At the University of Michigan, two students have filed lawsuits over an alleged sexual assault that took place at a fraternity party in January. One lawsuit, filed by the alleged perpetrator, asks a federal court to strike down the Michigan’s ruling that he violated the university’s policy on sexual misconduct. His lawsuit also asks the court to reinstate him to the university after he “voluntarily separated” from Michigan earlier this year. The other lawsuit, filed by the alleged victim against the alleged perpetrator, accuses him sexual assault, breach of contract, and emotional distress.
The lawsuits stem from an alleged sexual assault at a Risky Business-themed fraternity party. The Detroit Free Press reports that the alleged perpetrator, a junior, and the alleged victim, a freshman, met during the party where they danced and “had a shot of vodka.” The two went to his room where he says they had consensual sex, she alleges, however, that she was too intoxicated to consent. The next day she went to the hospital where a rape kit was performed. Criminal charges in the case were never filed, but she reported the alleged assault to the University of Michigan.
The university investigated the claims but initially concluded:
...There is no evidence of the complainant’s outward signs of incapacitation that the respondent would have observed prior to initiating the sexual activity. In other words, the evidence obtained in this investigation does not support either party’s report of the incident ... thus, the evidence supporting a finding of sexual misconduct is not determining to be more convincing than evidence offered in opposition to it.
The woman appealed the investigation and, eventually, an administrative board rejected the investigator’s initial findings and determined that the man had violated the university’s sexual misconduct policy, particularly with regard to its definition of incapacitation and consent. The man signed a “resolution agreement” with Michigan and agreed to leave the university.
In August, the Free Press reports, the man changed his mind about the agreement, alleging that the members of the administrative board that found him guilty had a conflict of interest. His lawsuit also alleges that the decision violated his due process, particularly since the university subsequently changed their definitions of “consent and incapacitation” after he was found responsible. According to Michigan Daily the complaint reads:
The Appeals Board applied an unconstitutionally vague or legally incorrect definition of the term ‘incapacitated,’ applied incorrect standards of review, and arbitrarily and capriciously set aside the investigator’s findings and conclusions, thus denying Plaintiff due process.
In response, the alleged victim filed suit against the man. She told the Free Press that his lawsuit was unfounded, that he willing agreed to leave the university, and had legal counsel during the proceedings. “Instantly, the anxiety, the nightmares, and the terrible thoughts came flooding back,” she told the paper.
The man’s lawsuit is one of many that have recently been filed by alleged perpetrators at campuses across the country. At schools like Columbia, the University of Chicago, Yale and the University of the South, men have challenged Title IX and misconduct investigations alleging that the process itself violates due process, as well as fosters “anti-male” bias. Though the University of Michigan said in a statement that it had “great confidence” in their decision, the increasing number of these types of lawsuits show a certain vulnerability of campus sexual assault investigations.