Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Gulyas v. Appalachian State University, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137868 (W.D.N.C. Aug. 28, 2017)

School type: Public
State: North Carolina
Federal Circuit: Fourth
Decision primarily favorable to: Student
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Due process, Exculpatory evidence, Title IX

Defendant’s motion to dismiss was granted in part and denied in part.

Plaintiff Frank Gulyas, a student at Appalachian State University, was in a dating relationship with fellow student Melissa Costa that can best be described as “tumultuous.” During their relationship, Costa exhibited a pattern of jealous behavior, including one incident where she hit and yelled at Gulyas for letting a female acquaintance stay in his dorm room for a night. Their relationship subsequently deteriorated and Gulyas decided to date another girl soon afterwards.

The incident out of which this lawsuit arose happened on March 28, 2015, when Gulyas informed Costa of his new relationship. Noticing that the door to her dorm room was ajar, he tapped and entered the room, telling Costa that their relationship was over. In April 2015, Costa filed a complaint with the university against Gulyas, alleging harassment, unauthorized entry, making threats and causing bodily harm. The University Conduct Board concluded in October 2015 that Gulyas was responsible for “unlawful entry” and “acts of harm,” and suspended him for a semester. His appeal was denied.

Gulyas sued, bringing procedural due process, equal protection, and Title IX sex discrimination claims. The court allowed Gulyas’ due process claim to proceed:

“[W]hen the allegations are viewed in total it is reasonable to conclude that the alleged conduct of the university officials significantly impugned the fairness of the disciplinary proceeding in that the proceeding was intentionally structured in a manner to deter the pursuit of the truth on the unlawful entry charge in favor of obtaining a verdict adverse to Plaintiff. Further, the allegations suggest far more than a mere failure to turn over exculpatory evidence and instead are emblematic of a cover up by university officials when the facts discovered during the course of the university investigation did not support the unlawful entry charge.”

The court dismissed Gulyas’ equal protection and gender discrimination claims, concluding that he had not plead enough facts from which to plausibly infer that App State engaged in intentional gender discrimination.