A male student at Grinnell College was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women. The school expelled him after violating its own policies to find him responsible, and a judge just allowed his lawsuit to move forward.
The case stems from a lawsuit filed by the male student, whom The Daily Wire will refer to as John Doe, who was accused of sexual assault by a female student, henceforth referred to as Jane Roe. Jane claimed to Grinnell’s Title IX office that John sexually assaulted her and possibly other students. She then convinced two other students — who will be referred to as Sarah and Emily (not their real names) — to file reports against John as well. Jane and Sarah claimed John “engaged in nonconsensual sexual intercourse” with them, while Emily claimed he “engaged in nonconsensual sexual contact” with her.
John was told he had been accused by multiple women and barred from campus before any investigation had taken place. The school also incorrectly informed John that all three women accused him of nonconsensual intercourse. Eventually, John was found responsible to have nonconsensual sexual intercourse with Sarah and nonconsensual sexual contact with Emily. He was also found responsible for nonconsensual sexual contact with Jane, even though that’s not what she alleged. He was found not responsible for nonconsensual sexual intercourse with Jane, his primary accuser.
John and Jane became friends as freshmen at Grinnell. In December 2018, Jane stayed at John’s house for several days, according to court documents. During one night, Jane drank alcohol at a party at John’s house and “announced she felt like making out with ‘anyone,’” according to John’s lawsuit. John kissed Jane, but Jane told him, “[N]ot right now.” The two would eventually kiss several times during that party.
Later that night, the two laid down in John’s bed with one of his friends. Jane kissed John’s friend before the friend left. John and Jane then engaged in sexual intercourse and oral sex. John would later tell a school investigator:
[I]t happened very fast… [s]he started kissing me…I remember asking for consent from her and her saying yes…I was…nervous. I was feeling like if I didn’t…. give her what she wanted, she would be mad or upset with me.
Jane told the investigator that she was “enthused” during the encounter “but only because [she] was drunk and [she] wasn’t really paying attention to who it was.” She told the investigator she didn’t remember if John asked for consent. John said Jane kissed and embraced him and appeared enthused and energetic while affirming her consent throughout the encounter.
John told investigators that Jane answered his questions about what she liked during intercourse and that afterward, she was able to speak normally and walk on her own. He said they talked about the “build up of sexual tension” while John’s friend had been in the room. Jane claims this conversation didn’t happen.
Sarah — the second accuser — claimed John assaulted her on February 18, 2017, after the two attended a concert and party with others. Sarah’s friend, who also attended the concert, said Sarah drank alcohol and was “relatively drunk” but could speak and walk without issue. The friend said, however, that Sarah was too drunk to provide consent (though school policy says a student must be incapacitated, not merely drunk).
Before the party, John took a Xanax and smoked marijuana to remedy a panic attack. He then drank alcohol at the party. Though it is not mentioned in his lawsuit, Xanax taken with alcohol can severely increase the effects of the alcohol. Sarah told school investigators that John was “not intoxicated,” and her claim was accepted, while John’s statements about any of his accusers’ intoxication levels were not accepted.
John walked Sarah to her dorm after the party. Sarah said she let John sleep over since his dorm was far away, and that at some point during the night he climbed on top of her and raped her. John says that Jane was aggressive with him and the two had consensual intercourse:
We headed back to her room at which point I asked her if I could come inside, she said yes, she was getting ready for bed… I was planning on staying with her for a little bit and talking while… we were… winding down… but she started kissing me… and was… physically… aggressive… physically forward… She was… kind of pressing her body against mine… pressing my leg between her legs… and kissing me aggressively… so I responded… with some more.
John also said Sarah gave him directions during sex. Sarah said she may have done this but couldn’t remember.
Emily, the third accuser, claimed that John rubbed up against her fully clothed with an erection while sketching her for his art class. Emily said that after he finished sketching her, the two laid down on his bed fully clothed and watched TV. Emily claimed John then “kind of, like, pressed up against [her] and had an erection.” Emily said she told him she was uncomfortable but he did it again later, telling him she didn’t feel comfortable hooking up with her friends.
The investigator interviewed the accusers, John, and Sarah’s friend, but not John’s friend who was in the room with him and Jane or another of Jane’s friends. Five witnesses Jane had named as having seen the kiss between her and John at the party were also not interviewed. The investigator drafted a report and listed potential Grinnell College policy violations but did not include the specific allegations against John.
The report was then sent to an adjudicator, who spoke with John, Jane, and Sarah over video conferences. Emily declined to speak with the adjudicator. The adjudicator did not meet with the investigator to discuss the investigative report.
The adjudicator determined that John did not have nonconsensual sexual intercourse with Jane but did engage in nonconsensual sexual contact, which Jane did not allege. The adjudicator did not explain what that contact was.
For the second accuser, Sarah, the adjudicator claimed John was not credible when he said he “had no intention of engaging in sexual activity with” her because he kissed her on the cheek when they got into bed.
The adjudicator also discounted John’s claims about what the third accuser, Emily, said. Accepting that he was physically aroused and saying that it was “unlikely” he would have rubbed his penis against her “without being aware of doing so.” Of course, the two were lying next to each other in bed watching TV, and he could have shifted in a way that made it seem like that’s what he was doing.
John was expelled but appealed the decision, alleging the adjudicator “made substantial errors in the processing of evidence, substantially affecting the fairness of the decision.” His appeal was denied and he was expelled.
John sued, and Grinnell College tried to get the case dismissed. U.S. District Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger — an Obama appointee — denied Grinnell’s motion to dismiss, arguing that John raised a “genuine issue of material fact” when he alleged the college was biased against him because he is a male and that it deviated from its own policies and procedures in order to find him responsible.
In her ruling, Judge Ebinger wrote that the school exhibited extraordinary procedural deficiencies. The school didn’t interview exculpatory witnesses, nor did it provide all of the evidence to the adjudicator. Further, the adjudicator was never informed of the specific charges against John.
In cases such as this, where a college’s motion to dismiss is denied, often schools move to settle with the accused student rather than risk what may come out during a trial.
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