Boston College has been ordered by a federal court to pay $100,000 to a student who was suspended by the school after being falsely accused of sexual assault.
This case was the first to be considered by a jury since policies were initially changed by the Obama administration in 2011. Obama’s federal regulations had eviscerated due process on campus, establishing a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ standard that was effectively a precursor to the #MeToo feminist witch hunt.
“The jury’s clear verdict here suggests that, as with so many situations involving both free speech and due process, universities are unable to defend in public what they try to do in private,” said Samantha Harris, who works as vice president of policy research at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), an educational watchdog organization.
The man who won the settlement was accused of sexual assault without evidence, undergoing a horrifying ordeal that is not too uncommon in the age of #MeToo. John Doe, as he was referred to in court filings, was told by a woman on a crowded dance floor that he had digitally penetrated her rectum aboard a cruise ship in 2012.
Doe was eventually charged with indecent assault and battery over the woman’s allegations. His hands were kept in plastic bags, his fingers and hands were swabbed, and he was kept detained by security personnel on the ship until it was docked. A police officer filed a report with incorrect information claiming Doe was dancing with the alleged victim, making the situation even worse for the student.
Doe was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing in 2014 after the DNA tests came back clear, and surveillance on the ship indicated he was at least four feet away from the alleged victim when the supposed sexual assault occurred. This didn’t prevent Boston College from punishing Doe, despite his innocence.
Doe had to serve a year-long suspension from the college even the case was pending in the courts before returning in 2014 to graduate. He filed a lawsuit against the college that was largely thrown out by a federal judge in 2016 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in 2018 made a ruling that Boston College likely violated policy in making their determination, and a federal jury agreed with their determination.
Peter Lake, who works as the director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University, believes that juries are beginning to understand the nature of modern universities and their incredible hostility toward basic rights such as due process.
“Jury attitude has shifted, and it’s not going to be lost on people that the political dialogue of the day is clearly having an influence in the courtroom,” Lake said, also citing the recent case of Oberlin College being forced to pay $11 million toward a bakery targeted by liberal school officials.
Another game changer is the revocation of the controversial Obama-era rules by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who created new regulations giving colleges more leeway in how they adjudicate cases such as these.
“It’s hard to not to think of these things as Title IX, and they sort of are … it’s a sign that when you lodge a Title IX-related claim, there will usually be a lot of claims associated with it, and now you can score hits all the way to a jury,” Lake said.
The Trump administration is working quickly to reverse the poisonous legacy set forth by his loathsome predecessor, and the lives of those falsely accused on college campuses are improving as a result.
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