There are rapes. And then there’s, well, not rape. Just as one doesn’t prove the other, it cuts both ways. And the finding against a male student at Lynn University was the sort of thing that gives rise to the core concerns that colleges have no business getting into the Title IX rape business.
The impetus for the accusation wasn’t that the female student thought she was raped, but that she was pushed into making the accusation. According to the suit filed by the male student, she went to the Boca Raton police.
The suit says that Boca Raton Police found that Doe and his accuser had consensual sex at a dorm party with alcohol last fall, and called her belated rape claim “unfounded.”
Though she filed the rape claim against Doe with Lynn’s Campus Security office the day after their liaison, in a video-recorded interview with female detectives at the police station, the accuser never claimed he had raped her, according to Doe. The police report says she told them her friends and parents wanted her to accuse Doe.
Nonetheless, the police investigated.
Part of the police investigation involved reviewing security camera footage to gauge the accuser’s level of intoxication and her ability to consent.
It showed her walking, acting normally and “smiling” before and after her encounter with Doe; at one point, she’s seen standing on one foot while kicking the elevator door button with the other foot, the suit says. She was also seen dancing on the soccer field with one of her friends.
Having failed to gain traction with the cops, the student then went the Title IX route with the college, and the inexplicably backward vision of due process that could only appeal to a Title IX administrator at an academic institution kicked in.
Though the student conduct code bars students from bringing “legal counsel” to conduct proceedings – only “professional staff or faculty members may act as advisors” – Lynn let the accuser bring a private lawyer, a veteran criminal defense litigator, the suit says. (The lawyer heads her Miami firm’s “White Collar Criminal and Civil Fraud Defense Group.”)
Meanwhile, when Doe’s mother asked about getting him a lawyer, Title IX Coordinator Lorna Fink said that he could only have a “silent observer” serve as his adviser. Doe ended up choosing his mother, who is not a lawyer, the suit says.
Why mom? Well, the price was no doubt right, and certainly there was no one who cared more for her son. But most significantly, if the assumption is that the adviser can’t actually do anything to help, what different does it make? But it didn’t turn out that the silent adviser would necessarily remain silent, only not in the way one would suspect.
Silence was not enforced on the accuser’s lawyer, who allegedly intervened in the process several times.
The accuser “only repeated what her attorney told her to say, and otherwise her lawyer answered questions for her the whole time, making the adjudicatory hearing one-sided, unfair, and a gross violation of university policy,” the suit says.
Director of Student Conduct Laura Matthews did not let Doe’s questions be asked of the accuser or witnesses. She let the accuser’s lawyer, however, not only write questions for Matthews to ask the accuser, but tell her client “how to answer every question” Matthews posed, according to the suit.
As for male student’s questions, no need. The answers were already known. And the same went for the “closing.”
In a final insult to Doe, Matthews let his accuser read her full “closing statement” but then “cut him short,” citing a time crunch.
Then again, given the outcome, Matthews’ use of her time made complete sense, since there wasn’t much to be gained by listening to the accused.
“I have made a decision in your case,” Matthews wrote Plaintiff. “Based on a preponderance of the information provided, you have been found to have engaged in nonconsensual sexual intercourse with someone that was incapable of consenting due to alcohol on the evening of September 18, 2015, on the Lynn University campus. … [I]t is likely that as a result of alcohol consumption, the complainant had been unable to fully comprehend what was taking place the night of the incident, and lacked the ability to make rational, reasonable judgments. As a result, it is more likely than not that the complainant did not have the capacity to provide consent to any sexual act due to her level of impairment from alcohol on the night of the incident.”
Lack of consent for incapacitation is one thing, and, indeed, has been thoroughly argued as the basis for much of the dubious claims of rape, since there is a spectrum ranging from unconscious, which would clearly be rape, to just the slightest buzz, which would not. Or at least, not supposed to be. Except to Matthews.
There was no evidence that the women with whom the plaintiff engaged in consensual sex was incapacitated, and plenty of evidence to the contrary. That there was “alcohol consumption” is precisely what gives rise to the fear that putting such adjudications in the hands of zealots or people so flagrantly incapable of rational thought puts every male at risk, and undermines whatever small legitimacy Title IX rape adjudications might otherwise have.
Essentially, from outset to conclusion, this case reflects pretty much everything that’s flawed and failed about the process being used to destroy male students’ lives. While it may well (and certainly should) end up in both reversal and compensation for the male student, that can’t possibly alter the impact this bizarre scenario has had on his education, his life. It may be better to win in court than lose, but this never should have been in court, because it never should have happened.
As for mom being the male student’s silent adviser, as sweet as that is, and as much as mom must have surely loved her child, it was not an effective choice. But then, given Matthews’ decision, there was likely no adviser in the world who could have obtained a fair outcome for the accused. Director of Student Conduct Laura Matthews did her job and made sure the young man suffered.