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Amended Complaint

Here is the 3rd Amended Complaint for the Safety Dance sexual assault case.

1) If you are interested in a week-long review, please let me know! As best I can tell, reader interest is lagging . . .

2) Summary: Male Williams student engages in two year long sexual relationship with female student-then-employee. In middle of that relationship, it is alleged that the two had sex without the female providing “affirmative consent.” That is, the male is not accused of a “rape” that any US prosecutor would ever pursue. The woman did not resist or say any form of “No.” Male student finishes all requirements for graduation but Williams expels him for sexual assault and refuses to give him his degree. He has sued.

It is a hard case to summarize! If anyone has a better version, leave it in the comments so that I can use it going forward.

3) I have not read the whole Complaint. (What do our readers think?) But it still seems sloppy to me, e.g.,

fulltime

It is impossible (?) to be a “full-time” student at Williams for 5 years. And there is no reason for Rossi, Doe’s attorney, to claim otherwise! Isn’t it the case that Doe was thrown out of Williams for a semester (if not a full year) because of a prior sexual assault case? And, during that time, he was not, I think, a student at Williams. (Although maybe you are still, officially, a Williams student even if you are currently away?)

4) Why won’t the College just give Doe his degree?

purpose

Does anyone disagree? I could, perhaps, understand why the College might fight to enforce an expulsion if settlement required allowing the accused student to come back on campus. But why the Ahab-like insistence om preventing Doe from getting his degree?

5) Can anyone provide more details on educational options for students expelled from places like Williams?

restrictions

Several students (how many?) have been expelled from Williams over the last 5 years for sexual assault. What happens to them? Presumably, they still want/need a college degree? Are they allowed to transfer to other schools? Can they use their Williams credits? I don’t know . . . but surely our readers do! In case it matters, Doe is a New York State resident. Could he transfer (almost) all his credits to some SUNY school, take a class or two, and then get his degree? Or would SUNY deny his transfer application because of his expulsion from Williams?

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Safety Dance Continues III

Let’s discuss the latest Safety Dance court order (pdf). Day 3 of 3.

s3

Other highlights:

1) Good sign for Doe that the Court recognizes the sloppiness/malice of the Williams process. They were out to get Doe from the beginning and, in the end, they got their (former) Eph.

2) New complaint is due May 12. Let’s hope (?) that Rossi, Doe’s attorney, gets her act together and produces a better pleading.

3) Any predictions? I guess (?) that it made sense for the College to fight up until this point on the (realistic?) chance that the case might have been thrown out. But now? Settle the case! Give Doe his degree.

Do other readers think the College should fight? If so, why?

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Safety Dance Continues II

Let’s discuss the latest Safety Dance court order (pdf). Day 2 of 3.

s2

rossiThat is a fairly harsh smackdown of Doe’s attorney, Stacey Elin Rossi. Are such direct criticisms of lawyerly competence common in court decisions? Are they justified in this case? Does this sort of language provide us with any clues as to where Judge Posner’s sympathies may lie?

lapp As we have commented before, no courtroom battle between the rich (Williams College and its highly experienced lead attorney Daryl Lapp) and the poor (John Doe, the son of poor Ecuadoran immigrants) is ever fair. But Lapp has been involved in several (a score?) of cases like Safety Dance. I believe that this is Rossi’s first. (Although the way that Title IX has evolved at Williams and elsewhere, she may eventually build up a thriving business. Informed legal commentary welcome!

The decision continues:

The evidence of gender-based discrimination offered in the complaint is thin. The unusual feature of this case, however, is that Plaintiff alleges that he was himself a victim of harassment, and even a physical assault, by the party he was alleged to have victimized. His allegations include claims that his own complaints of harassment were treated with less seriousness than the alleged victim’s complaints and that responsible administrators were more solicitous of her because of her gender than of him. At this stage, these allegations are sufficient to boost the complaint over the Rule 12 threshold.

A fair reading of the documents so far would convince most people that Doe’s allegations are most likely true. Smith, while a Williams employee, did slap him. His complaints were, obviously, treated much less seriously. The College was incredible solicitous of Smith. (And we still need to figure out how she got hired by Williams in the first place.) But the College will argue that, even if all of that is true, it was not driven by anti-male bias and that, therefore, Title IX does not apply. How can Doe demonstrate otherwise? What aspects of the case would you urge him to focus on?

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Safety Dance Continues I

Let’s discuss the latest Safety Dance court order (pdf). Day 1 of 3.

This is the best one paragraph summary of where we are:

s1

Kudos to Judge Michael Ponsor (and/or his clerk).

The central issues of the case are not so much: Is John Doe a bad guy? (Answer: Probably. It is not easy to get punished by Williams twice for sexual assault.) Nor is it: Should we believe Susan Smith? (Answer: Probably not. She is the very picture of a woman scorned.) The two key issues that the court will care about are:

1) What is the nature of the (implicit and explicit) contract between Williams and an enrolled student? The College would like to maintain that this contract is so loose that it can, more or less, kick anyone out, for any reason, and following any procedure that it chooses. As former Williams professor KC Johnson has blogged about extensively, several courts have been sympathetic to this view. Unfortunately (for Williams), courts in its jurisdiction have been less willing (at Amherst and at Brandeis) to grant the colleges free reign.[1] John Doe will argue that the College, implicitly, promises to not expel its students unfairly. Since he was unfairly expelled, the College has broken the contract.

