Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Denison University, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53168 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 30, 2017)

School type: Private
State: Ohio
Federal Circuit: Sixth
Decision primarily favorable to: University
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Biased statements, Erroneous outcome, Title IX

The court granted the university’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Title IX claims, and remanded his state-law claims to state court.

Plaintiff and a fellow student, Jane Doe, had a sexual encounter that Plaintiff claims was consensual. Jane Doe later alleged that another student (not Plaintiff) had spiked her drink with GHB at a fraternity party on the night she had sex with Plaintiff, and that she thus couldn’t consent to the sex with Plaintiff. The university conducted an investigation and hearing, and Plaintiff was expelled.

Plaintiff’s lawsuit alleged Title IX sex discrimination as well as various state-law claims. The court noted that the Sixth Circuit had recognized two categories of Title IX claims arising from university disciplinary proceedings: “erroneous outcome” and “selective enforcement” claims. Plaintiff asked the court to also recognize a “deliberate indifference” claim stemming from disciplinary proceedings, but the court declined and dismissed that claim.

To establish an erroneous outcome claim, a plaintiff is required to plead facts (1) casting articulable doubt on the outcome of the proceeding and (2) connecting that outcome to gender bias. The court held that Plaintiff had plead facts sufficient to establish articulable doubt, but that he had failed to connect that doubt to gender bias.

In so holding, the court drew a bright line between facts that suggest a bias against the accused — even when gendered language is used — and facts that suggest a bias against males. Plaintiff alleged, for example, that the chair of the University Conduct Board had told the Board that it needed to weigh the “future of 1,000 girls” when deciding Plaintiff’s case. This is similar to statements that other courts have found suggestive of gender bias, but in this case, the court held that it merely suggests that the chair was biased against Plaintiff and thought he posed a risk to other women — but that would be an instance of pro-victim bias, not anti-male bias.

Plaintiff’s allegation that the head of the appeals board may have been biased because she was the director of women’s studies was also unavailing, as was his argument that pressure from the OCR investigation led the university to act in a biased manner.