Expelled Swarthmore Student Sues College Over Sexual Assault Allegations

He was kicked out last spring and is now seeking readmission.

Courtesy of Swarthmore

Parrish Hall, Swarthmore College

Last April, Swarthmore students Mia Ferguson and Hope Brinn helped bring two very public complaints against their college, alleging that the prestigious liberal arts institution was in violation of federal law for misreporting and mishandling sexual misconduct cases.

In July, the Department of Education deemed those complaints serious enough that it opened an investigation of the school, which is still ongoing. Behind the scenes, as an increasing number of survivors of sexual assault came forward and reported their experiences to the school, Swarthmore took what many in the college community believe to be unprecedented disciplinary action against alleged perpetrators. Now, one student who was found guilty of sexual misconduct is retaliating.




Last spring, Swarthmore expelled a male student after finding him responsible for sexual assault and harassment. (The case was not heard in court, but through the college's judiciary process.) In late January, he sued the school in federal court in Philadelphia, claiming his expulsion was a violation of Title IX — the same gender equity law that Ferguson, Brinn and their co-complainants claim the school has violated.

The unnamed student, who has since transferred to another institution and currently resides in North Carolina, makes several central claims. First, he questions the reliability of his accuser, whom he says came forward 19 months after the alleged incident occurred. Second, he says the school closed his case after an initial investigation, re-opening it only after Brinn and Ferguson filed their federal complaints. The implication is that the school’s “rush to judgment” concerning his case was spurred on by a sudden bout of negative publicity. Third, he claims his due process was violated during the judiciary hearing process, as a result of Swarthmore's “sexual misconduct policies and procedures that disproportionately affect male students."

The fallout, the suit claims, is that his “academic future, career prospects, earning potential, and reputation have been injured, if not entirely destroyed.” He is requesting that he be readmitted to the school, that the results of his case be expunged from his academic record, and that he be awarded at least $75,000 in damages.

The plaintiff has requested that he remain anonymous. But it is unclear how he will proceed if the judge in the case ultimately denies this request. It's a relevant hypothetical: A near-identical situation played out in court just a week ago. On February 3rd, three female plaintiffs suing Swarthmore on Title IX grounds (for failing to adequately respond to their claims of sexual assault) dropped their case, which they had brought the previous fall. Why? After the two sides wrangled over the issue for a month, there came a point where the plaintiffs would have had to reveal their names if they wanted to proceed with the suit. So they dropped the suit.*

Regarding the more recent case, Swarthmore's attorney, Michael Baughman, provided this statement: "The College believes that the suit is without merit and will vigorously defend the litigation. In light of federal privacy laws, I will not comment about the specifics of this case, but I can tell you that the complaint does not fully and accurately describe the situation and the College will respond in Court shortly. I can tell you that the College is committed, and always has been committed, to providing all students with a fair process of adjudication in student conduct proceedings." The plaintiff's attorney, Patricia Hamill, declined to comment.

The alleged survivor of sexual assault, who is not named in the suit, but whose identity I was able to confirm, said she was not “comfortable speaking up at this time.”

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John Doe vs. Swarthmore College

*This section has been updated for clarity.

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  • Bud Weiser

    Is a woman who is intoxicated legally able to consent to sex?

    • Loops

      No.

      • Bud Weiser

        Is a man who is intoxicated legally able to consent to sex?

        • Swat ’12

          No.

          • Bud Weiser

            If a woman has sex with a man without his legal consent, has she broken the law?

          • Niashante

            1) The law actually says ‘incapacitated’ not ‘intoxicated’. While it nuanced, there is still a difference.

            2)Yes. A woman can be responsible for sexual assault of a man if he is incapacitated, unable to give consent, and she acts upon him.

            3). “I was drunk” is not a defense to sexual assault. You are responsible for your actions, regardless of your level of intoxication or sobriety. ie. You can’t go to a bar, get drunk, hit and kill someone and claim innocence because you were too drunk to appreciate your actions. This is why a person who is drunk can still be held responsible while a person who is
            ‘incapcitated’ can be said to not have given consent. What makes it complicated is if the victim in the scenario was incapacitated but did not give any clear indication of such (what a reasonable person would understand) AND was an active participant, it is unlikely that the perpetrator would be convicted unless there is independent proof of intent or proof that the perp used drugs/alcohol to intentionally incapacitate the victim.

          • Bud Weiser

            Can a severely intoxicated man be considered “incapacitated” if he is still capable of getting an erection? Would that not define “capacity”? Or is “capacity” the ability to make a prudent decision?