2) Is there (and how can a plaintiff demonstrate) anti-male bias in disciplinary proceedings at Williams? This is a much harder task for John Doe, with much less support in other court cases. (Read The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities by KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor for more details.)

a) John Doe can try to provide evidence of anti-male comments/behavior at Williams, but we have not seen much of that in the exhibits so far. What we have seen is lots of anti-Doe comments and, to a lesser extent, anti-accused-students comments. But such complaints are more in the category of generic criticisms of the overall process itself. They aren’t anti-male per se.

b) Doe can try to argue anti-male bias on the basis of disparate impact:

Disparate impact in United States labor law refers to practices in employment, housing, and other areas that adversely affect one group of people of a protected characteristic more than another, even though rules applied by employers or landlords are formally neutral. Although the protected classes vary by statute, most federal civil rights laws protect based on race, color, religion, national origin, and sex as protected traits, and some laws include disability status and other traits as well.

Since all (?) the students punished by Williams for sexual assaults have been male, there is a case to be made. Of course, right-wingers like me think that disparate impact arguments are garbage, that we should no more expect an equal number of women (as men) to be expelled by Williams for sexual assault than we should expect an equal number of women (as men) to finish in the top 100 in the Boston Marathon. But there is no denying that, in other contexts, courts have used disparate impact to make findings of bias.[2]

Regardless of the above, however, Williams should settle this case. If they don’t, discovery will be a nightmare.

[1] I suspect that I am messing up terminology and other issues. Safety Dance is currently being adjudicated in a District Court. Could a lawyer-reader clarify whether Brandeis and Amherst precedents apply?)

[2] Has disparate impact ever worked as an argument in a college sexual assault case? Not that I know of.

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March Safety Dance Hearing

Latest update on Safety Dance:

Electronic Clerk’s Notes for proceedings held before Judge Michael A. Ponsor: Motion Hearing held on 3/28/2017 re [29] MOTION for Reconsideration filed by Williams College, [31] MOTION to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim filed by Williams College, [4] First MOTION for Preliminary Injunction John Doe v. Williams College filed by John Doe. Arguments heard. Court denies Motion for Reconsideration, denies Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Court takes Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss under advisement. Orders to issue. (Court Reporter: Sarah Mubarek, Philbin & Associates, 413-733-4078) (Attorneys present: Rossi, Lapp, Kelly) (Healy, Bethaney)

Can anyone interpret this?

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Safety Dance Affidavits

Latest filings in the Safety Dance case include: Affidavit 1, Affidavit 2 and Revised Memo in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss.

1) Why won’t the Record cover this case? I don’t think that they have provided a single update after their original article.

2) Why won’t the College settle? Just give Doe his degree and move on.

3) The longer this drags on, the worse things like for Williams. Check out those affidavits!

aff

This is from current (!) Williams employee Brian Marquis. I do not think that the Brzezinski he is referring to his Mika . . .

Settle the case!

How much of this heartburn does Adam Falk want? Consider the other affidavit, from current (!) Williams Security (!) officer Joshua Costa.

aff2

Settle the case!

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Overheard at Paresky: MORE Court Documents?!

(Hi everyone! I’m concerned eph, a member of the class of ’17 and your newest EphBlog author! Introduction post to follow – meanwhile, here’s the beginning of a new EphBlog series entitled “Overheard at Paresky”, where we’ll be discussing concerns of current students! Any news, tips, or leads you want to share, drop a comment or shoot me an email at concernedeph17 at gmail dot com!)

As two students enjoy their honey-nut buns on the bench outside Lee’s on a warm, sunny day:

Dude, I read the newest court documents on that sexual assault lawsuit. Did you see that part where there’s an actual ******* whistleblower that said they actually train committee members by telling them that the college’s rep is #1, like how disgusting is that, and that they just do whatever they want…

Indeed – an accurate account! Find the quote in the court documents here. While the skeptical among us may not be inclined to believe the words of one whistleblower, consider this quote from Dean Dave Johnson in John Doe’s original filing:

63. On March 8, 2016, Dean Johnson admitted to John and John’s sister, Lady Doe, that the disciplinary process is “unfair to students” and that the procedures are deliberately written in a way that allows Williams to maneuver itself in its favor. Johnson also stated that Pelaez should not have been aware of the outcome of the hearing or the likelihood of an appeal.

Corroboration! … or is Dean Johnson the whistleblower? Now we know that there’s an unfair adjudication process for students that at least one well respected, senior Dean knows about it.

And yet, still, here we are? *Sigh* More posts on this to come.

To the next point and to be fair, the administration does have a crucial responsibility to uphold the college’s reputation. Williams’ reputation is an asset – it’s how we all get jobs and into grad school! In fact, I am sure many of us came here because of the school’s reputation as an excellent institution of higher education. Even against the backdrop of a dodgy administration, Williams is a wonderful college filled with great and caring professors and staff and awesome students and kind alums, all of whom are very intelligent. Interestingly, though, because this issue is now, well, a lawsuit (hence public), Hopkins Hall did not even meet its supposedly greatest one priority! Instead, prospective students (and their parents!) will now be able to see and smell all our ghastly, dirty laundry. Gross!

Would readers be interested in more student perspectives on the current sexual assault lawsuit? The Record, unfortunately, doesn’t have much, but I am more than happy to pick up the slack!

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Safety Dance Second Amended Complaint

Here (zip) is a link to a zip folder of all the documents (including exhibits) associated with the latest amended complaint in the Safety Dance sexual assault care and here (pdf) is a highlighted version. Don’t have time to read all that? No worries. Former William professor KC Johnson provides this summary:

(1) Both parties to the case were unappealing. But unappealing students deserve fair treatment just as much as appealing ones.

(2) The accuser was a Williams employee, but received kid-gloves treatment throughout by Williams—in a way that would have been inconceivable if the employee were a man and the student he allegedly mistreated a woman.

