A freshman filed a lawsuit against the University Friday, alleging unfair disciplinary hearings wrongfully found him guilty of sexual assault, and led to an unfair suspension from school. He is requesting a total of $6 million in damages due to the incident.
The student – who filed the lawsuit under a pseudonym – said Student Judicial Services failed to abide by GW’s Code of Student Conduct throughout the student’s judicial process, leading to an unfair hearing and unfair suspension, according to court documents.
The student claims SJS found him guilty of sexually assaulting a female student, but refused to consider relevant evidence that would have proved his innocence, according to the complaint.
The complaint also said GW violated Title IX – a law regarding gender equality – by creating a “biased and one-sided process” against males. All schools receiving federal funding must comply with Title IX guidelines, which outlaw gender discrimination.
GW sanctioned the student with a one-year suspension effective Friday, but the court granted his request for the suspension to be halted until the court hears arguments.
“George Washington University, in the manner in which it approaches the investigation, adjudication, and appeal of allegations of sexual assault, creates an environment in which the accused is so fundamentally denied due process as to be virtually assured of a finding of guilt,” the complaint said. The complainant said he and a female student had consensual sex in October, and that he did not initiate any acts against her will. His roommates witnessed the two interacting and saw the female strip down to her underwear before getting into his bed.
The student submitted an appeal to SJS with evidence including a polygraph test, text messages between his roommates and witness statements, but SJS did not consider the evidence.
Matthew Kaiser, the plaintiff’s lawyer, said SJS denied his client basic student rights under the Code of Student Conduct by failing to interview key witnesses whose testimony would have proved his client innocent.
“SJS has an obligation to follow the student code and has to follow it pretty closely, and it just doesn’t look like that happened,” Kaiser said.
The Department of Education issued new guidance on Title IX rules in regards to sexual assault last week, saying colleges must respond quickly to allegations of sexual assault.
Kaiser said although schools must respond to claims in a timely fashion, GW could have pushed a fair hearing through the system within the same time frame.
University spokeswoman Candace Smith said the University does not comment on pending litigation, but takes investigations seriously and judges all sexual assault complaints under the Code of Student Conduct.
“GW has a record of promptly investigating and resolving allegations of sexual assault and harassment,” Smith said. “The University also periodically reviews its policies to ensure we are meeting current legal standards and best practices, and our efforts to educate the community on and respond to allegations of sexual assault are no exception.”