Where the male student alleged the university acted with an anti-male bias by not interviewing his selected witnesses or the other party accused of sexual assault by the accuser, refusing to consider his polygraph results without reviewing the scientific literature on polygraphs, and operating under pressure by the Department of Education for not sufficiently addressing complaints of sexual assault and harassment, his Title IX claim survived the university’s motion to dismiss.
John Doe, a former undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, or UVA, claims that UVA and its employees wrongfully expelled him based on false sexual assault allegations in violation of Title IX and the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. He also alleges breach of contract and tortious interference with contractual relations claims. Defendants move to dismiss his complaint.
Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged evidence of procedural irregularities to support an inference of sex discrimination. Plaintiff alleges that UVA discriminated against him on the basis of sex by “granting preferential treatment to his female accuser throughout the investigation and adjudication of her claim and manifesting prejudice against [plaintiff] as a male student throughout the same.”
He specifically alleges that UVA, through its investigator and review panel, acted with an anti-male bias by: (1) not interviewing his selected witnesses or Jacob Doe, the other party accused of sexual assault by Jane Roe; (2) refusing to consider his polygraph results without reviewing the scientific literature on polygraphs and (3) not permitting plaintiff to meaningfully challenge testimony during the review panel hearing.
He also alleges that the investigator during the review panel hearing stated that she “could go on and on and on as to [her] opinions [about the parties] but that may not be fair to [plaintiff].” In addition, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence used to find him guilty of sexual assault and harassment. Plaintiff also claims his investigation and disciplinary hearing occurred when UVA was under pressure from the Department of Education’s letter to UVA, which found that UVA had violated Title IX by not sufficiently addressing complaints of sexual assault and harassment.
To state a procedural due process claim, plaintiff must show (1) he had a constitutionally cognizable life, liberty, or property interest, (2) that was deprived by state action (3) without due process. Defendants argue that plaintiff fails to show that he had a protected Fourteenth Amendment property or liberty interest in his continued enrollment or reputation. The court agrees.
Plaintiff alleges that throughout the Title IX process he was treated differently than Jane Roe, his accuser, on the basis of his sex, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. He specifically argues that he was similarly situated to Jane Roe because they were both UVA students “entitled to the same procedural protections embedded in the Title IX process at the University.”
Plaintiff cites no case law to support his argument that an accuser and an accused are similarly situated for purposes of an equal protection claim, and other courts have rejected such an argument. The court agrees with these cases and finds that plaintiff, the accused, was not similarly situated to Jane Roe.
Plaintiff alleges that he accepted UVA’s admission offer by agreeing to pay tuition, and in exchange, UVA would provide him an education. He further claims that he and UVA agreed to be bound by UVA’s policies and that UVA breached its “policies and procedures in its adjudication of the complaint against” plaintiff.
District courts in the Fourth Circuit have declined to recognize tuition as a basis for an implied contract between a student and a university under Virginia law. Plaintiff cites no case in which a Virginia court has recognized a contractual relationship under his theories. Plaintiff also contends that his breach of contract claim should survive because it rests on the combination of his tuition payment and agreement to be bound by UVA’s policies. This argument, however, is unpersuasive.
Finally, because plaintiff fails to allege a valid contractual relationship between himself and UVA, his tortious interference with contractual relations claim will be dismissed for failure to state a claim for relief.
Defendants’ motion to dismiss granted in part, denied in part.
Doe v. University of Virginia, Case No. 3:22-cv-00064, April 10, 2023. WDVA at Charlottesville (Moon). VLW 023-3-192. 18 pp.