Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Brown University, 327 F. Supp. 3d 397 (D.R.I. 2018)

School type: Private
State: Rhode Island
Federal Circuit: First
Decision primarily favorable to: Student
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Erroneous outcome, Selective enforcement, Title IX

University’s motion to dismiss granted in part and denied in part.

Plaintiff was an African-American student athlete at Brown University. After a sexual encounter in which both parties had consumed alcohol, the female student — Jane Doe — brought a complaint of sexual misconduct with the university. At that point, Plaintiff also complained to the university about Jane’s behavior, but the university did not charge her with anything.

According to Plaintiff, after a hearing at which he and Jane were treated differently, he was found responsible for “nonconsensual contact” and the university imposed a one-year deferred suspension. However, when another Brown student, Sally Roe, made allegations of sexual misconduct, he was immediately “separated and barred from the Brown University campus on an interim basis.” No pre-charge investigation was conducted. Plaintiff later learned from Sally that the first complainant, Jane Roe, had played a “major role” in Sally’s complaint against him.

Plaintiff filed suit alleging racial and sexual discrimination as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract, and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Brown alleged that the statute of limitations barred some of Plaintiff’s claims, while Plaintiff argued that the “continuing violation” doctrine — under which claims are not time-barred “if they are deemed part of an ongoing series of discriminatory acts and there is some violation within the statute of limitations period that anchors the earlier claims” — should apply. Looking to Title VII for guidance, the court held that the continuing violation doctrine could apply to Title IX and Title VI claims and that it did, in fact, apply to Plaintiff’s hostile environment and racial discrimination claims. However, the court held that Plaintiff’s erroneous outcome and selective enforcement Title IX claims stemming from the first investigation were time-barred because of their discrete nature.

The court then held that Plaintiff had stated a plausible Title IX claim under both the hostile environment and selective enforcement theories over Brown’s failure “to respond adequately to Jane’s harassment of [Plaintiff]” and when Brown reacted differently to Plaintiff’s and Jane’s claims. Plaintiff’s Title VI claim and § 1981 claim also survived because he had plausibly alleged intentional racial discrimination.

On the state claims, the court held that Plaintiff had plausibility pleaded intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court separated the breach of contract claims into subparts and held that only the claim that Brown violated his procedural rights would survive. The breach of fair dealing similarly survived because Plaintiff had alleged a plausible breach of contract claim.