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Accused student should have known unwritten consent rule from campus posters, Brown says

Less than two weeks from closing arguments in a lawsuit by a Brown University student who was suspended after a disputed tryst and disciplinary proceeding, Brown is laying out its “proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law.”

Brown admits that it did not have a formal definition of sexual consent at the time of the storage-room oral sex – “John Doe” was judged by the following year’s definition, the basis of his breach-of-contract claim – but says he was already on notice.

How? Brown says its unwritten consent definition was

conveyed to John, upon his matriculation and continuing thereafter, through a new student tutorial, a video titled “Brown students ask for consent,” his freshman orientation, subsequent trainings, and posters across the campus.

But the school seems to lay the blame for John’s adjudication under a nonexistent standard upon the student conduct panels that heard his original case and appeal.

MORE: Student accused by sex partner because he liked her best friend

The Title IX program officer hired by Brown after the disputed incident, Amanda Walsh, included the next year’s Title IX policy in the adjudication materials she gave only to Title IX Council Chair Gretchen Schultz, a professor:

Walsh provided the Title IX Policy solely as an option that the panel could consider during its deliberations if it elected to do so, and Walsh reminded Schultz that the panel was not required to reference the Title IX Policy’s definitions. … Walsh testified that “[b]y excluding it from [the panelists’ packets] and including it in [the Title IX Council Chair’s packet], I felt like this was hopefully making that clear.”

MORE: Judge says accused Brown student will likely win lawsuit

As noted by Brooklyn College Prof. KC Johnson, a close observer of campus sexual-misconduct adjudications and litigation, it wasn’t the only place Brown tried to lay the blame for the adjudication on students.

A key question is whether the U.S. District Court in Providence will let Doe’s case be reheard by another student conduct panel, if Brown loses on the procedural matter.

Read Brown’s filing and Johnson’s series of tweets excerpting the 65-page document.

h/t #RepealVAWA

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.