Finally, some good news on this subject. KC Johnson writes at Minding the Campus.

Four Straight Legal Victories for Due Process

In the fourth consecutive court ruling of its type (following Xavier, St. Joe’s, and Duke), a federal judge in Vermont has sided with an accused student in a due process lawsuit. In a previously below-the-radar filing, a student named Luke Benning sued Marlboro College after the school suspended him for three semesters for sexual assault. Last week, Judge William Sessions (a Clinton appointee) rejected the school’s motion to dismiss. (You can read the judge’s opinion here.)

Benning’s lawsuit noted that he had been a student in good standing (which Marlboro didn’t challenge), and that in the 2011-2012 academic year, he began a relationship with another student. They had sex in August 2012, and discussed the episode via private Facebook messages afterwards. (The accuser said it was “nice,” and encouraged another liaison.) The relationship shortly thereafter deteriorated; Benning’s filing, based on private Facebook exchanges, suggest that the accuser was more interested in pursuing the relationship than he was, but that she described the affair as a “positive experience” and Benning as a “really great guy.” A few months later, however, Benning started dating a friend of the woman who would accuse him. The accuser, it is alleged, took poorly to this development. She first made her objections known publicly. Then, at the end of the spring 2013 semester, she filed an informal complaint against Benning, which she escalated to a formal complaint in fall 2013.

College Procedures

Marlboro’s sexual assault procedures have two unusual twists. First, the college promises “the right to confidentiality to the extent possible.” Second, the school grant to the accuser, but not to the accused, the right to be free from retaliation, and the right to “request conditions that must be observed by the involved parties during this process.” The latter items seem to contradict the college’s stated promise that the accused is presumed not culpable.