The University of Michigan has become the latest school to vacate a sexual assault judgment against a student due to legal pressure.
Drew Sterrett was a student at Michigan until 2012, when a school hearing found him responsible for sexually assaulting a fellow student. Rather than take the judgement lying down, Sterrett sued Michigan in federal court in 2014, arguing the school’s hearing process deprived him of his due process rights.
Sterrett’s case had much in common with other controversial college sexual assault cases. Sterrett had exculpatory evidence at the time, via a text from his roommate, that the sex between him and another student (identified as ‘CB’) was consensual. Not only that, but after their encounter in March 2012, no complaint was filed until the following August, and Sterrett was found responsible without ever being allowed to question his accuser or see the claims against him in writing. Sterrett also never faced any criminal charges.
Michigan attempted to have the case dismissed, but was unsuccessful. After failing that, Michigan decided to reach a settlement, where it agreed to vacate all its findings against Sterrett and expunge the disciplinary process from his transcript. In return, Sterrett has agreed that he won’t attempt to return to Michigan and will drop his lawsuit against the school. (RELATED: The Text Of The Mattress Girl Lawsuit Will Shock You)
“The whole goal was to let Drew go on with his life,” Sterrett’s attorney told Slate.
Sterrett’s unnamed accuser has released a statement that was published by MLive saying the decision showed Michigan doesn’t care about justice, only its reputation.
“I caution all University of Michigan students and their parents to avoid reporting sexual violence or using the university’s Title IX process at all costs,” CB said. “I have come to believe they do not care about individual students seeking help and are more concerned with producing the paperwork which demonstrates compliance with U.S. Department of Education mandates. With the multiple efforts and initiatives the University has undertaken and administrators have espoused, the biggest threat on campus has now become the Title IX Sexual Assault Policy as implemented by the university.”
Lawsuits alleging due process violations are an increasingly popular avenue for students who claim they were railroaded out of school by campus courts investigating sexual assault allegations. Last summer, a California judge forced the University of California, San Diego to vacate its ruling against a student in a sexual assault case, while a student’s expulsion from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga was thrown out in August. Lawsuits are also ongoing at Amherst College and Washington and Lee University, among other locations. (Amherst’s Response To A Rape Lawsuit Is Stunning)
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