With due-process suit settled, UI student appears to have been readmitted

With due-process suit settled, UI student appears to have been readmitted

URBANA — A student dismissed from the University of Illinois for an alleged sexual assault has settled his federal lawsuit with the university.

The student, identified only as John Doe, lost his case in July but later appealed it.

He was originally dismissed in April 2017 for 2½ years, with the possibility of readmission after that.

Under the settlement, Doe was able this fall to petition for readmission in next year's summer or fall terms, about 2½ years after he was dismissed.

If accepted, Doe agreed to dismiss his appeal, the settlement said, a copy of which was obtained by The News-Gazette through an open records request.

He apparently was readmitted as the appeal was dismissed, though UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler declined to confirm or deny that due to federal regulations.

The university also agreed that if Doe was readmitted, it would remove the dismissal notation from Doe's transcript, to maintain other discipline and dismissal records according to standard protocol, and to not describe Doe's time away from enrollment as voluntary, if asked.

Doe will need to retake classes he was in when he was dismissed.

Both sides agreed not to discuss the settlement, and Doe's lawyers, Chicago-based Mark Roth and Bob Fioretti, did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Doe, a sophomore at the time of the incident, allegedly sexually assaulted "Jane Roe," then a senior, in the early morning hours of Dec. 4, 2016.

After an investigation, a review panel concluded that after a night of drinking, he convinced Roe's friend that he could take Roe home, took her instead back to his apartment and had sex with her.

Roe told investigators that she repeatedly told Doe "no" and that she does not do "hook-ups."

After being dismissed, Doe filed a federal lawsuit criticizing the UI's process for handling sexual-assault cases, arguing that his due-process rights had been violated.

In addition to arguing that the sex was consensual, Doe's lawyers took issue with the UI's process for investigating sexual assaults, arguing that he was only interviewed once, several weeks after the alleged assault; wasn't allowed to review the final investigative report; and wasn't allowed to attend a hearing to present his side of the case and cross-examine witnesses.

In the UI's process, an investigator interviews both parties, who can give supporting information and identify witnesses. The investigator then compiles a report that both parties can review and submit a response to.

Then the investigator compiles a revised report, which both parties can also submit responses to.

The final investigative report is then submitted to a three-person panel, which meets with and questions the investigator.

The panel then makes a decision by a simple majority vote using the "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof.

In July, U.S. District Court Judge Colin Bruce ruled in the UI's favor but urged it to change how it investigates sexual-assault claims.

Bruce said Doe wasn't entitled to due process in this case because he didn't prove that he suffered a "tangible loss" after being dismissed.

But he criticized the UI's investigative process.

While the UI doesn't need to "implement a full blown criminal trial with counsel, the right to cross-examine witnesses, or the reasonable doubt standard," he said that "at the very minimum, an accused party should be able to present his or her case to the person or people who actually decide their fate."

Kaler said the settlement doesn't mean the UI thought it would lose during the appeal.

"The university often works to amicably resolve legal matters and avoid potential litigation, even if the university is confident it would prevail if further litigation was pursued," she said.

This due-process lawsuit was one of several filed since 2011, when the U.S. Education Department issued its "Dear Colleague" letter that said colleges should use a "preponderance of the evidence" standard in sexual-assault cases.

Last year, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded the letter, allowing colleges to use the higher "clear and convincing evidence" standard.