CINCINNATI (CN) - Fear of backlash from the Department of Education has caused the University of Cincinnati to discipline students accused of sexual assault without giving them conducting a full investigation, a student-athlete and a lawyer claim.
John Doe I and John Doe II filed their complaint Tuesday against the University of Cincinnati and assistant dean Daniel Cummins in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas.
Doe I, the student-athlete plaintiff, says he was immediately suspended from his team this past October after an allegation of sexual assault. The complaint describes Doe I as a foreign national on a student visa currently living in Cincinnati.
UC has withheld both the name of Doe I's accuser, and the nature of the allegations, and his coach "indicated that UC's policy prohibits the coach from disclosing this information," according to the complaint.
"Doe I was not given any opportunity to defend himself or rebut the allegations," the action states.
Though the school informed Doe I earlier this month, approximately five weeks after he was suspended, "that he would be reinstated to the team," the reason for his suspension and the identity of his accuser are still concealed, the complaint states.
"On information and belief, UC never completed any investigation," Doe I says. "Instead, UC removed the suspension because the accuser determined not to pursue the matter any further."
Doe II, described in the action as a Newport, Ky., resident "recently sworn in as a member of the Ohio bar," says he faced a similar situation last semester.
He says a sexual assault allegation was filed against him in March 2014, even though "this allegation was never reported by the alleged victim to the UC Police," and "no physical evidence supports the allegations."
As the school prepared an Administrative Review Committee (ARC) hearing on the claims against Doe II for April, Dean Cummins allegedly told the student that he could not enter various campus buildings.
Doe II - a recent UC Law School graduate - says that the ARC hearing "was biased ... and had [a] pre-determined outcome."
In addition to barring Doe II from "effectively cross-examin[ing] adverse witnesses," the school required him to submit all questions through the ARC hearing panel chair, according to the complaint.
"No follow-up was possible," either, the complaint continues.
UC also allegedly denied Doe "the effective assistance of an attorney or other advisor."
Doe II also complains that "the ARC Hearing Panel relied on unreliable hearsay evidence, such as a statement from the friend of the alleged victim who was not present during the incident."
Noting that his accuser "changed her allegations," Doe II says that "she alleged, for the first time, at the ARC hearing that she was too impaired to consent."
Though the initial panel found that Doe II had violated the UC Code of Student Conduct, it granted the student a second hearing on appeal, according to the complaint.
This second panel was just as biased, however, and allowed Doe II's accuser "to make derogatory remarks directly to Doe ... including that he was a rapist and that he was going to Hell," the complaint states.
"The alleged victim concluded her statement by stating: 'And now I'm going to leave, because this process is a joke,'" Doe II says. "She then stormed out of the hearing, followed by her advisor. Because the alleged victim left, Doe was denied any opportunity for cross-examination."
Both Does call UC's discipline process is unconstitutional because it "permits the use of hearsay evidence at the ARC hearing without providing students the opportunity to effectively cross-examine witnesses ... does not permit students to have effective assistance of an attorney or advisor ... [and] shifts the burden of proof to student[s] accused of sexual assault or misconduct."
The complaint says "high-ranking administrators at UC are determined to find students accused of misconduct responsible in order to 'look good' for the Department of Education."
In addition to a judgment that the university's disciplinary policies are unconstitutional, the Does want an injunction preventing any further proceedings against them.
They are represented by Joshua Engel of Michael K. Allen and Associates.
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