(3) The employee had a pattern of filing what appear to have been retaliatory complaints against the student. Williams not only refused to treat the complaints as retaliatory, but refused to consider the effects of the first complaint’s failure on the employee’s credibility for the second complaint.

Beyond the troubling elements from the original complaint, the amended complaint raises four new areas of concern with how Williams handled the case:
Read more

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Safety Dance Defense Exhibits

Here are some of the defense exhibits from the Safety Dance sexual assault case: Exhibit E, Exhibit D, Exhibit C, Exhibit B, and Exhibit AA. From the last of these:

scorn

I realize that John Doe was probably an affirmative action admission at Williams, due to his ethnicity (Ecuadoran-American) and family income (low). But is it too much to ask that he get the quotation correct?! It is “like a woman scorned,” not “than a woman scorned.” Then again, perhaps we should be proud that accused-rapist Ephs are even educated enough to make a literary reference at all!

Does anyone have the energy to go through all 80+ pages of this document? Not me! But I can’t help quoting this section:

scorn2

Throughout, the red text is John Doe’s comments. From the document:

“literally all I ever wanted was to dance with you is that’s too much to ask?”

From the lyrics to Safety Dance:

‘Cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance
Well they’re no friends of mine.

I rest my case.

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Doe Expelled; Hearing Set for March 28

Latest update about the Safety Dance case includes these two documents: Williams – motion for new scheduling order and Feb 17 2017 Order. Key section:

doe_out

In other words, Doe’s appeal failed. He has been permanently expelled from Williams, even though he has completed all the requirements for a degree. Comments:

1) The Order highlights the set of documents that we will soon get to read, before the hearing on March 28. I am not sure if we will learn much more than we already know. John Doe behaved problematically throughout his time at Williams. But to expel him based a completely implausible accusation of sexual assault, an assault that happened in the middle of a two year consensual sexual relationship, is a travesty of justice.

2) The Record should provide more coverage of this case and should send a reporter to the March 28 hearing.

3) Biggest winners are the attorneys. Rossi/Kelly/Lapp are all going to get to bill many more hours than if the case were just settled.

4) Does anyone know why the College is insisting on continuing on this path? I could, maybe, understand that, if Doe were still a student, the College might want to permanently prevent him from coming back to campus. But he has completed all his course work. He has walked in the graduation ceremony. What possible purpose does this vindictiveness serve?

Readers should let me know if they want more or less coverage of this case.

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College Reply on Safety Dance

KC Johnson provides an excellent update/summary on the College’s latest filings (Memo in Support of Motion to Dismiss, Memo v PI and for stay and Kurker Memo) on Safety Dance. Comments:

1) KC’s summary and comments are perfect. Read them! For history’s sake, I have copied them in their entirety below the break.

2) The next hearing in the case is scheduled for January 11. Does anyone have details on exact time/location? Perhaps a reader will be there . . .

rossi3) Does anyone else have the sense that Doe’s attorney is overmatched? Has she ever litigated a case like this in the past? How do attorneys with law degrees from Western New England University School of Law stack up, on average, with attorneys with degrees from Northwestern? As EphBlog likes to point out, money talks (and often wins), and you can be certain that Williams is paying its attorneys much more than Doe can afford to pay his . . .

lapp4) Stop being so snotty EphBlog! And, besides that, Rossi (Doe’s lawyer) has an undergraduate degree from Columbia while the College’s main attorney (Daryl Lapp) has a BA from Swarthmore. Call it tie.

5) How much money have Doe and Williams spent so far? How much can they expect to spend if this case goes to trial? (I would love to get some reasonable estimates from our attorney readers.)

6) Although the details are confusing (to me), it appears that, officially, the College expelled Doe for a single instance of sexual assault against Smith. (She accused him of a variety of violations, including various forms of “relationship abuse.”)

date

First, assuming that this is correct, that the key event happened on September 1, 2014 (in the middle of their approximately two year relationship), did this occur on the Williams campus? (Classes were not in session but perhaps Smith/Doe arrived early.) Second, would it (should it?) matter if it occurred off campus? I can understand (maybe!) why the College feels the need to regulate events on campus. But to do so off-campus seems insane . . .

7) The College is pulling no punches:

punches

EphBlog readers knew about Doe’s prior record two months ago.

8) Can anyone explain the logic of Doe pursuing this case while the College is still going through its own process?

appeal

If I were the Court, I would find this persuasive. Why not wait until the College rules on Doe’s appeal of his expulsion? But, if I were the Court, I would also press Williams on just how long its appeal process is going to take. And, if I were a cynic, I would note that all the lawyers involved benefit from maximizing the paperwork generated and time spent on the dispute . . .

Would readers like me to spend a week going through these documents item by item? Or should I move on to other stuff?

UPDATE: John Doe has filed a Withdrawal of Opposition v Motion to Stay, meaning, I think, that there will be no hearing until after February 28, at which point the College plans to issue its ruling on Doe’s appeal of his expulsion.

UPDATE II: KC Johnson notes that the Motion to Stay has been granted, with the next hearing scheduled for March 2. So, it looks like the judge agreed with EphBlog (unsurprisingly!) and will wait for the College to rule on Doe’s appeal.

Read more

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EphBlog Appears in Safety Dance Court Documents

Latest filings in Safety Dance feature the College’s attempt to unmask John Doe, justified, in part, by citing EphBlog. Should we be horrified or proud?

The Memo in Support of Motion for Reconsideration provides the College’s argument.

mem1

1) What do readers think of the College’s attempt to unmask John Doe? Seems sleazy to me!

