An Overcorrection?

Former Baylor economics professor's lawsuit says the Baptist university's high-profile failures with sexual assaults led administrators to overcorrect when a student accused him of rape.

September 16, 2019
 

A former Baylor University professor is alleging he was forced out his job after a student with whom he said he had a consensual relationship accused him of sexual assault.

The former economics professor, who is suing the Baptist institution anonymously in federal court, said Baylor’s historically poor handling of sexual misconduct led to an environment where men were automatically presumed to be perpetrators. John Doe, as he is known in court filings, alleges administrators were biased in investigating and adjudicating the accusations against him, ignoring evidence Doe said disproves his accuser’s case against him.

“Baylor University will vigorously defend the inaccurate claims made by the plaintiff in this lawsuit,” Lori Fogleman, a Baylor spokeswoman, said in a written statement. “Baylor is not aware of any evidence to substantiate the claims being made regarding anti-male bias at the university. Baylor strives to provide an impartial and fair process to all participants regardless of their sex.”

The university's high-profile sexual assault scandal goes back to 2012, after a student went public with rape allegations against a football player, who eventually was found guilty of sexual assault and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2014. Another student said a soccer player raped her, and he also received jail time.

After the university in 2015 commissioned a law firm, Pepper Hamilton LLP, to investigate administrators’ response to sexual assaults, Baylor fired head football coach Art Briles for ignoring allegations. Ken Starr, the university's president, resigned.

More allegations surfaced later, with students claiming they had been gang-raped by members of the football team.

The controversy is widely considered to be one of the most extreme cases of a botched response to campus sexual assaults.

Doe was employed at Baylor in 2015 at the time Pepper Hamilton was investigating, he said in the lawsuit he filed last month in U.S. District Court.

Doe’s supervisor told him he needed to make sure he wasn’t viewed as predatory. He advised Doe not to cover the glass window in his office and not to meet with female students with the door closed or past 5 p.m.

Female professors did not follow these same unofficial rules, the lawsuit alleges.

Doe began dating a student who would eventually accuse him of sexual assault in November 2017. The lawsuit does not state whether he taught the student.

Between then and January 2018, the student and Doe went on three dates and engaged in at least one consensual sexual encounter, according to the lawsuit.

The student and Doe temporarily ended their relationship, but resumed it again in April 2018. They vacationed together in Utah, but Doe ultimately decided to end the relationship after he said the student had lied to him.

However, Doe allowed her to stay in his home through part of June while she was waiting to move into a new apartment. That month, Doe reiterated he no longer wanted to be in a relationship, and the student was upset, the lawsuit states.

The student then filed a complaint with Baylor’s office that handles sexual assault allegations. The university began investigating in July under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law banning sex discrimination and sexual violence on college campuses, ultimately concluding that several sexual encounters they had in May weren’t consensual.

Baylor also said Doe violated its policy forbidding relationships between professors and undergraduate students.

"The plaintiff resigned from the university prior to the completion of the Title IX process, which ultimately resulted in a finding that the plaintiff violated Baylor’s Title IX policy," Fogleman said. (Note: The previous two paragraphs have been added to an earlier version of this article to include information from Baylor.)

Doe alleges Baylor wouldn’t provide him evidence, including statements the student made to the Title IX office. He said investigators ignored inconsistencies in the student’s story. For example, the student told officials she had purchased Plan B on May 7 after the professor had unprotected intercourse with her without her consent. Bank statements allegedly show she purchased the pill on May 1, days before she alleged the incident occurred. An administrator also allegedly found Doe responsible for one instance of nonconsensual sex even though the student couldn’t provide details about the encounter or a precise date when it occurred.

An official also purportedly said during Doe’s Title IX hearing date in November that she used “her personal opinion” when investigating the allegations.

Doe also said that because English is not his native language, he requested to be able to respond to the investigator’s questions in writing, which Baylor denied.

Doe resigned from the university because he felt he was going to be fired. He is asking for an unspecified amount of money because of harm to his reputation and prospects for finding another position, and for Baylor to vacate the sex assault findings against him.

“As part of its quest for redemption, Baylor enacted a university-wide culture of anti-male bias and intimidation inconsistent with its stated Christian principles that ensnared plaintiff, besmirched his character, and destroyed his career,” the lawsuit states.

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