Resolution

The Office for Civil Rights sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to presidents of every college and university that receives federal funding through the U.S. Department of Education, including the University of Georgia. KATHRYN INGALL/Staff

A University student is fighting expulsion stemming from an on-campus incident in which a female student accused him of strong-arm rape in late August.

On Nov. 7, Kristopher Stevens, associate director of the Equal Opportunity Office, found the student “committed sexual assault” and was being “expelled from the University of Georgia, effective immediately.”

But in court documents filed in Athens-Clarke County State Court on Nov. 9, the male student petitioned for a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction seeking to complete his fall semester. According to the court documents, the student, who has not been arrested and faces no criminal charges, “was not afforded any due process, not allowed to have and participate in a hearing to ‘confront’ his accuser.”

“The problem is that there was no hearing,” said Kim Stephens, an Athens attorney representing the male student. “There needs to be a way that students can have due process. There needs to be a hearing held and there need to be process requirements.”

The EOO declined an interview regarding how the office conducts investigations.

The restraining order, filed against University President Michael Adams, Stevens and the Board of Regents, seeks to return the student’s status to full-time student. The court agreed on Nov. 9 and allowed the temporary relief for the student pending a Friday court hearing, where University officials need to show cause why the student’s injunction should not be granted.

University Police Chief Jimmy Williamson said the criminal investigation of the reported rape is ongoing.

 

What happened that night?

A little after midnight on Aug. 24, the male student now facing expulsion texted a female student asking her to “come over and drink” to which the female student responded with “I’m honestly so far gone right now,” according to a text message conversation from the male student’s phone.

Around 12:15 a.m., the female student said someone was walking her home, and that she would call the male student in 30 minutes. Around 12:43 a.m., the female student texted she was outside of his dorm. The male student said, “Coming,” and she responded with a smiley face.

The next series of texts occurred at 2:48 a.m. The male student asked, “Did u make it back ok?” and the female student responded with, “I went to a different dorm actually.” He asked if it was on purpose or accident and she wrote it was on purpose and that she was sleeping in another room.

The male student’s final text in the conversation was, “I’m glad u made it ok,” and then wished her good night. The female student responded with “Night.”

On Aug. 26, University Police met with the female student after she reported a strong-arm rape in Oglethorpe House that occurred on Aug. 24 between midnight and 3 a.m. Police met with the victim “who stated the incident was with an individual known to her and that she had already sought treatment at ACC SANE,” according to the University Police report.

 

The issue of due process

In the court documents, the plaintiff’s attorney writes Stevens has refused to release the names and contact information of the witnesses he has interviewed during his investigation citing “FERPA” federal privacy laws.

“Kris is doing what he’s supposed to do and not releasing the names because of FERPA, but the court says you need the witnesses because people need due process,” Stephens said. “The problem is that this process and the decisions that the University is making are kind of at odds with the Constitution.”

In an official University document sent to the plaintiff, Stevens writes he finds based on the preponderance of the evidence that the female student was intoxicated and unable to give consent. He also writes “based on a review of all the available evidence, I find that the evidence does establish a violation of the UGA NDAH (Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment) Policy.”

Stevens interviewed five people and used the text message conversation as evidence to expel the male student, according to court documents.

Without any sort of hearing, the University found the student in violation of the NDAH Policy for having “committed sexual assault” and kicked him off campus.

Under federal guidelines detailed in a 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, schools must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate a case of possible sexual violence. It states public and state-supported schools must offer due process to the alleged perpetrator while also making sure the steps do not “restrict or unnecessarily delay” the complainant’s Title IX protections. 

“The Dear Colleague Letter is relatively recent,” Stephens said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever experienced it at the University, and I’ve been here for 20 years as a lawyer.” 

Stephens said the court will rule on Friday whether his client was denied due process and whether an injunction should remain in place until due process is provided.

“If you’re expelled from school, it goes on your permanent record and makes it difficult to get into any other university or college,” Stephens said. “So no matter what you want to do, you will be affected immediately, and that’s why due process is required.”