2) What do attorneys (especially MRL ’91 and WW) think? Is this a negotiating ploy?

Here is part of what Doe’s attorney Stacey Elin Rossi wrote in that e-mail:

mem2

Harsh but fair? Susan Smith has not come off looking good so far . . .

By the way, why was Rossi sending Smith e-mails like this last summer? John Doe’s complaint is with Williams refusal to grant him his degree. How was Smith still a part of the conversation in August?

mem3

The other (unnamed) blog is Academic Wonderland, maintained by former Williams faculty member KC Johnson. Should we be proud or embarrassed to be called out by Williams’s counsel in this context? Should we be upset not to be mentioned by name? Also, any lawyers care to chime on about our use of a photo from the Internet Archive? Do we really need anyone’s “permission?”

The Attachment 2 to Memo Reconsideration is a screenshot of EphBlog. I believe that this is the second time that EphBlog has appeared in a court document. Who among our loyal readers remembers the first?

John Doe’s attorney argues against in the Reply Memo in Opposition to Motion for Reconsideration.

mem4

Did College attorneys Daryl Lapp and Elizabeth Kelly really violate an (important?) rule of civil procedure? I have my doubts. They seem like serious players, as one would expect of the attorneys hired by Williams. (Harvard hires few idiots.) Comments welcome!

mem5

Seems to be that Rossi has the better argument here. Am I missing something?

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Amended Complaint in Safety Dance

An Amended Complaint has been filed in the Safety Dance sexual assault case. Most of it is the same as before, but there are some changes, especially at paragraph 174 (a-m) (pages 36ff) and 262 v and vi (page 64).

Highlights:

dance

Swear that I am not making this up! First, are we allowed to comment on the wonderful vibrancy that has come (via affirmative action?) to the Williams campus? Back in the day, if you were in a serious public relationship with girl A, it was considered bad form to rub up against girls B, C and D. Is this less true in Latin culture? Should Williams strive to encourage different behavior among its students?

Dick Swart’s ’56 classic question is, as always, relevant: Where did these people prep?

Second, I claim vindication on naming this scandal Safety Dance. Recall the song lyrics:

We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
‘Cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance
Well they’re no friends of mine.

Is it time for EphBlog to make a spoof video, changing the words of the song to match more closely the facts of this case?

saylor

Can we get some lawyer input as to whether the Brandeis case will be used as precedent here? John Doe’s attorney certainly hopes so!

groom

I think that is a good summary of the key points from John Doe’s point of view.

If a female student can have sex with a male student for two years and then, after a vicious personal falling out, accuse him of a one-time assault that happened in the middle of that two year period, provide no contemporary evidence, and cause the College to refuse to give him his degree, I think we are going to see a lot more men spend four years at Williams without a BA to show for the effort.

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Latest Documents from Safety Dance

Here (Proposed TRO Order2, Motion and Memo for Ex Parte TRO and 12_8_16 Court Order) are the latest court documents from Safety Dance.

1) Comments from our lawyer readers are welcome! What do these documents mean?

2) New argument is that the College’s refusal to give Doe his degree prevented him from applying to law school early. They are demanding that the College give his degree now so that he can apply via the regular decision process. This strikes me as smart (even if going to law school would probably be a bad idea for Doe.)

3) Is there another college sexual assault case in which the accused has completed all the requirements for a degree but the college refuses to grant it to him? I have not heard of one.

4) Looks to me like Williams has to provide an answer by December 22. Why won’t they just settle and give Doe his degree?

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Ashe Schow on Safety Dance

Ashe Schow, writing at Watchdog.org, provides a useful timeline of the events associated with Safety Dance. I have put the entire article below the break for posterity. Comments:

1) Would be great to get a shout-out for EphBlog or at least a reference to our name for the scandal: Safety Dance. How about it Ashe? ;-) At the very least, Schow ought to report how the initial version of the filings included both Doe and Smith’s real names. That is interesting!

2) The article is, by far, the best source for a clear timeline of the event associated with the case. Highly recommended.

3) However, is there a mistake in the first paragraph?

A male student from Williams College in Massachusetts accused his ex-girlfriend of sexual assault. A month later, she made a counterclaim against him. Guess whose accusation was taken seriously.

I don’t think (corrections welcome) that Doe ever accused Smith “sexual assault.” He accused her of assault (and/or battery) because she slapped him after the dance from which the scandal takes its name.

4) Given the editorial positioning if the Watchdog, I am surprised that Schow does not use Smith’s real name. Should I be?

Read more

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College Fix on Safety Dance

They start with a great headline:

College employee falsely accused student of rape so she wouldn’t get fired, lawsuit claims

This is much better than our first effort since it mentions the (obviously false) rape accusation. After reading the material associated with the case, no reasonable person would believe that John Doe sexually assaulted Susan Smith. However, I don’t think that Smith used the false rape accusation to avoid getting fired. The timing does not work out. This is much more likely to be a women-scorned scenario.

Williams College is withholding a former student’s diploma based on transparently false rape accusations by a college employee – his former lover – who believed her job was jeopardized by him, a new lawsuit claims.

The former student accused the once-religious private school of conducting an “inherently flawed” and “fundamentally unfair” rape investigation, in violation of his Title IX rights, and violating federal education privacy law.

1) Again, the most important (and indisputed!) facts of the case are that Smith/Doe were having sex for a year, then something happened one night, then they continued to have sex for another year. Now, obviously, sexual assault can occur in the middle of a long-standing sexual relationship. But there ought to be a fairly high standard of evidence required if you are going to ruin someone’s life in this scenario.

2) Why the College Fix uses the (accurate) description of “once-religious private school” for Williams is a mystery to me. Is this some sort of weird right wing tic?

