Judge: UMass student's expulsion not gender discrimination but correct punishment for harassing ex-girlfriend

In 2014, UMass Amherst senior James Haidak made headlines with a lawsuit alleging the college sexually discriminated against him for expelling him in what he said was a he said/she said case involving a UMass student he'd been dating.

Yesterday, a federal judge in Boston threw out his suit, saying that while UMass made a mistake in its disciplinary proceedings by delaying them five months, in part because of summer break, Haidak deserved everything he got; that the delays did not affect the ultimate outcome and that any harm done to Haidak by them needs to be balanced by UMass's obligation to ensure a safe environment for other students.

US District Court Judge Michael Ponsor's ruling stretches to 72 pages (and you can read the whole thing at the link below), but he gets right into his reasoning at the very beginning:

Cases in which a student, usually male, has received discipline for allegedly assaultive or harassing behavior against another, usually female, student can raise difficult questions about the proper balance between the due process rights of the accused and the need to protect the alleged victim. See, e.g., Doe v. Brandeis Univ., 177 F. Supp. 3d 561 (D. Mass. 2016) (Saylor, J.).

This is not such a case. Prior to the incident that led to his expulsion, Plaintiff had already been cautioned and disciplined twice for drunken, assaultive behavior; in one instance this prior conduct had led to his arrest by the police. While the complaint underlying this lawsuit was pending against him in the University disciplinary process, Plaintiff was warned three times, orally and in writing, to refrain from contact with the female complainant. Nevertheless, with full knowledge of this directive, Plaintiff ignored it to an astounding degree, texting the victim 1700 times and telephoning her over 300 times over a five-week period. In addition to this, Plaintiff met with the complainant during the prohibition period for multiple sexual trysts, called her for help when he was so intoxicated that he eventually needed temporary hospitalization, and made an appearance at a bar where the complainant worked that turned so menacing that security personnel made him leave. