A Black Dartmouth College football player who was suspended for two years after the college concluded that he sexually assaulted a fellow student claims the investigation was biased and racist. This resulted in a lawsuit he filed this week.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in New Hampshire on Monday, accuses the college of multiple crimes, including racial discrimination, breach of contract, and negligence related to the investigation that began last winter. The suit doesn’t name the student, just referring to him as John Doe, but says that he is from Ohio and is a defender for the Dartmouth football team.
Diana Lawrence, a college spokeswoman, declined to comment on the lawsuit Thursday.
The complaint comes from an incident in early February 2020 when a student, referred to in court documents under the pseudonym Sally Smith, was at a party on campus. The woman got drunk and called the plaintiff, a friend of hers, to help her get back to her room because she “didn’t know where she lived,” the complaint said.
Doe, who did not drink alcohol and was sober, met the woman and showed her to her room, where they sat and talked for a while, before asking Smith if she would like to have intercourse. The complaint alleged that the woman said “yes” twice and that the two students tried to have sexual intercourse for two or three minutes but then stopped.
However, Dartmouth’s investigation found that Doe had sexual intercourse with Smith “without her valid consent” in violation of the sexual assault provisions of Dartmouth’s Sexual and Gender Misconduct Policy.
The day after they met, Smith asked Doe to meet while a friend, unknowingly, overheard their conversation. She told him she didn’t want to have sex and asked him, “Do you think I was in the right attitude to say yes?” The complaint said. Within a few days, the woman went to the college authorities and initiated the Title IX investigation.
Title IX is the federal civil rights law protecting people from discrimination based on gender in educational programs and activities.
Doe’s attorney Amy Spencer wrote in the lawsuit that a Dartmouth-appointed outside investigator interviewed both students before issuing a final report in August. In the report, the investigator found that the woman was not incapacitated, but according to the lawsuit, she did not consent to sex.
A hearing panel suspended Doe for two academic years in September, Spencer wrote. Smith also went to the Hanover police force but ultimately decided not to investigate Doe, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit alleges that Dartmouth was unfair to Doe throughout the investigation by first denying his request for a face-to-face interview with the investigator or a face-to-face meeting with the hearing panel, despite the student’s promise to put in place security avoid the spread of COVID. 19. Dartmouth students had to leave campus in March due to the widening pandemic.
The results themselves were also unfair to the male student, Spencer wrote, arguing that the student’s level of intoxication could have influenced her memory of that night, that she had given “positive” approval, and that she had no signs of trauma, when she went to the hospital and was screened for sexual assault.
Spencer also argued that Dartmouth’s Title IX investigator, who is not named in the lawsuit, was a white New England woman who had “implicit racial and gender biases” that went against the school’s policy of fair investigation. She argued that the bias was evidenced by the language the investigator used in her report, which was “more aggressive and exaggerated” than witnesses recalled.
For example, Doe said he asked Smith if her roommate was home to see why she didn’t call her when Smith couldn’t remember where she lived, but the investigator said he had “shrouded her living quarters.” “. She also said he “yelled” at her in a dining room the next morning, while Doe said he “called” Smith, the lawsuit said.
“Much of the investigator’s conclusions from the evidence were based on this biased and stereotypical view (of the plaintiff) as an aggressive, hypersexual black man,” wrote Spencer.
She added that the all-white panel hearing the Doe case “conducted a superficial and inadequate investigation into the investigator’s bias and showed its own implicit bias”. Doe asked the school to include a black person on the panel, but noted that “Dartmouth’s official position was that no African American person was available to serve on its hearing panel”.
The complaint also states that Dartmouth has recently come under pressure to “fight” sexual assault. This resulted in college officials favoring the reports of women reporting sexual misconduct. Spencer has cited several examples over the past decade of students holding rallies and other demonstrations to speak out against sexual abuse.
Spencer wrote that there is “a pervasive view in Dartmouth that sexual assault accusers should only be believed based on their status as accusers”.
The lawsuit also alleges that in the past 15 years “at least eight black soccer players have been suspended or expelled from Doe under the Title IX proceedings” in which no such action was taken against white players.
The complaint requests that the school reverse its determination in the event that Doe pays an undisclosed amount of damages and lifts the suspension. Dartmouth had not submitted a response to the lawsuit by Thursday afternoon.
Anna Merriman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3216.