Partner of accused: ‘This case has taught me that gender discrimination does exist’
A self-proclaimed feminist student at Michigan State University is blasting the administration for expelling her romantic partner after a 14-month discriminatory sexual-assault investigation.
In an open letter to Denise Maybank, vice president of student affairs and services, published in The State News, the unnamed author said her partner’s accuser was the one who sexually assaulted him and that he was denied school resources simply because he’s male.
“I write to you because this case has taught me that gender discrimination does exist,” the letter says.
The author’s claims mirror those in a lawsuit against Amherst College by a male student who was expelled for rape despite evidence that his accuser had performed sex acts on him while he was “blacked out.”
Michigan State was under federal investigation for four years, with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights finding its grievance procedures “noncompliant” and saying it took too long to respond to sexual assault and harassment allegations, WKAR reported last week.
‘Simply horrifying’ her partner was blamed for being male
The university used “an antiquated notion of what it means to have sex” to judge her partner, “wherein a man receives sex from a woman” in a “transaction” where the woman loses something, the letter said.
“In this case, my partner engaged in mutually consensual and sober intercourse with the claimant [accuser] and was assaulted by the claimant, but responsibility lies with my partner because of their gender,” the author continued. “That is simply horrifying.”
According to the letter, Michigan State admitted “procedural errors,” denied the accused student a hearing and ignored “the fact” that he did not give his consent to some of the accuser’s sexual acts on him.
The university should not “expel innocent students on nothing more than the words of another student without being given the chance to speak in person to defend themselves,” the letter continued.
Get your counseling somewhere else
The author said her partner has lost all his “source of income” from jobs at the university. When he “expressed suicidal thoughts” to Rick Shafer, associate director of student life, Shafer allegedly told him to avoid the campus counseling center because his accuser “was also using those resources” – advice that was “horribly damaging” to her partner, the author wrote.
According to the letter, the author “nearly collapsed on the sidewalk” and had a panic attack when she saw her partner’s accuser on campus: “I now avoid the area in which I saw them.”
The State News agreed to contact the author on behalf of The College Fix with an interview request, but the author did not respond.
In response to comments questioning the “validity” of the letter, Editor-in-Chief Olivia Dimmer wrote in a comment that the State News did indeed verify “the student status” of the author, “and has obtained a few official letters and emails from the author proving there was a case.”
One of those letters, from the Office of Student Affairs and Services, said that “certain applicable procedures stated in University policies may not have been followed” in the investigation, according to Dimmer.
Shafer did not respond to a request by The Fix to explain the procedure for handling requests for counseling by opposing parties in a sexual-assault proceeding.
Collateral damage from the single-investigator model
The expelled student was the victim of policy changes prompted by two Title IX complaints, according to K.C. Johnson, a history professor at Brooklyn College and co-author of a book on the Duke lacrosse rape case.
The university now uses “a modified version of the single-investigator model – in which one person serves as the equivalent of police, prosecutor, jury, and judge, subject only to oversight from a MSU panel,” Johnson wrote in an email to The Fix. That model also keeps the accused from confronting the accuser, questioning other witnesses and seeing evidence against the accused, he said.
The lone benefit to an accused student under that model is that “both parties are given the opportunity to review and comment on the preliminary investigation report prior to it being finalized,” Samantha Harris, director of policy research for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told The Fix in an email.
“This is deeply troubling from a due process standpoint,” and due-process complaints particularly in sexual-misconduct cases “are extremely common,” Harris said.
UPDATE: Comments by the editor-in-chief of The State News regarding the “validity” of the open letter have been added to the article.