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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Brandeis Hammered on Bizarre Assault Policy

BOSTON (CN) - Allegations that he sometimes woke his boyfriend up with a kiss led Brandeis to label one student "a predatory sexual offender," he claims in Federal Court.

The plaintiff, identified in the April 9 complaint by the pseudonym John Doe, says that Brandeis University's sexual-assault policy and special-examiner's process made it impossible for him to defend himself against allegations that he described as "arbitrary, capricious and irrational."

Doe says he met his accuser, identified in the complaint as J.C., at orientation day in August 2011 during their freshman year at Brandeis. Doe notes that he was "in the closet" at the time, while JC was "openly gay and sexually experienced."

The two allegedly soon began a 21-month exclusive and intimate relationship.

In January 2014, six months after they broke up, J.C. filed a two-sentence "Community Standards Report" with Brandeis, according to the complaint.

The report allegedly read: "Starting in the month of September, 2011, the Alleged Violator of Policy [John] had numerous inappropriate, nonconsensual sexual interactions with me. These interactions continued to occur until around May 2013." (Brackets in original.)

Doe says Brandeis placed him on "emergency suspension," which among other things banned him from his residence, classes and university paid job.

Brandeis allegedly kept Doe in the dark as to the meat of the allegations, telling him only that he faced six possible violations of the university's Rights and Responsibilities handbook: sexual misconduct, lack of consent to sexual activity, taking sexual advantage of incapacitation, sexual harassment, causing physical harm to another and invasion of personal privacy.

Unable to confront his accuser, question the witnesses, or present a defense at a hearing, Doe says he learned the details of the allegations only after the school's special examiner found him responsible for all six charges.

Noting that these allegations "bordered on the absurd and defied common sense," Doe says that he was rapped for "unwanted sexual conduct and taking advantage of incapacitation" based on the occasions in which he tried to wake up J.C. in the morning with a kiss, "but J.C. told him to 'stop' so that he could go back to sleep."

Anther example includes Doe supposedly invading J.C.'s privacy by looking at him while using the dorm's communal same-sex bathrooms in the nude, according to the complaint.

Doe emphasizes that the two were in an intimate relationship at the time, "routinely used communal facilities together, and J.C. engaged in the same conduct."

Brandeis also allegedly took issue with how Doe and J.C.'s romance began, finding that Doe committed a sexual assault when he "made the 'first move' on J.C. while the two were in their pre-dating 'flirting' stage by placing J.C.'s hand on John's crotch over his clothing."

"The special examiner made this finding despite the fact that the very next day the two became sexually intimate and began a 21-month, sexually active dating relationship," the complaint states.

Doe notes that the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights made the rare decision to investigate Brandeis last year based on his complaint.

"This is only the second case that the OCR has investigated on behalf of an accused student," the complaint states.

Doe says he received a disciplinary warning and had to undergo sexual assault education training.

"The adverse mark on John's permanent education record, stigmatizing him as a sexual offender, jeopardizes, if not shatters his goal of attending law school and pursuing a career in public service and politics," the complaint states. "John's ill-deserved disciplinary record will be a lifetime liability."

The latest edition of Brandeis University's Rights and Responsibilities handbook, issued for the 2014-15 school year, includes an updated section on the Special Examiner's Process, including that the accused will be presented with the facts of the allegations and also be interviewed for his or her side of the story.

Both the accused and accuser will be provided with an opportunity to meet with the Dean of Students to learn about and to respond to the findings, the handbook says.

Doe wants damages and his record expunged, alleging violations of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sexual discrimination in education, as well as negligence, bad faith, defamation and other claims.

He is represented by Michael Schneider with Good Schneider Cormier in Boston, and Patricia Hamill of Conrad O'Brien in Philadelphia.

Those attorneys and a spokesperson for Brandeis have not returned calls requesting comment.

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