Sometimes — okay, a lot of times — I read a news story and simply can’t believe what’s happening in the world. As it seems to me, there are some really messed up things going on.
One of those — and I’m not sure how long it’s been a practice — is schools holding “trials” where accusations of sexual assault are concerned. This should lie squarely, in my opinion, with our court system, and schools should stay out of it.
This story certainly doesn’t change my mind.
A lawsuit’s been filed against Pennsylvania State University over disciplinary proceedings related to a reported rape.
As the story goes, Jane and John Doe met through PSU’s Schreyer’s Honors College. They flirted, exchanged numbers, and spent time in John’s room. Jane informed the dude she didn’t want to just be a “friend with benefits.”
On January 27th, 2018, Jane told John her roommate was gone. She gave him her dorm room number, and around 1 a.m., they got together there. John performed sexual acts on Jane until she asked him to stop — she went to the bathroom and returned with a condom.
You can probably guess what happened next.
Afterward, the two continued to flirt via text, and Jane told her friends she’d like to have sex with John again.
According to the lawsuit, Jane later did a 180 and claimed John had physically forced her into sex and she’d tried to escape.
During the school trial, John wasn’t allowed to call witnesses or cross-examine Jane or her witnesses.
Jane presented “new information,” even though they’d been instructed not to do so. Her new info was why she’d sent flirtatious texts after the sexual encounter.
The school determined John’s guilt and suspended him for a year.
Following the hearing, PSU’s Title IX Coordinator Chris Harris requested a detailed explanation as to why John had been found guilty.
Here’s the bizarre reason, as reported by The Daily Wire:
[T]he “panel felt that the respondent’s continual flattery (some examples: “Haha nah you beautiful” followed by two wink emojis, then followed by “I wanna be both” and “You’re beautiful” and [“]I’m not that emotional, I could be both” after she clearly stated “Still not gonna f*** u, friend” followed by two squinting face with tongue emojis and her statement that [hooking up] “ruins friendships,[“] constitutes cajoling.”
Additionally, Jane Doe was able to provide a more detailed story, and her account did match the text messages. John couldn’t offer as many details.
Jane made her accusation 6 months after the incident, and the hearing didn’t take place until 2019.
More from TDW:
While Doe was appealing the decision, he was informed by Danny Shaha, assistant vice president of student affairs, that the appeals process was on hold. He wrote to the appeals officer that the first hearing was under review as “the board may have misinterpreted the University’s definition and application of ‘coercion.’”
Shaha did not vacate the hearing panel’s finding since it didn’t meet the definition of coercion. Instead, he set up a new hearing. Prior to the second hearing, John was provided with a copy of the university’s new definition of consent, which included the word “cajoling” as part of the definition of coercion. The definition was not, at the time, published anywhere public by the school, but was used against him in the new hearing.
John’s suing the school for violation of due process as well as gender discrimination.
What a mess.
School staff members are not properly trained to investigate and adjudicate criminal charges. It is well, well beyond their purview. At least, that’s my opinion. What’s yours?
In the school’s defense, though, my perspective is somewhat null: As we’ve all seen, actual legal courts are capable of hair-raising boneheaded decisions, too. Those are sometimes the news stories I referenced in my first paragraph.
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