Update: New allegations in lawsuit by expelled male student over Oberlin College 100% conviction rate
Seek to file Amended Complaint after finding 2015 video in which Dean of Students allegedly “spoke openly about the gender bias with which she approached Title IX enforcement”
In late December I wrote about a lawsuit brought by an expelled Oberlin College male student Lawsuit: Oberlin College sexual assault hearing process rigged, 100% conviction rate:
A male student who was expelled from campus in October 2016 for alleged sexual assault has filed a federal lawsuit against Oberlin. Though the lawsuit was filed in June 2017, it has not received any publicity. Yet the lawsuit contains allegations which, if proven, reflect that Oberlin’s system for adjudicating sexual assault accusations was fundamentally biased against males, at least during the 2015-2016 academic year.
The facts of the encounter are fairly lurid. Please see that post for the background on the lawsuit allegations of the incident in question and the adjudication, and the allegations of systemic bias in the hearing process at Oberlin. The short version of the legal issue was whether, having had consensual sexual relations, one of the sex acts was non consensual because the female said she was “not sober” when she verbally consented. That statement allegedly rendered the female student “incapacitated” under the campus code, though her actions did not reflect any common understanding of incapacitated.
That hearing process, as we wrote in the prior post, resulted in a 100% conviction rate on at least some charges, according to Oberlin’s own Campus Climate Report for academic year 2015-2016:
….When the threshold [to move to formal process] was met, findings of responsibility on all charges occurred in 70 percent of processes. In the remaining processes, the responding party was found responsible for some but not all of the conduct charges….”
Here is the key argument from the Motion:
On January 10, John Doe became aware of a YouTube video in which Meredith Raimondo, the architect and chief implementer of Oberlin’s Title IX regime at the time Mr. Doe was a student there, spoke openly about the gender bias with which she approached Title IX enforcement at Oberlin, especially in cases like Mr. Doe’s—ones that involved neither predators nor sex with someone who is fundamentally unconscious. Ms. Raimondo noted that such cases are often called “grey areas” and stated her belief that referring to those cases as “grey areas” of consent discredits “women’s experiences of violence in particular.” Ex. 1 (Amended Complaint) ¶ 59. Those comments, and others discussed below, are direct evidence that gender bias shaped Oberlin’s adjudication of claims like Jane Roe’s. They are precisely the type of facts that suffice to state an “erroneous outcome” claim under Title IX.
Here are the relevant portions of the proposed Amended Complaint:
57. Ms. Raimondo views sexual misconduct as an offense committed prototypically by men against women. In a panel discussion on Title IX held by the American Constitution Society on June 13, 2015, she stated that what Title IX has done is to allow people to “speak about sexual harms done to women” and to “visibilize [sic] gender-based harms and the ways in which that has predominantly affected women.”30 The first goal of a Title IX hearing at Oberlin, she went on to say, is to provide “a safe supportive space for someone to ask, ‘What are the harms you experienced and how can we address them so you can continue your education?’” As she would state elsewhere, at Oberlin it is a “survivor-centered process” that she came to “as a feminist.”
58. In that same panel discussion, Ms. Raimondo likewise betrayed an understanding that men are the prototypical purveyors of sexual violence. She argued there that it was wrong to see the emerging nationwide enforcement of Title IX “as anti-men” because Title IX enforcement “opens the possibility of clarifying that most men in college don’t assault people,” presumably because most men complete college without ending up as a respondent in a Title IX proceeding. Oberlin may be the only place where that fact needs clarification, but whether or not that is the case, Ms. Raimondo’s statement betrays an understanding that men are the paradigmatic purveyors of sexual violence.
59. Ms. Raimondo has also made clear on multiple occasions that Title IX enforcement at Oberlin is motivated by gender bias. As referenced above, just one month after The Oberlin Review doubled down on its insistence that “Jackie” be believed, Ms. Raimondo stated, as to her implementation of the 2014 Policy and its ethos, “I come to this work as a feminist committed to survivor-centered processes.”31 And in the panel discussion on June 13, 2015 referred to above, after another speaker talked about the need to devote attention to the standards of conduct that govern the “middle category” of cases – “where we’re not talking about predators … or sex with someone who is fundamentally unconscious” – Ms. Raimondo responded that those cases were often called “grey areas,” but “I myself am uncomfortable with that [term] because I think it’s used too often to discredit particularly women’s experiences of violence.” Oberlin’s entire Title IX enforcement regime—and in particular, its enforcement of allegations that fall into “grey areas” of consent—are infused with gender bias.
Fn. 30 Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbmfXvd_6gw&t=2679s (last visited January 25, 2018).
The plaintiff obviously views these statements as important in the context of the 100% conviction rate and other statements allegedly made by Raimondo that might reflect an inherently biased process.
Oberlin and Raimondo already moved to dismiss the original Complaint, and presumably will oppose this amendment on the ground, among others, that it is futile in that it doesn’t cure the prior problems in the Complaint. That prior motion to dismiss has not yet been decided by the court, and plaintiff of course will not concede that the original Complaint was inadequate. Rather, plaintiff seems to be taking a cautious approach by making sure all the pertinent factual allegations are before the Court prior to it deciding the motion to dismiss.
We will continue to follow this case.
UPDATE 2-22-2018: Oberlin has filed its Opposition to the motion to amend.
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