Editor’s Note: Neither student involved in this case has been named. Some publications have called them John Doe and Jane Roe. For the purpose of this article, they will be referred to as John and Jane.
In November of 2019, two Indiana Wesleyan University students had an interaction on campus, which the female student reported to the school as sexual assault. In addition to the sexual assault report, the female student also claimed that the male student transmitted HIV to her during the attack.
According to an article from The Indiana Lawyer, John has now sued IWU over the handling of the sexual assault investigation, which took place following Jane’s accusation three days after the alleged sexual assault. Just three weeks after that, the school found that John had been in violation of university policy and decided to expel him for at least one year.
John has now made the argument that he was discriminated against by the university, due to his gender, and filed a complaint in January with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, using Title IX protections to make his case.
Title IX says “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
John’s lawyers were able to get the court to “grant their motion for expedited discovery,” and it was then that they learned Jane had also accused John of giving her HIV, of which they were not previously made aware.
Following that discovery, John and his lawyers decided to sue for “breach of contract, defamation and negligent infliction of emotion[al] distress,” and they have now named specific school officials in their lawsuit, along with Jane herself.
Documents show that Jane had told both the dean of students and an associate professor that John had raped her and that she had tested positive for HIV. However, when the dean of students met with John to discuss the incident and the school’s decision to expel him, he did not tell John that Jane was claiming she contracted HIV from the sexual assault.
John’s lawyers told The Indiana Lawyer that either “IWU believed Roe was lying but did not see any reason to question her credibility or believed Roe was telling the truth but did not care about the health and wellbeing of Doe,” and then said, either way, IWU’s actions were “reprehensible and shocking.”
According to John, he was not HIV positive at the time of the alleged sexual assault but said he was concerned that, if Jane was positive, she could have actually infected him. He also said it was an inconvenience for him to leave his home in California in order to get tested for HIV at a clinic, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and California’s stay-at-home orders.
Nevertheless, John did get tested, and the test came back negative.
Indiana Wesleyan filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying that John’s claims are not supported by facts and that “…Title IX does not provide for a ‘do-over’ of student disciplinary proceedings in court.”
The university’s motion continued by arguing:
Regardless, a decision to believe a woman over a man is not tantamount to gender bias. Indeed while Plaintiff’s allegations make clear ‘his disagreement with weighing evidence and making credibility determinations,’ they ‘do not show evidence of gender bias,’ which is ‘required for a Title IX claim.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Education has made new recommendations for how Title IX cases should be handled, but, since none of those recommendations have taken effect yet, they do not impact John Doe’s case against Indiana Wesleyan.
Had those recommended policies been put into place before this case was filed, they would have provided that “all evidence gathered in an investigation into sexual misconduct be shared with all the parties and that hearings be held where the parties can have representation, ask questions and cross-examine witnesses.”
John has asked the court “to vacate IWU’s decision to dismiss him from school and remove any reference to the decision from his academic record,” arguing that trying to finish his degree somewhere else could cause financial hardship and that this incident could make it difficult to secure future employment.
We will update this story as new information becomes available.