This is Part 4 in a series outlining the effects of college adjudication of alleged sexual assault cases. In Part 1, a wrongfully accused man proved his innocence, yet the college imposed sanctions that damaged his life anyway. In Part 2, a young dating couple's lives were disrupted for more than two years after someone else decided that she was raped. Part 3 featured a young man who has had to sue his school to remove the "responsible" mark on his transcripts after "severely prejudicial conduct" by the school's investigator.
Some may feel as though talking about this systematic failure leads to shaming of those who have been raped. This series is not about that. One rape is too many. These stories are only meant to bring to light the lives that have been turned upside-down when a college campus adjudicates an allegation of sexual assault.
Imagine you were blackout drunk. Not just incapacitated and unable to clearly give affirmative consent, but intoxicated to the point of absolutely no memory. Envision yourself then hearing about what happened the night before via text messages and campus chatter, and discovering that oral sex was performed on you while you were blacked out. Then imagine, two years later, being expelled from school with a giant black mark on your future.
Wait, what? Why would the victim of a sexual assault be expelled?
Because being impaired is "never an excuse." Because the "victim" of the sexual assault was a young man who later became the accused.
John Doe was a student at Amherst College in Massachusetts. After a night of drinking, a female student named as Sandra Jones helped Doe back to his room. Once they arrived, she proceeded to perform oral sex on him, and left when she was done. According to court documents, nearly two years later, at the urging of an on-campus victims advocate, Jones filed her sexual misconduct complaint with the school.
Missing evidence, false statements and a faulty investigation produced the result of Doe being found responsible of violating the sexual misconduct policy at the pseudo hearing at Amherst. The decision indicated that the hearing board found it "credible" that Doe was "blacked out" but that "[b]eing intoxicated or impaired by drugs or alcohol is never an excuse for sexual misconduct and does not excuse one from the responsibility to obtain consent."
What about his right to give consent? In court documents (Page 18), Jones describes a completely different account of what happened in text messages to a friend:
"Sandra Jones: Ohmygod I jus did something so f--ig stupid
DR: What did you do
Sandra Jones: F--ed [John Doe]. . . . F--
DR: No you didn't . . . .
Sandra Jones: official story is he puked and I took care of him but yes. Yes I did. F--
DR: [Sandra] what are you doing????????
Sandra Jones: Oh and apparently [another student i]s coming over so nothing happened everything's fine ..."
None of those texts was allowed in the "hearing" the college conducted. Doe was held responsible based solely on a story that was made up and refuted by evidence that was never allowed to be presented. He was kicked off campus and an email was sent to the entire student body stating he was found responsible and not allowed on campus. While the email did not state his name, it was very clear by campus chatter who he was. He was stripped of his rights with no recourse.
"Control the Controllables." That is what Grant Neal's grandmother tells him on the days he is not strong enough to keep going. A very strong support system that fills in the gaps is the inspiration for him to not give up the fight. He is trying to get back to college after a bold black mark was placed on his transcripts. That black mark? Title IX disciplinary action.
Grant Neal's case is one that you may have heard of and is now poised to be a landmark case as he is the first to take on the Office for Civil Rights, the Department of Education and the Obama administration.
Neal's case is different. There is no grey area. He took a young woman out on a date. They proceeded to have intercourse. The next day someone noticed a hickey on the woman's neck and reported a violent rape occurred. According to court documents, the presumption of rape was made by a third party due to Neal's "status as a high profile football player."
After a faulty process, accusations of conflict of interest on the part of Colorado State University, Pueblo, and changes in testimony -- and despite the fact that Jane Doe has since day one insisted she was not raped -- Neal was found responsible. He was removed from campus, he lost his football and wrestling scholarships, and no other college will admit him with the black mark on his transcripts.
During my conversation with Neal, he said, "I am not afraid to stand up and fight for this issue. There are so many who either don't have the ability or the strength to go through this process. I will fight for them too."
Prior to this, Neal had a 3.67 GPA and was pursuing a pre-med degree. He was excelling in all of his classes and handling the twists and turns of college life exceptionally.
Now he has a job and is doing what he can while he waits for the call that the wheels of justice have finally gotten out of the mud and decided to turn. Neal is keeping himself in shape in the hopes that he will be able to rejoin his teammates playing the sports he loves.
As I start to conclude this series, I feel as though I should address some feedback I have received.
The most commonly asked question is, "Why are you doing this? Do you have a son or someone personally affected?" The answer is no. I actually have two daughters, ages 20 and 15.
I decided to write this series after reading 160 case files of situations like those mentioned in each part of the series. I spoke with these young men and their attorneys, many more than I could ever write about in this forum. The pain that they have been through is real. Depression, suicide, PTSD, anxiety -- these are the result of being put through the process, and no one person's pain is less or more than another's. We should not be silent about this. It is clearly a systematic failure on the part of colleges because they simply are not equipped to deal with this much power over young people's lives. As I have stated before, while they might not hold students' actual freedom in their hands, they do hold their futures in their hands.
In some colleges, the Title IX coordinator has only eight hours of training. I was contacted by a student at the University of Minnesota with his concerns that these cases on his campus will be adjudicated by a panel of three students. This is not mock trial. This is real life. Students and officials trained for eight hours do not have the capacity to collect evidence, conduct investigations and cross-examine. I would bet that the majority have never even read the Constitution in its entirety. How can they be the ones determining these young people's futures?