To investigate the employee’s claims, the college hired the same person named in a lawsuit against nearby Amherst College that said her work was rushed and one-sided in favor of the accuser.

That would be Allyson Kurker, another person who makes money off of the weaponizing of sexual relationships in college. If you are accused of sexual assault, the last thing you want is Kurker to investigate the claim. From KC Johnson:

In the deposition, Kurker made clear that when accusers change their minds about whether they were sexually assaulted, what they previously said about their attack isn’t relevant to her inquiry. She added that she was interested in contemporaneous writings from the accuser only “to the extent that the incident is being described as nonconsensual.” Kurker continued: “The only e-mails that I would have found material” were those in which A.S. had described the incident as nonconsensual. This standard suggests that Kurker sees her job as not searching for—indeed, arguably concealing—potentially exculpatory evidence.

And Williams still hired her! There are dozens of Massachusetts attorneys who would love to get money from the College to investigate sexual assault claims. Why would Williams hire someone like Kurker who is so obviously biased against the accused? The naive answer is that Williams is incompetent, that it did not know about Kurker and did not bother to check out her previous work. The scary answer is that Williams knew all about Kurker, knew that she was biased against the accused and hired her anyway because, after all the complaints over the Lexie Brackenridge case, the College wanted to collect some scalps.

In May [2016], with less than a month before Doe’s graduation, Smith filed a counter-complaint with the Title IX office alleging that he had “displayed abusive behavior towards her during the past two years.”

Smith’s initial complaint provided few details as to the nature of her claim. During the Title IX investigation, which took place over several weeks and included several interviews with witnesses provided by Smith, she made several new allegations.

That timing is the strangest part of the case. It is May 2016. Smith graduated in 2015. Doe is weeks away from graduation. She tried to get him thrown up on trumped up honor code violations and failed to do so. She has been employed by Williams for almost a year but has been (I hope!) told that, given her behavior in striking (!) a student, the College will not be renewing her contract. The relationship between Doe/Smith has been over (really??) for months. So, why file a complaint now?

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First Impressions of Record Coverage of Safety Dance

A week and 2 days after its release, the lawsuit filed against Williams for botching a Title IX case (and violating FERPA, Mass. Privacy Act, etc.) has finally found its space on the Record.

First impressions/issues:

1. Why does the reporter keep using the word “allegedly” to describe materially factual events? For example:

After this event, Smith allegedly emailed former Dean of the College Sarah Bolton, stating that she had written essays for Doe in violation of the College’s Honor Code.

This is not an allegation. This is a material fact that is founded on material evidence, i.e. the actual email. So either there is confusion about the definition of the word “allegedly” or this is sloppy reporting.

2. The only contribution this coverage yields are neutered quotes from the college, but alas, we can only go to war with the army we have. Notably, Dean Sandstrom is quoted saying “Williams is committed to the safety of all its students.” This is logically equivalent to when someone says “I’m not a/an____…” and then later follows with an inevitable “but…” One example that comes to mind (first pointed out by Professor Michael Lewis earlier this year in the Record) is President Falk when he said, in an all campus email, “Free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard” and following with his inevitable “but” of disinviting speakers. Draw your own conclusions, but I see a pattern.

3. Why did it take 9 days from the release of the lawsuit for this to be published if all we get is an “alleged” summary of “alleged” events?

Either way, the article is suggestive of a first in many, since it leaves many crucial questions unanswered, so hopefully, we can anticipate that more substantive reporting will follow.

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Student Commentary on Safety Dance Complaint

Much of our best material comes from our commentators. For example, “wasting his tuition ’17” — who really ought to join us as an author — shared these thoughts:

As I ponder this case, there are two things most immediately clear to me: (1) given that this is John Doe’s lawsuit, the reporting of some details may have inevitably been skewed to his benefit, and as we don’t have the full side of Susan Smith, it is hard to ascertain who did what, and (2) what is factually verifiable by the complaint is the manhandling of the case by the College administration. Although Williams graces us with the luxury of choice with this case, I think that Pandora’s box is what should be investigated. There are many dimensions to this.For example, we can consider the different, colorful ways the Dean’s Office engages in college policy:

52. On the basis of information presented by Bolton behind closed doors and without affording John the opportunity to respond, the Committee said that it had no choice but to recommend expulsion as John’s sanction.


It is interesting that around this time, a group of Williams students were fervently campaigning for student representation in the Honor Code Committee (see: 8+4 Resolution). Was that related?

Another:

63. On March 8, 2016, Dean Johnson admitted to John and John’s sister, Lady Doe, that the disciplinary process is “unfair to students” and that the procedures are deliberately written in a way that allows Williams to maneuver itself in its favor. Johnson also stated that Pelaez should not have been aware of the outcome of the hearing or the likelihood of an appeal.

This knowing, explicit admission by a ranking Dean in Hopkins Hall of a flawed investigatory process suggests either tacit acceptance of this “unfair” process by a longtime administrator, or this longtime administrator’s incompetence at failing to do anything about it. If it is the latter, we ought to remember that Dean Dave’s experience prior to his current role is in coaching tennis, so we surely can’t blame him.

From the complaint that keeps on giving, we have:

The code of conduct, honor hearing procedures, violation reporting procedures, appeal procedures, etc. are ever-changing and continually edited with no notice to the students. The students have no way of knowing what the policies and procedures were at a past time unless they had downloaded the information themselves. A relevant example exists at http://sites.williams.edu/honor-system/suspected-violations/. Sometime at the end of March 2016, Plaintiff’s attorney cited the procedure when preparing this Complaint copying the standard for staff-reported infractions (see above). Since transcribing that information, changed sometime in April or May 2016, the procedure now states, “It is up to the Faculty Chair, in cooperation with the Student Chair and the Dean of the College, to determine whether to proceed with a hearing.” Before, it was solely up to the Faculty Chair and Student Chair to determine whether to proceed with a hearing.

