When A Kiss Leads To A Sexual Assault Accusation

It was only a kiss, says a male student suspended from Hartwick College for three years.

The severely disproportionate punishment stems from a single encounter on February 11, 2017, after the accused student (who will be referred to only as John Doe) had been drinking at a party. His female accuser (referred to henceforth only as Jane Roe) had been drinking and taking drugs at a different party, unbeknownst to John, according to court documents obtained by The Daily Wire.

The two were acquaintances prior to that night, so when John didn’t want to sleep in his room because his roommate had a guest, he decided to go to Jane’s room, which was close by, to see if he could sleep there. Her door was open so he — unwisely — entered her room, gently woke her up and asked if he could stay in her room. He says she nodded affirmatively and moved over to make room for him in the bed, so he joined her, but stayed on top of the covers. Because she had non-verbally invited him into her bed, in his eyes, he started to kiss her, and says she kissed back.

He says in his lawsuit that he did nothing but kiss her — he did not touch her anywhere private. He says Jane stopped kissing him, so he asked: “Do you know who this is?” Jane responded: “We can’t do this.” John asked if she was sure and she said she was, so he left the room.

So he asked someone he knew if he could sleep in their room, they agreed, he kissed her, she asked him to stop, and he left.

The next day, John was charged with harassment in the second degree and criminal trespass in the second degree. Jane claimed John not only kissed her but also touched “her face and hip areas while she was sleeping.” He was released on his own recognizance.

Two months later, on April 5, 2017, John received an email from Taralyn Loewenguth, Hartwick’s Dean of Student Life, asking for a meeting to discuss student conduct charges against him, but was not told he could have a procedural advisor present. He was charged with underage alcohol consumption and disruptive behavior. John accepted responsibility and was sanctioned.

That wasn’t the end of it. John was also charged with non-consensual sexual contact and sexual assault by the school’s Title IX Coordinator, Traci Perrin. Perrin sat in on the meeting with Loewenguth and took notes. Jane was guided by her advisor, who was an attorney, during all meetings. John wasn’t initially informed he could have an advisor, and did not appear with one until his Student Conduct hearing. He did not have an attorney as an advisor, but a Lutheran priest who attested to John’s character, but did not know how the hearing would commence.

Anti-male bias was present from the start, John says in his lawsuit. Perrin was supposed to be an unbiased fact-finder, but previously worked as a victim’s advocate. Her stepchild had been sexually abused, and Perrin fought for justice. She had previously participated in a “Take Back the Night” vigil to raise awareness for sexual assault, and misrepresented rape statistics during a presentation for Arkansas State University-Jonesboro while she was the Title IX coordinator there. She claimed that one-in-three college men said they would rape if they knew they wouldn’t be caught.

The survey was easily debunked, as it had a tiny sample (just 73 men) from North Dakota and a ridiculously high (11.4%) margin of error. Just nine men said they would rape if they wouldn’t get caught, yet Perrin taught this study as if it were fact.

Perrin also advocated that Jane go to the police and accompanied her to the police station. There was simply no way she could have been objective in these matters, John’s lawsuit alleges.

On April 13, Perrin contacted John to tell him that a hearing officer would receive her investigative report on the sexual misconduct charges. John was never told who the hearing officer was, and that person opted not to meet with John or Jane despite having the option. When John was able to review his accuser’s statement in Perrin’s report, he discovered she had claimed he touched her hips prior to the night of the alleged incident, but didn’t say that he did so the night of the alleged incident.

Jane was allowed to provide supplemental material after she reviewed the report, and now claimed that John touched her breasts — a claim she didn’t make to police or to Perrin previously. John was not told about the new claim, and thus was not able to defend himself.

John was found responsible for sexual misconduct and met with Perrin on April 20. She said he would be immediately suspended from Hartwick until Jane graduated, and given a “withdrawal” from all his classes. John appealed what he believed to be an overly-harsh punishment (he wouldn’t be able to re-enroll for three years if Jane completed her coursework in normal time). His appeal declared that he did not receive the same opportunities to tell his side as Jane.

The appeal panel denied John’s request to speak before them. Not only was the decision against John upheld, but now his removal from classes would no longer be marked as “withdrawals” and he would instead be given zeroes for his final exams, dropping his GPA considerably. Even if John were able to enroll once Jane graduates, he would no longer receive his $28,000 a year scholarship or have the necessary GPA to remain in the Honors Program.

All of this because he got into bed with an acquaintance and kissed her. Even given the facts of the case, an effective expulsion seems unduly harsh.

John’s punishment was meted out more than a year ago, but on Monday, a mediator assigned by the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York acknowledged that a settlement has been reached between the two parties, according to documents obtained by The Daily Wire. The settlement is not public, so one can only speculate as to what was included.

K.C. Johnson, a professor and author who watches these cases closely, said on Twitter that this was the 44th federal “lawsuit settled before court rendered any decision in the case.”

These due process cases are moving forward, but schools still aren’t providing students their necessary constitutional rights.


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