Ex-UMass student sues university, says he was unfairly expelled for code-of-conduct violations after 'consensual sex,' was discriminated against as a man

Wednesday, August 13, 2014
AMHERST — A former University of Massachusetts student claims in a federal lawsuit filed last week that he was unfairly expelled after consensual sex with another student last year was deemed a violation of the school’s code of conduct.

A spokesman for UMass declined Monday to comment on the specifics of the case, but said the incident was reviewed according to school policy.

This is the second federal lawsuit filed in the past two months by former students at local schools who claim they were unfairly punished for their alleged roles in sexual encounters on campus. On June 24, a former Amherst College student filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court claiming that the school unfairly withheld his degree after reopening an investigation into a 2009 sexual assault on campus.

The suits come at a time of increased scrutiny about how colleges are handling reports of sexual assaults on campus. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is investigating more than 70 colleges, including Amherst and Hampshire colleges and UMass, for their handling of sexual assaults.

The latest suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Springfield by a former student from Bristol, Connecticut, who is identified only as John Doe in court files.

According to the suit, he met a female student — identified as Jane Doe in court files — at a party on Sept. 13, 2013. The two flirted for about four hours and the woman made arrangements to have her roommate leave so she could be alone with the man, the suit states. The man asked for consent throughout and the woman responded clearly and verbally each time with a “yes,” according to the suit.

The man texted the woman the next day and was “crushed” to learn that their encounter was only going to be a “one-night stand,” the suit states.

The woman told friends that she did not clearly remember the evening’s events and they urged her to report the incident to the school, according to the suit. As a result, UMass expelled the man after he was found responsible for three violations of the code of conduct — sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and community living standards.

A 3½-hour hearing was held concerning the incident on Nov. 5. The hearing board made its decision Nov. 7, it was appealed by the male student Nov. 18, and UMass denied the appeal Dec. 4, the suit states.

According to the suit, no criminal charges were filed against the man and the formal written complaint filed by the woman did not classify the incident as “harassment,” “assault” or “rape.”

One of the man’s lawyers, Andrew T. Miltenberg of New York City, states in the suit that his client was not advised of all the campus resources available to him, was denied the assistance of an adviser and was discriminated against because he is a man.

Information about the case was not readily made available to him and he was “met with overall hostility, dismissal and pre-judgment as ‘guilty’ before the decision was even rendered,” according to the suit.

A message left with Miltenberg at his office was not immediately returned.

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said Monday the university does not comment on specific cases in litigation.

In a statement, he went on to say, “The university does take allegations of sexual assault seriously and conducts reviews through a detailed procedure specified in the Code of Student Conduct. All members of the university’s Conduct Hearing Board undergo a thorough, mandatory training process, including specialized training in sexual assault and bias-related incidents.”

The statement added, “Due process for all parties involved is a central aspect of the code.”

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.