University ordered to permit former student to take exams
Observer Staff Report | Monday, May 8, 2017
An unnamed former Notre Dame student who filed a lawsuit alleging he was unjustly dismissed from University less than a month before his graduation will be allowed to complete two final examinations that will allow him to complete his coursework, according to an amended opinion and order.
Judge Philip P. Simon ordered Monday that the University permit the student — referred to as “John Doe” in the legal documents — to take his final exams at a location off campus. According to the order, the University must grade John’s final exams and compute his final grades, but John’s degree may still be withheld and he will remain banned from campus and the Commencement ceremony.
According to the original lawsuit, John underwent “a difficult moment in his life when he was experiencing episodic depression including suicidal ideation, and was clearly in need of mental health resources and formative remedies.”
His ex-girlfriend perceived his repeated texts reaching out for support as harassment and dating violence, and the University deemed his conduct to be sexual harassment, the suit states.
The lawsuit alleges Notre Dame mishandled this case and conducted an investigation full of “procedural flaws, lack of due process and inherent gender bias, designed to ensure that male students accused of any type of sexual misconduct or harassment — concepts that do not apply to John’s conduct — are found responsible.”
Accusations that Notre Dame did not properly address incidences of sexual assault provoked the University to dismiss the accused student without undergoing a thorough investigation, according to the lawsuit. The suit states Doe’s ex-girlfriend took advantage of the Title IX policy to exercise a “personal vendetta” against him, as she was captured on video saying she hoped to “destroy” his reputation.
According to the suit, the University intervened in John’s therapeutic relationship with his psychologist, who had been treating him through the University Counseling Center (UCC).
After the student’s therapist wrote a letter on his behalf — detailing his desire to cease contact with his ex-girlfriend and showcasing the progress he made — the University “admonished John’s psychologist and made clear that the University Counseling Center was never again to advocate for male students accused of sexual misconduct.”
The suit states the male’s presence on campus “presents no danger,” so Notre Dame’s decision to dismiss him must be motivated by “gender bias” rather than by genuine concern for students’ safety.
University spokesperson Dennis Brown said in an email that the University had no comment after Monday’s judicial order.
Updated May 8 at 6:45 p.m.