Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

In a petition to the Tompkins County Supreme Court, John Doe claimed Cornell's investigation violated New York State Education Law.

July 3, 2016

Student Sues Cornell, Claiming Mistreatment in Sexual Assault Investigation

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A Cornell student is suing the University for alleged unlawful conduct during a sexual assault investigation, according to court documents obtained by The Sun.

The student, identified as “John Doe” in the documents, submitted a petition to the Tompkins County Supreme Court on May 10 requesting that Cornell pause disciplinary proceedings while his suit is ongoing and pay him at least $500,000 in compensation for his suspension.

Doe claims that Cornell did not provide him with a hearing, that the investigation against him was biased and delayed and called his suspension from the school “arbitrary and capricious.”

His petition argues that the University’s actions, as well as its compliance with sexual assault investigation Policy 6.4 — which was criticized in a December 2015 report and is currently undergoing revision — violated Section 6444(5) of New York State Education Law.

Doe’s suit is nearly identical to that of Wolfgang Ballinger ’17, who was accused of assaulting a student in his room at the Psi Upsilon fraternity this winter and also filed a petition in May claiming that Cornell’s investigation of the incident was “flawed.”

Doe is a member of Cornell’s Theta Delta Chi fraternity and intended to graduate in January 2017 prior to his suspension, the documents said.

Alleged Assault

In Doe’s formal written complaint, he alleged that a female student — called “Jane Doe” in the documents — visited his fraternity house the night of Sep. 17, 2015 and was sexually aggressive toward him. She pinned him to his bed after they began kissing and punched him in the testicles when he rolled her off him, the documents said.

Jane Doe’s account of the incident alleged that John Doe was the aggressor, pulling her hair and choking her, according to the documents.

The petition added that neither party was intoxicated and no sexual intercourse occurred.

University investigators issued no contact orders to both parties but only temporarily suspended John Doe, the petition said. Doe successfully appealed to have his suspension lifted on Oct. 15.

Doe said that throughout the process, investigators behaved in ways “that presupposed his guilt” — including suspending him without hearing his version of events and speaking to him “in an accusatory and intimidating manner” — according to the documents.

Suspended Again

Following the recommendations of Cornell’s investigator, the University suspended Doe again in the middle of the Spring 2016 semester, but reversed the decision April 26, the documents said.

His suspension will be stayed until the Policy 6.4 process is completed; Doe has appealed to have it completely annulled, according to the petition.

The petition repeatedly stressed Doe’s “stellar” academic reputation, saying he maintained a 3.8 GPA while enrolled in a “grueling schedule” as a math and physics double major.

The document also claimed that the repeated suspensions caused him “grave emotional distress and mental anguish” and damaged his academic career.

If the court approves his petition, investigations will halt until Doe receives a hearing to resolve all allegations against him, the documents said.

The University will issue an official legal response to Doe’s suit by July 13, according to The Ithaca Voice.