Lawsuit Nitpicks on Site of Alleged Campus Assault

(CN) – Lobbing a federal lawsuit to head off Cornell University’s investigation of him, a student says the fact that he is accused of forcing himself on a classmate at an off-campus sorority house means that the school lacks jurisdiction to penalize him.

The Alpha Xi Delta sorority house is located at 40 Ridgewood Road in Ithaca, New York – less than a mile north from Cornell’s academic campus, adjacent to a cluster of many other sororities and fraternity houses including Sigma Delta Tau, Beta Theta Pi and Pi Kappa Phi.

John Doe, as he identifies himself in his Feb. 6 complaint, says he was accused this summer of having nonconsensual sexual activity there with a female student on March 12, 2016.

Cornell plans to have a hearing on the allegations later this month on Feb. 20, according to Doe’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.

Doe, who lives in Illinois, is presumably in his junior year, having started at Cornell in fall 2014, as noted in the complaint.

Though the school is investigating Doe pursuant to Policy 6.4, Doe insists no school rules or regulations permit such a probe.

“None of the sections, paragraphs, policies or procedures of Policy 6.4, including Section IV entitled ‘Jurisdiction,’ permits Cornell University to exercise jurisdiction in the investigation and adjudication of the allegations of sexual misconduct lodged against the plaintiff relating to the alleged nonconsensual sexual activity that occurred at an off-campus location.”

The complaint quotes a Cornell investigator as responding that the sorority house “is covered by Policy 6.4 as the property of a university-related residential organization.” (Emphasis in original.)

But Doe says sororities are not residential organizations but self-governed social groups, and that Alpha Xi Delta sorority house is not a residence hall or a dormitory. That sorority is not even included in a list of Cornell student organizations, the complaint says.

A school spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit pending its internal proceedings.

Doe says the illegal investigation he faces has and will tarnish his record “irrevocably and irreversibly,” ruining his job prospects and his chances of transferring to another Ivy League institution.

In addition to an injunction, Doe also seeks damages for breach of contract. He estimates the loss of his future employment prospects at $200,000 a year.

“The plaintiff denies any wrongdoing and denies engaging in any nonconsensual sexual activity with the fellow female Cornell University student,” the complaint states.

Doe continues in a footnote that “for the purposes of this lawsuit it is irrelevant whether he is innocent or guilty of the misconduct allegations.”

The student is represented in the federal court battle by Bryan Konoski, of the Manhattan firm Treyvus & Konoski.