Clark sued again for its handling of sexual misconduct allegations

Freshman says school unfairly found him guilty of sexual exploitation

A lawsuit filed against Clark University in Worcester is thrusting the college into the national legal debate about how charges of sexual harassment should be handled on college campuses.

A male freshman, identified in court papers as John Doe, says he was unfairly convicted of sexual exploitation by a panel of university administrators who didn’t allow him to review the details of the complaint against him or cross-examine his accuser.

The case, according to a story on the court filing in the Telegram & Gazette, appears to be a bit odd. Doe alleges that he and a sophomore at the university who was his freshman orientation mentor had consensual sex in September. The woman accused Doe of taking off his condom during intercourse, a charge he denied. The woman reported Doe to the university, which found him guilty of sexual exploitation and barred him from any campus leadership positions for a year and required him to undergo remedial training, including writing an essay about who was hurt as a result of what happened. Doe refused to write the essay.

The latest Doe case mirrors in some respects a case filed against Clark in 2015 by another John Doe. In that case, Doe was found guilty of rape and expelled from the university – all in 11 days, according to the complaint. He challenged the ruling in court, alleging he was treated unfairly by not being allowed to confront his accuser and present evidence showing text messages between him and his accuser suggesting they had a consensual relationship. He demanded $75,000 from the university; the lawsuit was settled in 2016.

The debate over how these sorts of incidents should be handled on college campuses is undergoing change at the federal level. Under President Obama, schools were urged to treat allegations of sexual harassment much more seriously or face punishment under Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination at federally funded institutions.

Jeannie Suk Gersen, a professor at Harvard Law School, said many universities panicked and in their rush to defend the rights of alleged victims of sexual assault began disregarding the rights of accused students.

“In recent years, it has become commonplace to deny accused students access to the complaint, the evidence, the identities of witnesses, or the investigative report, and to forbid them from questioning complainants or witnesses,” Gersen wrote in The New Yorker. “At many schools, including Middlebury College and the University of Pennsylvania, investigators and adjudicators have been trained to ‘start by believing’ the complainant rather than to start from a position of neutrality.”

By some counts, half of the students accused of sexual misconduct since 2011 have sued their schools, and half of the suing students have won court rulings in their favor or reached settlements with the college.

Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s secretary of education, in November proposed a series of changes to Title IX regulations on sexual harassment that have been attacked strongly by the left. The American Civil Liberties Union said on Twitter that the regulations favor the accused and “make schools less safe for survivors of sexual assault and harassment.”

Gersen, while taking issue with a number of provisions in the regulations, said that overall they would make the process of dealing with sexual harassment on college campuses much fairer. She said there would be a presumption of innocence going into the proceeding and all parties would be entitled to see all the evidence and participate in a live hearing where cross-examination would be possible.

The process to transform the regulations into law could take years (more than 100,000 comments pro and con have been filed on the DeVos proposal) and the final language, if Trump remains in office, will probably be challenged in court. In the meantime, the process of dealing with sexual misconduct on college campuses will keep playing out in the courts.




Tax talk picked up some momentum as two members of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board and the executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board called for more revenue for the T while passing a budget for the coming fiscal year. House Speaker Robert DeLeo, meanwhile, said tax deliberations would come later this year, separate from the budget process. (CommonWealth)

Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law legislation banning so-called conversion therapy. (MassLive) He also vetoed legislation for a third time lifting the family welfare cap. (MassLive)

The dust-up with Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins has put Baker in a very unfamiliar place: engaged in a high-profile conflict with a prominent Democrat. (Boston Globe) Among the ancillary issues that have been raised was Rollins calling out Baker for having an all-white cabinet. (Boston Herald) Former federal judge Nancy Gertner says Rollins is doing the right thing with her policy changes. (Boston Globe)


Boston Mayor Marty Walsh wants to rebuild the 3,400-foot Long Island Bridge, which once connected Moon Island in Quincy to Long Island in Boston Harbor, and open an addiction treatment center on the island, something Quincy officials have been fighting since Walsh announced the plan last year. Both sides rehashed their concerns at a meeting Monday night. (Patriot Ledger)

A Herald editorial criticizes a proposal to raise parking meter rates in Boston.

The affordable housing stock in Wenham would push past the 10 percent target with the completion of a 45-unit senior housing development, which town meeting approved for funding on Saturday. (Salem News)


Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito has outpaced Gov. Charlie Baker in campaign fundraising over the first three months of 2019, pulling in more than twice as much as the governor’s $116,000 haul. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh raised more than either of them in that time.  (Associated Press)

Jay Gonzalez, who was defeated by Baker in 2018, was named a partner at the law firm of Hinckley Allen. (State House News)


Actress Felicity Huffman and 12 other parents pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with the college admissions scandal. (Boston Herald)

Gov. Charlie Baker appointed James Campanini, the former editor of the Lowell Sun, to the Middlesex Community College Board of Trustees. The former editor hopes to help with the college’s “branding and exposure.” (Lowell Sun)

Northeastern University senior vice president Michael Armini ripped a Sunday Globe Ideas section article, saying it relied on rehashing a “sloppy” 2014 magazine article to falsely charge that Northeastern is caught up in the college admissions scandal. (Boston Globe)


A STAT report says donations from the Sackler family, which owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, to a Tufts School of Medicine center helped burnish the family image and arguments on behalf of opioid treatment.


The Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice aims to conquer sexist tropes and make jazz a more welcoming musical space for women. (WBUR)


With riders saying foul odors are the MBTA’s biggest cleanliness problem, agency officials are developing a contracting scheme to deal with that problem and a host of others. (CommonWealth)

T notes: Officials estimate the cost to maintain a simple bus shelter is $7,000 a year, and some say that number is way too low…. A draft capital spending plan for the next five years includes hefty investments in the Green Line but little funding for South Coast Rail or a Red-Blue subway connection. (CommonWealth)


The Clean River Project wants the state to fund the purchase of a boat that can clean the trash that mixes with sewage in the Merrimack River. (Eagle-Tribune)

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on proposals released  last week to allow coyote and waterfowl hunting in Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge and general game and waterfowl hunting in the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge. (Cape Cod Times)

The Merrimack River Watershed Council has fired its executive director, Rusty Russell, who said he was told he hadn’t been raising enough money. (Eagle-Tribune)


With the Wynn Resorts casino license on the line, Wynn CEO Matt Maddox ordered his security chief to go. The security chief, James Stern, admitted spying on employees and the ex-wife of the founder during hearings last week before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. (CommonWealth) Joan Vennochi says the state gambling commission should insist that Maddox be booted from the company as a condition of Wynn retaining its Everett casino license and that Elaine Wynn, ex-wife of founder Steve Wynn, be ordered to reduce her stock ownership share. (Boston Globe)


US Rep. Devin Nunes of California sues the McClatchy newspaper chain, and specifically the Fresno Bee, for “character assassination.” He sued Twitter a month ago for allowing its users to insult him. (New York Times)