Two young men who attended the University of California are suing their school for separate incidents in which they were each punished for sexual misconduct despite the school — according to them — having no direct evidence of such misconduct.
The first student, referred to as John Doe in court documents, was a graduate student at UC-Los Angeles accused of sexual harassment and stalking. John says in his lawsuit, according to a copy obtained by UC-Santa Barbara student newspaper The Daily Nexus, that he cooperated with UCLA, “meeting with the Title IX investigator several times and providing documents to support his defense that the allegations against him were entirely false.” John claims in his lawsuit that he repeatedly asked for the school’s evidence against him but was denied and that the investigation “disclosed no direct evidence” of the allegations against him.
Still, John was found responsible for sexual harassment and stalking and suspended for two years. He appealed, and his sentence was reduced to one year, with the school now determined he was not responsible for stalking. He appealed again but was still found responsible for sexual harassment, but his suspension was reduced to three months. In his lawsuit, he wrote: “the finding was made in the absence of evidence supporting the elements of sexual harassment in the Policy and the application of a minimum one-year suspension for ‘other sexual contact’ in the absence of any contact whatsoever was improper.”
He alleges in his lawsuit that UCLA used a single investigator model, which has been found by multiple judges to be unlawful. Multiple judges have also ruled that when the accusation rests on the credibility of the accused and accuser, the accused must be allowed to cross-examine the witnesses and evidence against him. John was not able to in his case.
A second filer, referred to a John Doe2, says he also cooperated with school investigators and provided evidence that proved his innocence yet he was still found responsible for stalking. Doe2 says in the lawsuit that the school refused to show him 113 exhibits of evidence and 40 witnesses, who were unidentified in the investigative report. In Doe2’s case as well, he claims the school “disclosed no direct evidence” of stalking, sexual violence, or computer hacking, of which he was also accused.
Doe2 was suspended for 2 years but appealed. The school’s appellate body removed the stalking and sexual violence violations from his record and reduced his sentence to a one-year suspension.
The two have filed a class-action lawsuit so that other students accused of sexual assault in the University of California system — many of whom can’t afford an attorney to sue the school — have a chance to clear their name. Attorney Mark Hathaway filed the lawsuit, following on the heels of a similar class-action claim against California State University and a class-action lawsuit filed against Michigan State University early last month by attorney Andrew Miltenberg.
Hathaway told the Los Angeles Times that the lawsuit “seeks to clear the records of those who’ve been wrongfully punished by this deeply flawed disciplinary system.”