A student at the University of Texas at Arlington committed suicide this week after a university investigation found him guilty of sexual harassment despite an internal acknowledgment of there being no evidence to support such an accusation.
Student Thomas Klocke, a straight male, was accused by a gay classmate of writing anti-gay slurs on his computer during class. Klocke denied the allegation and claimed that the student had made unwelcome sexual advances toward him. After denying the student’s advances, Klocke claimed that the student became hostile. Klocke claimed that he grew concerned that the student would file a report against him for sexual harassment, and his prediction proved true. The student submitted a formal complaint to the university claiming that Klocke had called him a “faggot,” and that he had threatened to kill him.
According to Ashe Schow of the Texas Bureau Watchdog, the accuser sought assistance from Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Heather Snow, an administrator with whom he had a friendly relationship. Snow helped him to draft a complaint against Klocke and acted as his advocate, which may ultimately have led to Klocke being stripped of his due process rights under Title IX protections. The Watchdog reports:
The lawsuit alleges that UTA’s Title IX coordinator was not informed of the allegation, even though Snow suggested it constituted sexual harassment. This is a violation of UTA’s policies regarding sexual misconduct, which state complaints “should be made to the Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Coordinators.” Snow was neither.
Further, UTA’s Title IX policies state that the Title IX coordinator is responsible for overseeing the investigation and assigning an investigator. The investigator must then produce a report based on facts gathered and present it to the Title IX coordinator and deputy coordinator before any hearing.
Klocke received no hearing, even though he contradicted his accuser’s claims. Had Snow properly reported the complaint to the Title IX coordinator, Klocke would have received necessary protections from the school. By doing things on her own terms, Snow was able to deny Klocke his rights as stated in UTA policy.
According to Schow’s report, Klocke was not allowed to contact students in the class in which the exchange took place, who could serve as a witness to his claims contradicting his accuser’s report. Despite this, his accuser was afforded the opportunity to find a witness from the classroom who was able to provide a lukewarm endorsement of the accuser’s account.
Without a proper investigation, Klocke was charged with two violations under the institution’s Title IX policies: physical abuse or threat thereof and a non-specific violation of the school’s anti-harassment policy. According to the report, the accuser never claimed that Klocke had physically abused or threatened to physically abuse him.
Just days after Klocke was punished without being afforded proper due process, he committed suicide. His attorney claims that he was distraught after learning that his disciplinary record could potentially prevent him from attending graduate school, which he had planned to attend after graduation this spring.
Klocke’s lawyer said in a statment:
When a college violates the legal rights of a student accused of misconduct, and its own rules for addressing such a complaint, the accused student can suffer life altering consequences. The important case of Klocke v. University of Texas at Arlington illustrates just how quickly and arbitrarily a college can act, leading to the most tragic outcome from the unimaginable stress and pain that an unfairly treated, accused student can suffer. It also serves to underscore why reforms in the campus disciplinary process are so necessary, as recently recommended by the American College of Trial Lawyers, and why accountability through the judicial process may help to promote those reforms.
In a statement from the University of Texas at Arlington, no explanation was provided as to why Klocke wasn’t afforded a proper investigation.
“This is a tragic situation and we express our deepest condolences to the family for their loss,” the university said in a statement. “The welfare of our students is our highest priority. Any loss is a heartbreaking one for our entire community.
“The university followed its policies and procedures,” the statement continues. “This is now the subject of a lawsuit in federal court; therefore, we are unable to respond further at this time.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify it was the University of Texas at Arlington.
Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about economics and higher education for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org