A former University of Virginia student has sued university leadership in an attempt to halt an upcoming hearing, saying the university has treated him unfairly over the course of a Title IX investigation.
The male student, who is identified in court documents as “John Doe,” filed a federal lawsuit against members of UVa’s Board of Visitors, President Jim Ryan and two Title IX officials on Tuesday. He alleged that his constitutional rights have been violated during the university’s investigation, which stemmed from a sexual assault allegation in 2017.
According to court documents, the student met a woman, identified as “Jane Roe,” and had sex with her at his apartment. The woman said she did not consent, triggering a university Title IX investigation that was not resolved until May 22.
Title IX is a series of federal and university policies that aim to offer safe and fair educations for people of all genders and sexualities.
A draft investigation report in 2018 did not find sufficient evidence to find the student responsible of a Title IX violation, according to the report. After the investigation had closed, a Title IX investigator received the woman’s phone records and interviewed a friend.
At the end of the spring 2019 semester, the student was given the final investigation report, which included new information gathered by the investigator but to which the student had not had a chance to respond, according to the complaint. Based on that report, the university decided to suspend the student and withhold his degree.
“No hearing was held before the defendants refused to confer Mr. Doe’s degree on the basis of the new information which Mr. Doe did not have an opportunity to review or to respond, and was developed by coordinating ex parte with Ms. Roe,” the student’s lawyers wrote.
UVa’s policy allows the university to withhold degrees of students who have not paid all their bills or who have violated the school’s standards of conduct.
The student’s lawyers argue, however, that the university improperly followed its own Title IX policy and should not have withheld his degree. The student took a job contingent on his graduation and is now in danger of losing that job, according to the complaint.
The suit asks the university to clear the student’s record and give him his degree. It also asks the court to stop a Title IX review panel hearing on Monday; the review panel is the organization that imposes sanctions on people found responsible for Title IX violations.
In subsequent back-and-forth filings, lawyers for the student and the university argued about how much UVa is able to control off-Grounds activity.
In the university’s response, filed Wednesday, UVa argues that the lawsuit is not necessary since UVa has not yet concluded the Title IX process, and that the court should allow the review panel to take place.
The filings do not indicate whether police were ever involved in the incident.
Judge Glen Conrad, in Roanoke, has not yet ruled on whether to allow the hearing to take place.