Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Saravanan v. Drexel University, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 193925 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 24, 2017)

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

The court denied the university’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Title IX erroneous outcome claim, but granted its motion to dismiss his remaining Title IX and Title VI claims.

Plaintiff reported his ex-girlfriend, J.K., to Drexel University more than once for sexually assaulting him. At some point, J.K. had also reported Plaintiff for stalking and sexually harassing her. After an investigation, Drexel expelled Plaintiff but imposed only a “retroactive probation” on J.K. Plaintiff sued Drexel alleging sex discrimination under Title IX, racial discrimination under Title VI (Plaintiff is Indian), breach of contract, and unfair and deceptive trade practices.

The court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Title IX claims because, based on an erroneous outcome theory, the evidence he presented “indicate[s] a possible culture of gender bias against males claiming sexual assault by females.” Plaintiff provided statements Drexel staff made to him alleging his sexual assault claim was “ludicrous” and that they had “never heard of a woman raping a man.” Plaintiff also alleged a Drexel administrator told him it seemed as if he was “trying to get back at [J.K.]” for bringing allegations against him. Plaintiff also referred to a Drexel document that “provide[d] ‘Advice for Women’ to avoid rape while providing ‘Advice for Men’ to ‘[t]hink about whether you really want to have sex with a woman who does not want to have sex with you.’” The court held all of this was sufficient to sustain an inference that “gender bias was a motivating factor behind the erroneous finding.”

The court held Plaintiff did not sufficiently plead a selective enforcement claim because he failed to show that J.K. or another female student was charged with the same conduct as he was but “was treated more favorably” by the university.

The court dismissed Plaintiff’s deliberate indifference claim because he was unable to prove that “an official of the institution who had authority to institute corrective measures had actual notice of, and was deliberately indifferent to, the misconduct.” Although J.K. received a lesser punishment than Plaintiff, “Drexel did in fact respond to his complaints and institute some disciplinary proceeding against her.”

Plaintiff also alleged racial/national origin discrimination, which required him to prove “he was a member of a protected class qualified for the educational benefit or program at issue and he suffered an adverse action occurring ‘under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.” The court held Plaintiff failed to successfully plead discrimination because he couldn’t satisfy the last element necessary for discrimination — that “he suffered the adverse action under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.” The court found Plaintiff’s statements to be conclusory and not evidence of racial discrimination.

Similarly, Plaintiff brought a §1981 Civil Rights action against Drexel, “conclusively alleg[ing] Drexel acted against him with racial animus,” which the court found was not sufficient to satisfy the claim. Plaintiff provided two different cases in which Drexel was accused of racial discrimination during disciplinary proceedings, but the court found “reference to these two cases does not show Drexel’s disciplinary proceedings against [Plaintiff] were ‘purposefully discriminatory and racially motivated.’”