A federal judge in Vermont knocked down Marlboro College’s request to dismiss a lawsuit by a male student suspended on allegations of sexual assault, the Brattleboro Reformer reported Friday.
The lawsuit by Luke Benning, suspended for three semesters “after the Dean’s Advisory Committee concluded he had engaged in sexual acts without consent and had engaged in retaliation,” lays out what he contends was retribution by a former lover:
In his complaint filed in April 2014, Benning told the court in the 2011/2012 academic year he began a romantic relationship with another student, which included electronic communications in which the young woman allegedly made comments pressuring Benning for sex.
The relationship continued in the 2012/2013 school year and included sexual intimacy, according to Benning’s complaint.
However, wrote Benning, the relationship deteriorated and he began spending time with a friend of the woman’s. When that friend confided in the woman about her relationship with Benning, he alleged “the woman engaged in spiteful behavior toward him,” which included “lengthy tirades” published on social media.
In September of 2013, Benning was notified by the dean of students that a complaint had been filed against him.
The ruling came down Aug. 5 but appears to have not been reported until the Reformer‘s story Friday.
Marlboro itself acknowledged there were problems with the investigation, the suit says:
However, the Dean’s Advisory Committee found three “serious material errors” in the Sexual Misconduct Panel’s proceedings and informed Benning that after three semesters, he could apply to re-enroll “but that re-enrollment would be contingent on his completion of sexual respect training and counseling.”
The judge came to some interesting procedural conclusions, declining the school’s request to prevent its employees from being deposed:
Marlboro College had claimed exemption under the deliberative process privilege, contending the panel and committee “are analogous to government entities …”
However, wrote [Judge William] Sessions, Marlboro College is not a governmental entity and doesn’t deserve the same privileges.
The judge also said the $75,000 statutory threshold for the case was met because Benning’s “lost earnings as a result of the delay in graduation, expenses incurred during the suspension, and the reputation and emotional cost of the suspension” could exceed $75,000.
IMAGE: Donkey Hotey/Flickr