of money to UT-Austin in 2016 “within approximately one month of the allegations by his daughter.” It asserts the parent was appointed as a university advisor while the Title IX investigation ensued.
In a letter on April 12, 2017, Fenves suspended the male student for five semesters, roughly two years. He wrote: “someone who is intoxicated cannot give consent to sexual activity because they are incapacitated.”
However, Appendix D of the UT-Austin policy on sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, interpersonal violence, and stalking defines “incapacitation” as a “state of being that prevents an individual from having the capacity to give consent.” It says “incapacitation could result from the use of drugs or alcohol, a person being asleep or unconscious, or because of an intellectual or other disability.”
The events in question surround the accuser, only known as “Jane Doe,” who allegedly agreed to have sex with Plaintiff “John Doe” on April 16, 2016, purportedly more than four hours after Jane drank any alcohol. She invited John to a sorority formal as her date. The couple first attended an afternoon boat party together. Jane later admitted to consuming “five cups of sangria” but drank no additional alcoholic beverages, according to the complaint.
After the boat party, Jane and John traveled by bus to the sorority house and then, to the formal. A final bus shuttled them back to the sorority house and they ate. “Then, John asked Jane if she wanted to go back to his apartment. Jane said she did,” the lawsuit stated, noting “both believed they were intoxicated” on the walk over. Once inside John’s bedroom, he asked Jane if she wanted to have sex and Jane said yes. The court documents stated they had consensual sex, describing Jane as “conscious and participating” with no force or physical violence involved. She spent the night.
Days later, Jane rescinded her verbal consent retroactively, according to the complaint, deciding she was too drunk to make a good decision about having sex with John previously. She went to the campus Title IX office and accused John of raping her. The Title IX office sought to determine “whether or not Jane’s verbal consent was void because she had been “incapacitated” by alcohol.
In early 2017, an impartial officer arbitrated this case, hearing both sides. He cleared John of any wrongdoing. Jane appealed the decision. Then, Fenves overruled the hearing officer’s decision, concluding in the suspension letter that John likely raped the female student “while she was too intoxicated” to consent to sex, according to the complaint. It countered that Fenves’ actions “unilaterally changed the definition” of sexual consent, throwing out UT’s “Yes Mean Yes” policy and “ignored” the definition used in the Sexual Assault Survey Fenves “championed just days before issuing his ruling” in John Doe’s case. That study defined incapacitation to mean when a person is “too drunk or high to know what they are doing, or to control their behavior or provide consent.”
In a statement, J.B. Bird, director of UT Media Relations, told Breitbart Texas, “The university generally does not comment on pending litigation, and due to federal privacy laws, the university does not comment on student disciplinary measures.”
He added, “Our policies and procedures in such cases are followed and applied with care and diligence at all levels, including appeals to the president during which he makes decisions only based upon the record in the case.”
Still, John Doe wants to be reinstated to complete his college studies. The lawsuit claims Fenves and UT-Austin caused “actual damages” to this student. “His future career opportunities and personal reputation are imminently threatened with harm that has no remedy at law.”
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