On January 23, 2014, a former student filed a suit alleging that the college violated his Title IX rights and turned him into “the whipping boy that Swarthmore needed to demonstrate its new ‘zero tolerance’ standard” following his expulsion after an expedited sexual assault trial last spring. In the suit, which is available on the Phoenix website, the plaintiff, John Doe,* lays out the details of his relationship with Jane Doe,* a fellow Swarthmore student, and the trial process that followed.
The suit alleges that the alleged sexual misconduct took place in April 2011, followed by a consensual sexual encounter the next week. Nineteen months later, it continues, Jane filed a complaint with the college, which was closed after two months. In April 2013, two years after the alleged sexual misconduct, a group of students, led by Hope Brinn ’15 and Mia Ferguson ’15, filed Clery Act and Title IX complaints against the college with the U.S. Department of Education (DoE). The suit alleges that less than two weeks later, the case was reopened and was “the first case of alleged sexual misconduct heard after the federal complaints were filed.”
The suit alleges that given the complaints filed with the DOE and negative news coverage, John was “a male accused of sexual misconduct at the wrong time and in the wrong place.” Claiming that the Swarthmore sexual assault policies “afford varying rights to women and men,” the suit alleges that Swarthmore has violated Title IX policies and many of its own policies in its investigation of the allegations against John, largely as a part of the college’s attempt to expedite the trial process. These violations, the suit concludes, show that “Swarthmore’s policies fail to afford students accused of serious sexual misconduct with fundamental due process rights.”
As such, the suit requests compensatory damages and John’s immediate reenrollment at the college, as well as the correction of John’s academic and disciplinary record.
Philadelphia Magazine reporter Simon van Zuylen-Wood uncovered the case while investigating the dropping of another case filed against the school, in which three students sued the college and four administrators for their failure to “promptly and appropriately investigate and respond” to their allegations of sexual assault. That case, which is also available on the Phoenix website, was dropped after “there came a point where the plaintiffs would have had to reveal their names if they wanted to proceed with the suit,” van Zuylen-Wood wrote.**
* Both names are pseudonyms used in the suit to protect the anonymity of the students.
**This quotation has been updated to reflect a revision made in the original Philadelphia Magazine article.