Sophomore sues University for suspension

Lawsuit against UVM raises issue with Title IX and sexual assault


Brandon Arcari, Assistant Breaking News Editor

An unnamed sophomore is suing the University over a one-semester suspension following allegations that he groped a female student.

The student’s lawyers are arguing that the University chose to make an example out of the accused and claim there was no evidence to support the defendant’s claims in the lawsuit.

“Jane Doe’s false accusations against John Doe were accepted as fact and upheld by Defendants using a Kafkaesque process that denied John Doe due process of law in violation of due process,” the lawsuit stated.

The sophomore, referred to as John Doe in the suit, was accused of grabbing a female student referred to as Jane Doe at a rugby club party April 28. The defendant said the accuser’s allegations were false.

In a Nov. 29 email, UVM men’s rugby treasurer Matthew Cortigiani stated that club rugby was suspended this spring and cleared after a Title IX investigation.

“I am concerned that continuing to mention our team in this context puts us under an undue negative light,” Cortigiani stated in the email.

John Doe’s lawsuit asks for unnamed damages and lists the University and several staff members as defendants. Jane Doe is not listed as one of the defendants.

“The University is confident it has acted legally and appropriately. Not surprisingly, the plaintiff’s claim, appearing in various news outlets, provides only one part of the story,” Enrique Corredera, director of University Communications, stated in a Nov. 28 email.

“The University looks forward to its opportunity to present the facts and the relevant law governing this case in a public court of law,” Corredera stated in the email.

“As of Tuesday, Nov. 28 in the afternoon the University has not been given official notice, or required service of notice, regarding the complaint.”

The suit also states that the student suffered damages in losing a competitive teaching assistant position, a scholarship and being required to wait to return to UVM.

John Doe is seeking damages from the University to be determined in a jury trial for five of the six claims made.

The UVM sanctioning procedures involve a three-person panel from the University community, one of whom from the Center for Student Conduct.

The panel is required to be impartial with both panel members and parties to the sanctioning committee able to request removal from the committee, according to the UVM website.

The lawsuit states thatUVM violated the 1972 Title IX rules with “anti-male discriminatory bias afflicting UVM’s sexual misconduct policy and procedures.”

It also states that because the University used a “single-investigator model” in determining guilt, the single investigator being Title IX coordinator Nick Stanton, the University policy prevents the accused from defending themselves.

The lawsuit states the bias was relayed to the U.S. Department of Education’s 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, which established newer guidelines on sexual violence victim advocacy and rights on college campuses, according to the lawsuit. These rights were rescinded by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

The “era of ‘rule by the letter’ is over,” DeVos said in a Sept. 7 speech at George Mason University.

The filing cited multiple statements from DeVos’s speech including that “every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.”

The Title IX office declined to comment.

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Annie Stevens did not respond to request for comment.