PSU settles lawsuit in student sexual misconduct case
WILLIAMSPORT – An out-of-court settlement has been reached in one of three suits against Penn State over the way the university investigates and disciplines students accused of sexual misconduct.
Terms were not included in the settlement notice filed Friday in U.S. Middle District Court.
A spokesperson for the university and one of the plaintiff’s attorneys had no comment other than confirming settlement.
Judge Matthew W. Brann had been advised in January the parties were engaged in settlement discussions.
The plaintiff, identified only as John Doe, immigrated to the United States in 2002, became a citizen eight years later, and was living in California when the lawsuit was filed.
The litigation stems from a Title IX panel that found Doe violated the university’s Student Code of Conduct by engaging in nonconsensual sex with a woman identified as Jane Roe in her dorm room Sept. 7, 2016.
He says he went to her room after she sent him a text message suggesting they study together. Both were in a pre-med affiliated with Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia.
Doe claimed she tried, unsuccessfully, to seduce him; she said he tried to kiss her and groped her, putting his hand under her clothes.
Doe contended the disciplinary process in sexual misconduct cases is tainted by anti-male bias and it violated his due process rights.
The university responded the investigation was “fundamentally fair” and denied that its disciplinary process is gender biased.
Penn State uses an investigator to gather the facts and prepare a report that is submitted to the parties involved for review and comment. The final report is forwarded to a case manager who determines if it reasonably supports a Code of Conduct violation.
If charges are issued and the respondent contests them, the matter is referred to a Title IX panel, which holds a hearing and may impose sanctions, as it did with Doe.
A preliminary injunction Brann issued Aug. 18, 2017, prevented the university from enforcing sanctions against Doe, which included suspension for the fall semester and bans from campus housing and the pre-med program.
A month later the university notified Doe the panel’s findings and sanctions were vacated and he would be retried. Penn State later abandoned those plans.
Two other suits that similarly challenge the disciplinary process are pending before Brann.