          • loopsy

            Just getting an erection does not mean you have capacity! Men get erections when they are being raped all the time. It can be an involuntary reaction.

    • Double Standard

      Define “intoxicated.”

    • YeahNope

      Only if she doesn’t regret it the next day.

  • jim

    Regardless of everything else with this lawsuit, the fact that this woman had three consensual encounters with John Doe, initiated sex with him, then 2 years later claimed she was coerced/raped and got him kicked out of school, is utterly insane.

    • Double Standard

      No, no Jim it’s not insane. It’s PC. Perhaps you could benefit from a stay in re-education camp, I mean, sensitivity session training.

    • loopsy

      Consenting to have sex with a person a few times does not mean you consent to them EVERY TIME. You need consent EVERY TIME in order to have consensual sex.

      • YeahNope

        Nice strawman loopsy, but Jim never claimed that consent was not needed.

  • Double Standard

    Two college students meet at a party. College student No. 1 chooses to drink alcohol to the point of intoxication but remains alert, coherent and able to walk. College student No. 1 chooses to engage in a sexual act with College student No. 2 who has also chosen to drink alcohol to the point of intoxication. Sometime later college student No.1 experiences feelings of regret, guilt, and shame for the sexual act and charges assault. Is college student No. 2 guilty of sexual assault? Here’s the PC answer: Depends. If college student No. 1 is a female and college student No. 2 is a male, then college student No. 2 is a sexual predator and guilty of a crime and should be expelled. If college student No. 1 is a female and college student No. 2 is a female then it’s just two young, drunk, impulsive college students experimenting and exploring their sexuality in a one-time encounter that in retrospect wasn’t a positive experience for one partner. No charges. No investigation. No crime. No guilty. No expulsion. Double standard. Get it?

    • No double standard here

      Uh, actually, no. If there’s a stigma against women coming forward as survivors of sexual assault, there’s perhaps an event stronger one for men as survivors. If such a situation occurred and student no. 1 was male and no. 2 was female, and student no. 1 came forward with allegations of sexual assault, then who in the world is saying that the case shouldn’t and won’t be treated as seriously as if it was the other way around? Certainly people who it sounds like you might want to call the “PC police” – say, liberals who advocate for sexual assault justice – wouldn’t. They would almost certainly be just as serious and determined about such a case. No double standard there.

      • U-Dreamin

        You are delusional.
        The good news is men are learning who the kooky chicks are and doing their best to avoid them.

      • Double Standard

        Uh, actually, you didn’t get it. The two scenarios I have submitted served to demonstrate that the double standard exits for heterosexual male convicted versus homosexual woman not even charged. The PCs give homosexual predatory woman a pass on their behavior while calling for the expulsion of heterosexual men for same behavior. Sexual assault justice my ass. It’s all gender political power struggle games.

      • Double Standard

        Be falsely accused and wrongly convicted of sexual assault then talk to me about “stigma.”

    • evie

      Swarthmore has previously convicted females of sexually assaulting males. We actually discuss one of the more high-profile female-on-male sexual violence cases at Swarthmore during Sexual Assault Prevention training.

  • Gret, then Regret

    How many months or years am I allowed to decide I regret having sex that night?

  • Double Standard

    Two college students meet at a party. College student No. 1 chooses to drink alcohol to the point of intoxication but not impairment remains alert, coherent, able to walk and thus able to walk away if they so choose. College student No. 2 who has also chosen to drink alcohol to the point of intoxication but not impairment and remains alert, coherent, able to walk and thus able to walk away. College student No. 2 invites/asks College student No. 1 to engage in a sexual act with College student No. 2. College student No. 1 agrees. Two days or two weeks or two months or two years later College student No.1 experiences feelings of regret, guilt, and shame for the sexual act. College student No. 1 shares this confides this information to College student No. 3. “Sexual Assault Justice Advocate” College student No. 3 persuades College student No. 1 that College student No. 1 is a victim of sexual assault and to file charges based on a sexual encounter committed while intoxicated. Is College student No. 2 guilty of sexual assault? Here’s the PC answer: Depends. If College student No. 1 is a female and College student No. 2 is a male, then absolutely College student No. 2 is a sexual predator and guilty of a crime and must be expelled. If College student No. 1 is a female and College student No. 2 is a female then it’s just two young, drunk, impulsive college students experimenting and exploring their sexuality in a one-time encounter that in retrospect wasn’t a positive experience for one partner. No charges. No investigation. No crime. No guilty. No expulsion. Double standard. Get it?

  • Worried parent of accepted son

    Double Standard raises some very valid questions. Is Swarthmore a safe place to send your son to college?