Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Oberlin College, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55703 (N.D. Ohio Mar. 31, 2019)

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 dismissed Plaintiff’s claims for breach of contract, Title IX sex discrimination, and negligence.

Plaintiff was expelled from Oberlin after being found responsible for sexual misconduct for oral sex that followed the cessation of vaginal sex after his partner, Jane Doe, stated that it was causing her discomfort and that she was “not sober.” The hearing panel found that when Jane Doe stated she was not sober, Plaintiff should have known she was incapacitated, so the oral sex that occurred after that was not consensual.

On the Title IX claim, although the court found that Plaintiff had pled articulable doubt, he had not sufficiently pled a causal connection between the flawed outcome and gender bias (the court explicitly rejected the Second Circuit’s “less demanding pleading standard” here). The court rejected Plaintiff’s argument that some of the Title IX coordinator’s statements about the goals of Oberlin’s policy suggested gender bias, holding that Plaintiff erroneously “jump[ed] to the conclusion that this kind of ‘survivor-centered’ approach to campus sexual assault must mean that the Policy would also have to be biased against men.”

Plaintiff’s claim that external pressure — both from the Dear Colleague Letter generally and from OCR’s investigation of Oberlin specifically — caused the college to act in a biased manner was also unavailing: “There is no allegation by Plaintiff that the publicity was widespread regarding the complaint which triggered the investigation, let alone that there was criticism in the media in regard to the matter or how Oberlin handled complaints of gender bias.”

With no federal claims remaining, the court also dismissed Plaintiff’s state law claims, but without prejudice.

The decision on Plaintiff’s Title IX claim was later reversed on appeal by the Sixth Circuit.