Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Powell v. St. Joseph’s University, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27145 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 20, 2018)

School type: Private
State: Pennsylvania
Federal Circuit: Third
Decision primarily favorable to: Student
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Breach of contract

Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim survives; all other claims dismissed.

Three female students at St. Joseph’s University filed a complaint against Plaintiff, claiming he “confronted the three female students multiple times about their ‘feminist’ beliefs and stared at them during the seminar.” The university began an investigation into whether Plaintiff had violated the university’s sexual misconduct policy.

The sexual misconduct policy states that “‘[i]f during the course of the investigation other conduct that might be a violation of this or other University policies is discovered or identified, this additional conduct must be reported to the appropriate University Official(s) and may be subject to a separate process.’” The university’s investigator found Plaintiff did not violate the sexual misconduct policy, but did violate the school’s “Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation (“PPDHR”).” He was expelled.

The court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim based on the fact that he was not given notice and an opportunity to respond to the allegations against him as required by the PPDHR policy. Instead, the PPDHR claim was adjudicated under the terms of the sexual misconduct policy, which has lesser procedural protections. The court found that “Once [the university’s investigator] determined that the Interim Policy was no longer applicable to plaintiff’s conduct and that the PPDHR was, the University and [the investigator] were required to proceed under the correct policy—in this case, the PPDHR.”

All of Plaintiff’s other claims — negligence, violation of Title IX, and violation of Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”) — were dismissed.