Where are the accountability measures for changing policies? Who makes these changes? I’ve been here for three and a half years, and while I’ve yet to hear of any such procedures, there are many examples of the enforcement of these mystery policies by the Dean’s Office. One such example can be gleaned from our trove:

Also on March 8, 2016, Bolton told John and Lady Doe that John was “not allowed to appeal the sanction,” and that he can only appeal the fact finding portion of the hearing. The Honor Committee Appeals Procedures contain no provision barring students from appealing the sanction.

I’ve tried, and have yet to find any such procedures as well. This issue is not limited to the Honor Code Committee. The Committee on Academic Standing is gaining quite a reputation for making backwards decisions and telling students they are unable to appeal them, and then not saying why. Notably, there is also an athletics coach on that faculty standing committee. Same in the Honor Code Committee.

We further see how this just keeps getting better for Dean Sandstrom in an email she sent to John Doe:

The investigative report carefully lays out the relevant college policies that were in effect in 2013-2014, 2014-2015, and currently (see pages 4-8). While there were some shifts in specific language over time, there was always a code of conduct which prohibited sexual misconduct of any kind.

Who approves these “shifts in specific language”? Do the trustees? Does President Falk? I’ve also never seen these policies on printed paper; most are online, which makes it very easy for Dean Sandstrom slip in a word or two, as she or someone over there at Hopkins Hall clearly had. Again, where is the accountability? Who makes these decisions, and what processes and considerations do theses “shifts in specific language” go through?

For yet another example of curious specific language:

The College’s procedures limit appeals to i) significant procedural lapses or ii) the appearance of substantive new evidence not available at the time of the original decision. As such, the accused’s right of appeal remains highly circumscribed.

I find the word “lapses” in the phrase “significant procedural lapses” pretty interesting, but seeing as the college prefers to operate with a generous degree of flexibility with its definitions, I think one question we can reasonably ask is, lapses by whom? Since there was no new material evidence and it doesn’t seem like he did anything material in between appeals, did the Dean’s Office explicitly admit to incompetence by way of “significant procedural lapses” on their part by allowing him the opportunity? Is this the reason behind the last day (June 30, 2016) ex-Dean Bolton and Susan Smith shared at Williams?

Last one, I promise:

On October 21, 2016, the Hearing Panel convened. The Panel consisted of Ninah Pretto from the Dean’s Office; Steve Klass, Vice President for Campus Life; and Aaron Gordon, Administrative Director of Divisional Affairs and Vice President for Campus Life.

College policy says that the hearing panel is appointed by the Dean of the College and the three are drawn from a pool of staff who have been trained on such matters. I am curious as to what the policy means by “trained”. Steve Klass, who may warrant the benefit of the doubt given his experience here, and Aaron Gordon have careers built on operational roles and financial matters, it would seem, not sexual abuse cases. See here and here. Ninah Pretto, based on her LinkedIn, spent much of her career prior to Williams on immigration documentation and compliance, which, while valuable, do not constitute training in handling such cases. Why were three individuals inexperienced in these matters appointed to the hearing panel?

Curious to know your thoughts on these, and if you think they’re worth looking into as well. This is what I’m bothering my friends in the Record about right now, since a bunch of them are currently “torn” because they know either both or one of the parties.

The top few are great points that the Record ought to cover in detail. Contrary to some ill-informed commentary earlier, the Record comes out tonight. Perhaps you would join us as an author to provide a detailed analysis of their coverage?

But your later points are less relevant because they are the inevitable result of weaponizing Title IX in order to control the sexual relations among Williams students. Once you try to do this, endless language changes, regardless of who approves them, are unavoidable.

My current position: The College should dial back its sexual assault bureaucracy dramatically and stop using expulsion in such a ham-handed fashion. Give John Doe his degree and call it a day. To continue down this path is to ensure numerous embarrassing law suits — and destroyed lives — for years to come.

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Are Sexual Assault Investigations Biased Against Poor Minority Males?

Will the Record mention some of the sensitive PC issues associated with Safety Dance? For example:

only

True? Probably. Certainly, 90%+ of the cases must be against men. But the Record ought to find out the truth. Williams can’t reveal the students involved in individual cases, but it can discuss the overall statistics. It probably won’t but the Record should push the College to explain why not. If students in category X are much more likely to commit sexual assault, shouldn’t Williams admit fewer of them and/or devote more energy to educating them?

Even if Williams can’t admit fewer men, should it change the mixture of men which it admits?

ecu

I have talked to enough recent students to know that minority men on financial aid are much more likely to be charged with sexual assault at Williams and punished for it. John Doe fits this pattern. (The same is also true of varsity athletes, especially those playing helmet-sports.)

Recall that in the recent Amherst case (investigated by the same attorney (Kurker) who Williams employed on this case), the accused student’s lawyer claimed that:

After the College [Amherst] adopted its new policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct in May 2013, it aggressively began to prosecute alleged perpetrators. On information and belief, in doing so, the College targeted male students of color. In particular, on information and belief, the only students who have been sanctioned with separation from the College (forced leave, suspension, or expulsion) as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct have been male students of color.

