PSU accused of changing definition of ‘consent’ in sexual misconduct case
WILLIAMSPORT – Penn State has been accused of changing the definition of “consent” so it can find for a second time that a student engaged in sexual misconduct.
A 19-year-old sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering identified only as John Doe makes the allegation in a civil rights suit filed Thursday in U.S. Middle District Court.
The Schreyer Honors College student claims his due process rights have been violated and seeks an injunction preventing further disciplinary proceedings, expungement of his record and unspecified damages.
A Title IX panel earlier this year found Doe pressured and cajoled a female student into having sex and suspended him for one year.
But an appeals officer set aside the finding saying the panel misinterpreted the Penn State’s definition of “consent” and ordered a hearing before a new disciplinary panel that is scheduled for July 26.
Doe claims this Tuesday the university provided him a copy of the new “coercion” definition that includes “cajoling” as conduct that negates consent.
According to the suit, Doe and the female, identified as Jane Roe, met in the spring of 2017 during new student orientation. She also is in the honor college.
They met again Jan. 26, 2018, in a computer lab and started talking. That turned into mutual flirting, Doe claims. His complaint gives this account of what happened next:
They exchanged text messages, she went to his room, they cuddled, she asked if he ever had been tested for sexually transmitted diseases and she disclosed she had had sex with five other male partners in the past month.
They continued to exchange text messages and two days later, at Roe’s request, he went to her room where they engaged in sexual activity.
Roe in July 2018 filed a complaint in the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response alleging Doe had digitally penetrated her without consent.
Doe was informed this past April 12 the panel had found the evidence supported he pressured and cajoled Roe into having sex with him.
Its ruling stated the sex was nonconsensual despite Roe’s explicit verbal consent because it was the product of Doe’s flattery.
Doe appealed and on May 23, Danny Shaha, assistant vice president of student affairs, intervened saying the panel may have misinterpreted the university’s definition of “coercion.”
Shaha recommended a new hearing board with the assurance the definition of “coercion” and related concepts would be clarified.
Doe, who claims there was insufficient evidence to support of the findings of the first panel, charges the university retrofitted its consent definition in an attempt to insure a second panel would find him liable.
The delay in prosecuting him has affected his ability to transfer, which he said he had planned to do.
His complaint attacks the process the university uses to adjudicate sexual misconduct cases as did three previous suits two of which were settled out of court and the other was dismissed.
Penn State has a practice of not commenting on pending litigation.