Lawsuit over Title IX discrimination against UT is dismissed

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a response from the University.

The lawsuit filed by an unnamed male student accusing the University of discriminating against male students in Title IX cases has been dismissed.

The student, referred to as John Doe, was accused of sexually assaulting a female student, referred to as Jane Roe, at a party that took place on April 28, 2017. The students were both drinking at a party and had sex, according to the original complaint. The woman then told her friends the next day that she had blacked out and didn’t remember anything before having sex.

Doe sued UT President Gregory Fenves and the University before his Title IX hearing in February, arguing the University’s definition of the word “incapacitation” in its sexual assault policy was too vague, and that they selectively enforced the rule by beginning an investigation of him based on his gender. 

 “The university generally does not comment on pending litigation, and due to federal privacy laws, the university does not comment on student disciplinary measures,” UT spokesperson J.B. Bird said in an email. “Our policies and procedures in such cases are followed and applied.”

According to a court order issued by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, the complaint was dismissed because it was unlikely that the University initiated disciplinary action against Doe solely because of his gender. The court said it was more likely that the University investigated Doe because a complaint was filed against him.

“The facts set forth in Doe’s complaint support a more plausible explanation for the University’s decision to investigate Doe and not Roe: She filed a complaint and reported that he sexually assaulted her,” Pitman wrote in the order.

The University’s sexual misconduct policy says a student is unable to give consent if incapacitated. The lawsuit states UT’s definition of incapacitation as “a state of being that prevents an individual from having the capacity to give consent” is too vague to be used fairly.

“Doe’s allegation that a reasonable person would not be on notice, that this definition of incapacitation might encompass a situation in which someone was too intoxicated to give consent is simply not plausible,” Pitman wrote.

Pitman wrote that the investigators made the case that Roe was intoxicated to the point of incapacitation, listing facts found by the investigators, including that Roe was unsteady on her feet, vomited and blacked out the night of the sexual encounter between Doe and Roe.

“It is sufficient for the purpose of this order to find that, based on the factual allegations set forth in Doe’s complaint, he has not shown that the University’s definition of “incapacitation” is vague enough to render it constitutionally inadequate,” Pitman wrote.

According to the order, the University also argued that the only injury Doe suffered was attorney fees and, therefore, had no grounds to sue. Pitman wrote that because Doe is being investigated for violation of a university’s sexual misconduct policy and could be expelled, he has suffered injury and is able to sue the University again. Pitman wrote Doe can amend his complaint until Sept. 14.

“It is unclear whether Doe will be found responsible for violating the University’s sexual misconduct policy, and if so, whether he will not be successful after exhausting the University’s appeals procedures,” Pitman wrote. “However, regardless of the outcome, he has already been sufficiently injured to have standing to bring this suit.”