Denison Settles With Student Expelled Over Sexual Assault

January 30, 2014

Denison University has settled a lawsuit with a former student who sued after being expelled over a sexual assault allegation, The Denisonian reported. A female student accused freshman Zackary Hunt of assaulting her on the way home from a party where alcohol was served, and Hunt was expelled following a November student disciplinary hearing. Hunt filed suit the following month, alleging libel, defamation, negligence and infliction of emotional distress, among other things, and said he was illegally prohibited from using an attorney and presenting evidence or testimony.

Laurel Kennedy, Denison's vice president for student development, said via email that she "cannot confirm that a settlement has been reached, but we can confirm that the case has been dismissed in the courts." Asked to clarify, she emailed, "The matter was resolved by mutual agreement and together we sought dismissal by the court." Hunt's attorney, Eric Rosenberg, said via phone that there was a settlement but the case is officially recorded as dismissed because of semantics.

Kennedy's statement also said, "The assertions presented in the student paper are based almost entirely on statements from an attorney who filed a suit against our university. Our faculty and staff work diligently as coaches and educators to help our well-intentioned students produce factual reports. Sexual misconduct is a tremendously serious and complicated subject, and the clash of student conduct processes, state law and federal policy makes it even more challenging. We stand by our conduct process and by the rights of our student journalists to report a nuanced subject to the best of their ability."

Hunt’s case was one of a growing number of lawsuits filed by men who are punished following campus judicial proceedings, in some cases under Title IX, the same federal statute that women point to when alleging campuses handle their sexual assault allegations improperly. Rosenberg told the student newspaper, “I’d like to convey to students the risk of being involved with women who have been drinking…. because later she may say she was sexually assaulted.”

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