Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. George Washington University, 321 F. Supp. 3d 118 (D.D.C. 2018)

School type: Private
State: District of Columbia
Federal Circuit: D.C.
Decision primarily favorable to: Student
Stage of litigation: Motion for summary judgment
Keywords: Breach of contract

The court granted Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment on his breach of contract claim, holding that “the handling of his appeal violated the terms of the university’s contract with its students as defined in part by its Code of Student Conduct.”

Plaintiff and Jane Roe met at a party, left together, and engaged in sexual activity. Later, Roe filed a complaint alleging that she had been unable to consent due to her intoxication level. Roe’s reports of her alcohol intake that night vary significantly. A university panel found Plaintiff responsible and suspended him for one year. Per university policy, Plaintiff filed an appeal almost immediately, including additional evidence from a toxicologist and another student’s statement. The appeal was denied by a university administrator, Robert Snyder, who was charged with evaluating the “viability” of all appeals. If an appeal is viable, it is supposed to be forwarded to a panel for review. Snyder denied Plaintiff’s appeal, and Plaintiff filed suit.

The district court found that there was a contractual relationship between Plaintiff and GWU, with the terms of that contract being stated in the student code. Snyder testified that he evaluated Plaintiff’s appeal for viability and validity, terms that he appeared to use interchangeably, before deciding to reject it. The judge held that making validity judgments was gatekeeping that exceeded Snyder’s scope of authority and that Snyder’s actions had violated the contract GWU had with Plaintiff. As such, she ruled that Plaintiff’s appeal would be submitted to the appellate panel directly, bypassing Snyder, with the inclusion of the new evidence.