College Students Turn to Courts After Facing Disciplinary Action
The topic of campus sexual assault has drawn a great deal of attention in recent months and, increasingly, people are beginning to acknowledge the need for fairness and protection of legal rights for not only the accusers, but also the accused. Recently, a young man filed claims in federal court in an effort to stand up to what he claims to be an overzealous disciplinary process that has unfairly denied him due process and an opportunity to obtain an education.
The newly-filed claim was made by Aaron Wildenborg, a student at St. John’s University who was suspended after a claim of sexual assault. Wildenborg states that his rights as a student were steamrolled by the disciplinary board of his university. In his lawsuit, Wildenborg states that he and his accuser were drinking together at a party together roughly one year ago. He had known the young woman from classes, but they were not closely acquainted. While Wildenborg had seen the young woman drinking earlier in the evening, he did not see her drink at a subsequent party, and only found that she had “sought him out” and was “hanging on his arm,” according to the suit. The two soon left for her dorm room, where Wildenborg claims he asked if the woman “consented to this” before the two became intimate. The following morning, the woman and Wildenborg chatted for a time before she drove him home. Wildenborg received a text from the woman later that day, asking if they had had intercourse, saying she had been drunk and couldn’t remember. Wildenborg told her that they had not.
Five months later, the woman made a claim that Wildenborg had committed sexual misconduct against her by having unwanted sexual intercourse with her. The woman later admitted that she had herself first made sexual advances toward Wildenborg without first obtaining his consent. Wildenborg was called before an adjudication panel, which used the relatively low “preponderance of the evidence” standard to determine that he had, in fact, engaged in misconduct, as the woman could not have offered consent to intercourse being as intoxicated as she was. Wildenborg was suspended until the woman graduates, which is anticipated to happen in two years.
Wildenborg claims in his lawsuit that this incident amounts to a violation of his rights under Title IX. He argues that the investigation conducted by the university was sloppy, that he was denied due process, and that the process as conducted by the university created a “backwards burden,” forcing the man to obtain consent to sexual acts the young woman first performed upon him. He is seeking reinstatement as a student to the university, a correction to his disciplinary record, reinstatement of his scholarship, and money damages, among other relief. When speaking to media, his attorney stated, “Increasingly, courts and the public are coming to the realize that when a postsecondary institution labels a student as guilty of sexual misconduct with little or no due process, and with only a cursory review of the facts and the application of little or no logic or commonsense, no student is served.”
If you are a Virginia college student facing campus disciplinary proceedings, make sure your rights are protected and you receive a fair hearing on the charges against you, and contact the dedicated and effective Charlottesville campus disciplinary defense lawyers St. John, Bowling, Lawrence & Quagliana, LLP for a consultation, at 434-296-7138.