My friends on the Alt-Right would claim that, first, minority men are much more likely to commit sexual assault than white men in the general population, so it stands to reason that the same dynamics would apply to elite colleges. Second, they would be perplexed at how often “minority” in this context means “Asian-American,” as in the headline cases at Amherst and Vassar. Asian-Americans are, of course, much less likely to commit sexual assaults than whites. Is sexual assault by Asian-American men on college campuses more likely than we might naively expect or is it that the college justice system is biased against them? Save this debate for another day.

The last PC issues worth pondering concern class and culture. Consider some of the speech/actions that John Doe is accused of:

Susan brought John as her date to her 100 Days Dance. They had an argument, and she told him that she wanted to leave the party because they weren’t enjoying it. John and Susan walked towards the door, but as she walked out of it, he stayed at the door and said something like, “Oh, you can’t come back in now.”

(Susan stated that once a person left the dance, the College did not allow reentry.) At the time that John tricked Susan into leaving the dance without him, he knew that she did not have her phone or ID with her because he was holding them. Without these things, she was forced to sit outside of her dorm (Dodd House) in 19-degree weather, in only a dress and heels, as she waited about an hour for someone to come by to let her in to the building.

This is one of many (not uncontested!) examples of John Doe acting like a cad. But, as the Exploring Diversity Initiative at Williams is designed to teach, cultures differ. In Ecuador, men are expected to treat women in a certain fashion. That particular example of diversity may not be what Williams is interested in having more of. Should the College, therefore, prefer applicants from some cultures over those from others?

Side note: John Doe, on his Linked-In reports that he is Williams College 2011-2015. The first problem, obviously, is that he is implying that he has a Williams degree when, in fact, he does not. The second problem is that this suggests (since he didn’t complete the required course work until the spring of 2016) that he took time off from Williams. There is at least one anonymous suggestion that the College forced him to take time off because of his behavior towards a female student. Any truth to that? Would that explain why Williams has come down so hard on him when the facts of this case, alone, would not justify such an extreme punishment?

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Notes for Record Reporting on Safety Dance

The leadership of the Record — Matthew Borin, Zoe Harvan and Christian Ruhl — faces some difficult questions in covering “Safety Dance,” the latest sexual assault controversy at Williams. Reader comments are wanted on all the below.

1) Do they mention the real name of the accused, currently called John Doe in the legal filings? We all know his name, both because of anonymous unmaskings at EphBlog and because his attorney was sloppy in her initial legal filings, as pointed out by MRL ’91. I am unaware of any journalistic standard which protects privacy in a case like this. But the Record, out of sympathy for a fellow Eph, may not want to out him for all of Google to see.

2) Do they mention the real name of “Susan Smith,” the student who accused Doe? There is a journalistic standard — as a Williams official has repeatedly told me! — that reputable publications do not publish the names of reported victims of sexual assault. But, in those cases, the reported victim has no other status in the story beyond that of victim. In this case, Smith is an admitted perpetrator. No one contests that she slapped Doe.

Imagine if the Record had gotten a copy of this March 13, 2016 cease-and-desist letter (pdf) from Doe’s attorney to Smith. It accuses a college employee (Smith) of assaulting a student (Doe). Would that be newsworthy? Of course! Would the Record be justified in publishing both Doe and Smith’s real names? Of course! So, Smith’s name would (should) have appeared in the Record back in March. Her actions alone justify a lack of anonymity. But then, two months later, she accuses Doe of a sexual assault that occurred a year prior. Does that after-the-fact accusation mean that the Record is not allowed to publish her name with regard to a different, albeit connected, news event? I don’t know.

3) Should the Record use material that was (incompetently?) redacted from the filings? Consider page 42 from exhibit 13 pdf. In the PDF, it looks like:

redact

Many of the filings feature this sort of heavy redacting (for reasons that are unclear to me). But, if you just copy-and-paste that into a text processor, you get:

Susan’s Third Interview

The alleged incident of non-consensual sex occurred on Labor Day in 2014, on the night that Matias Crespo hosted his first party of the semester. Susan responded to John’s contentions as follows:

o Susan estimates that she and John only attended two parties in Matias’s room that semester.

o Susan maintained that, with the exception of the September incident, she and John never had sex after consuming any alcohol. She disputed John’s contention that on some occasions, they would have sex after drinking between one and three drinks each. She stated that when they went out they would drink to the point of such intoxication that they would throw up together in their room, but they never had sex after drinking.

o With respect to Susan’s level of intoxication that night, she believes that John observed her shot-gunning a beer because he was also shot-gunning beers. She also recalls that she was drinking shots of Fireball.

o Susan’s last recollection before engaging in sexual intercourse was of her leaving Matias’s room. During sex, she recalls that she was “physically trying” to get away from John by attempting to “shift out from under him,” but he was restraining her, using his body weight and strength to “hold [her] down.” NB: Susan described herself to Ms. Kurker as “lying on her stomach.”

And so on. Everything in the filings that has been redacted is actually available. Should the Record use that information in its reporting?

4) Should the Record give EphBlog credit and/or reference our reporting in any way? If it only uses documents that it, on its own, got from PACER, then it probably does not have to, unless the reporter first found out about the case by reading EphBlog. Or maybe it should credit KC Johnson? Either way, if the Record uses filings that we have provided, then it ought to credit EphBlog. Specifically, I bet that if the Record uses the non-redacted (or sloppily redacted) filings — which it almost certainly got from us — it ought to mention EphBlog. It should not pretend that it is using documents from PACER unless it has gotten them from PACER itself.

