A male student at Stony Brook University is suing the school for violating the Title IX process. He claims he was incorrectly found guilty of sexual misconduct despite being a victim himself. PUBLIC DOMAIN

A male student at Stony Brook University is suing the school and two SUNY employees for gender discrimination and for violating his due process rights.

The plaintiff, who is referred to under the pseudonym “John Doe,” filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Central Islip last month. He claims that due to several missteps in the Title IX process, he was unjustly found responsible for sexual misconduct despite the fact that he himself was a victim.

In March 2018, the plaintiff engaged in sexual intercourse with a female student referred to in the lawsuit as “BG.” According to the suit, the plaintiff was highly intoxicated at the time and had little to no recollection of the incident the next day.

Following the encounter, BG messaged the plaintiff and asked “Was yesterday intentional? Did you intentionally move away from vaginal sex and start with anal sex or was it a legit accident and you didn’t see what you were doing in the dark?” the suit states.

According to the suit, the plaintiff responded to BG’s messages, denying that he tried to engage in anal intercourse, at one point writing “[I don’t know] what you’re talking [a]bout but then again I was not sober at all so [I don’t know].”

BG then filed a complaint with the Title IX Office alleging that the plaintiff had engaged in non-consensual anal intercourse with her. The plaintiff responded with a counter-complaint alleging that he was the one who had been sexually assaulted since he was intoxicated at the time of the interaction and was therefore unable to consent.

In addition, the plaintiff claimed that prior to the incident, he had rebuffed several romantic advances from BG, and that her complaint was a retaliation against his rejection.

According to the suit, this was not the only incident in which BG violated SBU’s Student Code of Responsibility. The plaintiff claims that shortly after BG filed her complaint, she posted his name and photo to social media with a caption describing him as her rapist and inciting her followers to “beat [Plaintiff] up.”

Ultimately, the university’s Title IX office did not find BG guilty of any misconduct, the suit stated.

The plaintiff, on the other hand, was found responsible for violating the Student Code of Responsibility. He was suspended from the university, placed on disciplinary probation, stripped of his scholarship and had his transcript permanently marked to show that he committed a sexual misconduct violation, according to the suit.

The suit states that Stony Brook’s Title IX office refused to follow the rules spelled out in the most recent version of the Procedural Code, and instead, chose to follow an older code that was no longer in effect.

The plaintiff also claims that BG was given preferential treatment by Title IX officials on the basis of gender. For instance, the suit states that officials turned a blind eye when BG violated certain procedural rules. The suit also states that the Title IX investigators questioned the plaintiff more aggressively than they did BG during the hearing. 

According to the suit, some of the evidence submitted by BG appeared to either be fabricated, coerced or unverifiable. “The Review Panel’s determination that Plaintiff was ‘Responsible’ for sexual misconduct is not supported by any credible evidence much less a preponderance of the evidence as the Review Panel’s Disposition and Hearing transcript plainly demonstrate.”

The plaintiff is seeking damages as well as injunctive relief which would restore his scholarship and clear any wrongdoing from his transcript.

“The purpose of this lawsuit is to make sure that going forward, [Stony Brook’s] procedures for these types of allegations are fair,” the plaintiff’s attorney, Stanislav Gomberg, told The Statesman.

The effectiveness of current Title IX rules have been called into question by Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. DeVos recently proposed several changes to Title IX that would raise the bar for finding someone responsible for committing sexual assault or harassment

When asked for the university’s comment on the matter, a spokesperson for Stony Brook provided the following statement: “The University is unable to comment on pending litigation. Further, Federal privacy laws prohibit the disclosure of student information.”