Palmer Hall at Rhodes College (Photo: Rhodes College)
A former Rhodes College student claims the school's determination to hold a male student responsible for an alleged sexual assault led to him being unfairly singled out in a Title IX investigation.
The former student included the allegation in a lawsuit he filed against Rhodes College in which he asked for his expulsion to be reversed, compensation for attorney fees and $5 million in damages for emotional and physical suffering. .
Title IX is a civil rights amendment that prohibits any sex-based discrimination in schools that receive federal funding.
The suit maintains the school was under pressure from internal and external entities, primarily the media and a student-lead advocacy group called Culture of Consent to identify and hold a male student accountable for the incident.
Further, the lawsuit says, there was more evidence that another female possibly had a role in the alleged assault, but the Title IX investigation did not focus on this student because her gender did not match the school's prerogative.
Details on alleged assault at Rhodes SAE house
The incident in question took place at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house on Valentine's Day this year, and Rhodes students received a text notification the next day saying a sexual assault had been reported on campus.
Students also saw the Memphis police searching the SAE fraternity house.
Culture of Consent, according to the lawsuit, applied public pressure by way of social media posts and protests for the school to hold someone accountable.
The lawsuit alleges this student-group only singled out male students in their protests against sexual assault, and not against "perpetrators of sexual violence generally."
As a result of this pressure, the suit says, the school held a "procedurally defective hearing tainted by gender discrimination", and did not look into another female student that was named by the victim as a person who may have been involved in the alleged assault.
Thank you! You're almost signed up for
Keep an eye out for an email to confirm your newsletter registration.
The lawsuit states the school wrongly charged the plaintiff with violating campus sexual misconduct policy, triggering his expulsion.
The lawsuit also says, "On information and belief, Rhodes rarely, if ever, initiates Title IX complaints against female students but does independently initiate complaints against male students."
The victim of the alleged sexual assault, according to the lawsuit, did report the incident to Memphis police but did not request a Title IX investigation.
The U.S. Department of Education stipulates an educational institution that has knowledge of a possible Title IX offense must immediately open an investigation into the matter, regardless if one is requested by the victim or not.
Following federal guidelines, Rhodes opened an investigation, and the suit alleges the plaintiff was wrongfully held responsible for the incident regardless of multiple witnesses who said the plaintiff was never alone with the victim for more than five minutes.
The school is expected to file a response on Thursday, and has already submitted a motion of protection that would prohibit the plaintiff from disclosing personal information that could reveal the identity of the victim or persons known to the victim.
The school's motion reads, "Plaintiff John Doe was expelled from Rhodes for sexually assaulting an incapacitated and defenseless female student, and he is now lashing out by filing this lawsuit. In a public filing sure to humiliate and re-traumatize the victim, as well as other students who were involved in the underlying incident, Plaintiff has included numerous factual details in his Complaint which would enable an outside person to ascertain those students’ identities."
Read or Share this story: https://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/2019/06/06/rhodes-sued-sexual-assault-investigation-and-expulsion/1365621001/