Swarthmore’s “John Doe” Settles Assault Case With College

Alleged sexual assailant has penalties vacated.

Photo credit: Fritz Ward via Flickr.

Photo credit: Fritz Ward via Flickr.

As the epidemic of campus rape continues to flare up — see fraternity, University of Virginia — so do lawsuits from male college students expelled for sexual assault. One such case, which I wrote about in my May feature on rape at Swarthmore College, dealt with a “John Doe” who had been found responsible for assault, then expelled, in May 2013. In January of the following year, while residing in North Carolina and attending a different college, he sued Swarthmore, claiming his punishment had not been merited. Here, from the piece, is a description of the incident in question:

Late on April 30, 2011, according to [John Doe’s] suit, “Jane Doe” sent John Doe a text asking him to come study with her in her room. He did, and after some brief chitchat, the two engaged in consensual oral sex. The next day, Jane confessed the encounter to her boyfriend, who didn’t attend Swarthmore. He proceeded to send a threatening email to John. (The boyfriend said he had a gun.) Later that day, Jane came to John’s room and apologized for the email, after which the two had consensual sex. Nothing ever happened between them again, according to the suit. Nineteen months later, while studying abroad in Scotland with the same boyfriend, Jane told a dean at Swarthmore that the second encounter hadn’t been consensual and that she wanted to press charges through the campus judiciary system.

By early June, John Doe had been found responsible for sexual assault and immediately expelled. … So he sued, making him one of more than a half dozen “Reverse Title IX” complainants in the country. (Swarthmore, in a court filing, released an email in which the plaintiff told Jane Doe’s boyfriend “I agree with you” after being accused of actions “tantamount to rape.” The college also claims that Jane Doe resisted John Doe during the second encounter, which it says included digital penetration and caused her to bleed.)

In November, as the campus free speech group FIRE first reported, Swarthmore and John Doe reached a settlement that vacates the penalty against him. (He says he doesn’t plan to seek re-admittance to Swarthmore. If he changes his mind, his case would get heard again by a disciplinary committee.) Here’s the court’s explanation, from the settlement:

3. After the Disciplinary Hearing and after consideration of John Doe’s original appeal, additional information became available which both Parties believe raises questions about the impartiality of the College Judiciary Committee Panel that heard John’s case.

4. On the basis of this new information, John has requested that the College vacate the Panel’s findings and sanction. The College agrees that the new information raises sufficient questions about the fairness of the hearing to warrant vacating the Panel’s finding and sanction.

FIRE, which is habitually criticized for taking the side of unpopular defendants, published a blog post about the latest development in the John Doe case. In it, author Ari Cohn makes at least one point with which many of FIRE’s opponents will agree: “Why are colleges and universities adjudicating these cases in the first place?”

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