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Scandal Name: Safety Dance

We need a name for the latest Williams controversy. Let’s go with “Safety Dance.” Why? Recall this detail from the complaint:

On the night of December 5, 2015, John attended a party on the Williams campus. While dancing with another woman, employee Smith confronted him for dancing with someone other than herself as she wanted to dance with him. When John walked away, Smith followed John. The time was sometime between 11:30 pm of December 5, 2015 to midnight of December 6, 2015. Smith followed John all the way to his dormitory. John pointed out Smith’s wrongdoing, that she had violated the terms of her employment by attending a student party, as Smith held the position of Alumni Coordinator at Williams. Smith slapped John. She also grabbed and took away his phone. John retreated to his room. Smith escalated the situation even further afterwards by telephoning John’s sister, Lady Doe.

And the lyrics from the song “Safety Dance”:

We can dance if we want to
We can leave your friends behind
‘Cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance
Well they’re no friends of mine.

I say, we can go where we want to
A place where they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind
And we can dance

Alas, John Doe has discovered that, leaving the real world far behind, is not so easy when it comes to the sexual assault bureaucracy at Williams . . .

PS. Not too late for readers to suggest a better scandal name . . .

UPDATE: Following conversations with both sides, and feedback from the EphBlog community, we have decided not to publish either John Doe’s and Susan Smith’s real names. We ask that commentators abide by this decision, although everyone is free to continue to argue about whether or not this decision is the correct one. Some post-hoc editing of prior posts will now begin. Apologies for any confusion that this causes in making sense of the comment threads.

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Should EphBlog Remove the Accuser’s Name?

A faithful reader strongly (albeit privately) suggested to me that EphBlog ought to remove the name of the Williams employee provided in this post because she is “the reported victim of a sexual assault.” Most (all?) major publication do not publish the names of reported victims. Strangely (?) enough, John Doe’s ’16 attorney, Stacey Elin Rossi, made the same request.

What do readers think? As always, the measure of a good Williams education is how well you can argue both sides.

For removal, the case is simple: This women, while a Williams student, was sexually assaulted. No reputable publication makes the names of sexual assault victims public without their explicit permission. Although EphBlog does not have to comply with this standard, it ought to.

For non-removal, the case is also simple: This women, while a Williams student, was not sexually assaulted. The people, including my faithful reader, who want to us to remove her name are either honestly confused or purposely misleading. Consider this section from the Complaint:

panel

You need to read the report for all the messy details, but the central claim is that these students were having sex for a year. One day something may have happened. Then they continued to have sex for another year. Then they fought, broke up, she hit him and tried to get him thrown out of Williams on a trumped up honor code violation. Then she mentioned the sexual assault, more than a year after it allegedly happened. Nothing suspicious there!

Most importantly, I want to reserve the term “reported victim of a sexual assault” for cases of actual, you know, sexual assault. Or at least for cases where a sexual assault might have occurred. If everyone is a victim of sexual assault than no one is. Consider:

panel2

Here (pdf) is the highly redacted copy of the investigators report. And here (pdf) are John Doe’s ’16 comments. Just because Williams College wants to railroad this (minority!) student does not mean that EphBlog needs to go along with it.

What do readers think?

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College Employee Assaults Student

That is a misleading headline. But it isn’t untrue! From former Williams faculty member KC Johnson:

Adoption of the Dear Colleague letter in 2011—coupled with campus pressure from activists and their faculty and administrative allies—has paved the way for all sorts of procedural abuses in campus sexual assault cases. This new system is one that’s ripe for abuse and favoritism, in all sorts of ways. The latest example comes in a lawsuit filed against my former employer, Williams College. (You can read the complaint here.)

The case revolves around the actions of a former Williams employee, who worked in the Alumni Relations office for the 2015-2016 academic year. She came to the job after graduating from Williams. For more than a year before she graduated, the employee dated another Williams student—identified as John Doe in the complaint—who was one year behind her academically. The two were close enough that the employee knew Doe’s computer password and (allegedly) his Facebook and Snapchat passwords.

It seems to have been an uneven relationship; in October 2014, the employee (then still a student) wrote to Williams dean Sarah Bolton indicating that she and Doe had a (verbal) argument. (Bolton departed Williams last summer and is now president at the College of Wooster.) Because “he ended up calling me selfish and telling me he can’t even look at me,” the future employee reported, she’d need to take a week off from school to recover emotionally. The e-mail contained no hint of any allegation of physical misconduct by Doe. Bolton responded very sympathetically, despite the extreme nature of the request (a week off from classes) given the conduct alleged (a personal insult).

Read the whole thing. It is off the hook, as the kids say. At one point, the Williams employee slapped the Williams student. Even though the student has completed all the requirements for graduation, the College has since expelled him, without a degree. Comments:

dcp11) We need a scandal nickname. Suggestions? The Williams employee accused of assault is REDACTED ’15. Perhaps “REDACTED?” Maybe “Safety Dance?” (The big fight between Doe and REDACTED started when Doe danced with someone that REDACTED did not want him to dance with. “We can dance if we want to, we can leave our friends behind. …”)

2) I could spend all of January going through the details. Many friends of EphBlog (Dean Dave, Brooks Foehl ’88, Steve Klass) make cameo appearances. Would readers be interested?

3) The facts in the complaint are absolutely damning to Williams. (I realize that this is just one side of the case, but read it for yourself.) Why doesn’t Williams just settle and allow Doe to have his degree? Taking this to trial seems like madness to me.

4) I used to congratulate Williams on being fairly competent when it came to sexual assault investigations. There were certainly no absurd cases as at Vassar and Amherst. That is no longer true. Is new Dean of the College Sandstrom to blame?

5) If the Record does not have multiple front page articles on this story tomorrow, it is incompetent.

UPDATE: Student names redacted. Going forward, we will refer to the female student/employee as Susan Smith and the male student as John Doe, following the latest version of the legal filings.

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