[This article is part of the nine-part series, “The Death of Campus Due Process,” which examines the policies used by colleges and universities to investigate allegations of sexual assault.
The series examines the civil case, “John Doe v. Brandeis University.” The case concerns the college’s investigation into whether a former Brandeis student committed sexual assault against his ex-boyfriend during their relationship.
These articles might not make sense if they are read out of order. Here is the table of contents for this series. I highly encourage readers to take their time reading these posts, as many are long and detailed. I also recommend reading the hyperlinked primary-source documents to learn more about the case.]
John Doe and Brandeis University filed a joint motion on Sept. 13, 2016 to dismiss Doe’s lawsuit.
The joint motion dismissed Doe’s claims “with prejudice,” which means that Doe agreed he would not refile the same or related charges against Brandeis in the future. The motion stated that the dismissal did not include a payment from either side, and that both Doe and Brandeis were waiving any rights to appeal.
Primary Source: Joint motion to dismiss
That same month, Patricia Hamill, one of John’s lawyers, released a press release regarding the joint motion to dismiss. In the release, Hamill said Doe felt vindicated by Judge Saylor’s ruling, which was highly critical of the procedures Brandeis had used to investigate Doe.
Hamill also cited John Doe’s concern with the expense of continuing the litigation as well as John’s desire to move on with his professional and private life.
Primary Source: Hamill’s press release
Julie Jette, director of media relations at Brandeis University, emailed this blog a statement in response to the allegations contained in John’s amended complaint and Judge Saylor’s ruling.
Jette said the university is limited in what it can say about the case. Jette added that the school denied the “vast majority” of the allegations in John’s amended complaint, and that none of the allegations in the amended complaint were ultimately substantiated.
“Judge Saylor’s ruling allowed the case to proceed but did not validate its claims. Doe then voluntarily requested dismissal of the case, and Brandeis agreed to the dismissal. There was no settlement involved,” Jette said.
“We remain confident that we have the policies and procedures in place to enable us to promptly and appropriately investigate and adjudicate allegations of sexual misconduct,” Jette added. “We continuously review and update our policies in this area to ensure that they meet the needs of our community and are in line with best practices nationally.”
Primary Source: Jette’s statement
John’s case was one of several cases profiled in the book, “The Campus Rape Frenzy,” by K.C. Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr. The book is highly critical of the changes adopted by colleges across the country to eliminate due process rights for students accused of sexual assault, and the Obama administration policies that encouraged them to do so.
Taylor discussed the book in an interview with American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Summers, who is known on YouTube as “The Factual Feminist.”
During the interview, Taylor expressed his hope that the incoming Trump Administration would, “dismantle this sex bureaucracy machinery, at least at the federal level, that the Obama administration has created.”
Slate reporter Emily Yoffe wrote a great article, “The College Rape Overcorrection,” about university sexual assault policies.
The New York Times reported in July 2017 that Trump’s Education Department was reevaluating federal guidelines regarding how universities investigate allegations of sexual assault.
In September 2017, the Trump administration sent its own Dear Colleague letter to colleges and universities across the country.
Primary Source: 2017 Dear Colleague letter
In the letter, Candice Jackson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, announced that the department was withdrawing the April 2011 Dear Colleague letter on sexual violence.
|Candice Jackson was appointed Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in April 2017.|
Jackson quoted statements written by law school faculty from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard that said the 2011 letter placed, “improper pressure upon universities to adopt procedures that do not afford fundamental fairness,” which prompted universities to adopt policies that, “lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process, are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused, and are in no way required by Title IX law or regulation.”
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced in Sept. 2017 that her department will be speaking with the public about the policies it should adopt regarding sexual assault on college campuses, according to a press release.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, shown above, was nominated by President Donald Trump.
"In the coming months, hearing from survivors, campus administrators, parents, students and experts on sexual misconduct will be vital as we work to create a thoughtful rule that will benefit students for years to come," DeVos said. “We also will continue to work with schools and community leaders to better address preventing sexual misconduct through education and early intervention."
In the meantime, the department has published interim guidelines on the topic for colleges and universities to follow.
Know Your IX, an organization that advocates for the rights of alleged victims of sexual assault, issued a press release criticizing the Trump administration’s withdrawal of the 2011 Dear Colleague letter.
“Today’s guidance allows schools to systematically stack campus investigations against survivors and push survivors out of school,” the organization stated. “The Department of Education is sending the message that they value survivors’ access to education less than that of the students who assault and abuse them.”
It appears the debate over federal and university policies concerning sexual assault is far from over.