A Penn State pre-med student claims in a new federal lawsuit that his lifelong goal of being a physician was ended by what he describes as an unfair university investigation into allegations he sexually abused a female student.
The male student from Cupertino, California, described as a 2002 immigrant and identified only as John Doe, said in the federal complaint filed last week that administrators engaged in “a massively unfair and biased” investigation that resulted in his suspension through the fall semester.
The complaint alleges that the defendants — the school, its board, the university president and other officials — “conducted a fatally flawed proceeding, afflicted by an anti-male discriminatory bias, resulting in an erroneous outcome and severe and unwarranted damages to plaintiff.”
A Penn State spokeswoman offered no immediate comment.
The lawsuit contends the school let the parents of the alleged victim, referred to as Jane Roe, make threats against John Doe, citing a chat text from her father to a group of parents of students in an elite pre-med program.
In the text, he allegedly told the parents that “‘the assaulter is son of one of the (families) on this forum’ and ‘the assaulter needs to be in prison’ where ‘he gets raped by someone else’ and ‘we will reveal the name of the assaulter here and anywhere we feel fit including if possible newspapers,'” the lawsuit said.
Doe told investigators it was Roe who repeatedly tried to kiss him, that he rebuffed her advances, and that she initiated all of their physical contact, the lawsuit said.
The series of events that prompted the investigation occurred in September, when John Doe and Jane Roe were both freshmen enrolled in the program that funnels undergraduates after three years to the Thomas Jefferson University medical school in Philadelphia.
Doe’s lawyers said that after Roe sought to initiate sexual activity, she allegedly “fabricated allegations” in texts to her roommate, saying Doe touched her inappropriately when they were in her dorm room.
A nine-month investigation by the school followed, culminating in a charge in May that Doe had engaged in what the school called “non-consensual penetration: digital.” He contested it, but the charge was upheld after a hearing in June. He was suspended from school and removed from the pre-med program.
Detailed claims about the nature of the investigation and the hearing form a central part of the lawsuit. Along with the purported due process violations, the lawsuit also claims Penn State did not follow a federal law that bans discrimination on the basis of gender.
He is seeking damages, legal fees, and the ability to return to class this month and resume participation in the pre-med program.
The lawsuit is one of dozens that have been filed against colleges and universities since 2013 by men who say they were unfairly suspended or punished for sexual assault claims. Colleges have toughened investigation of sexual misconduct in the wake of a 2011 letter from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that told schools to use a preponderance-of-evidence standard, rather than beyond-a-reasonable-doubt, as in criminal cases.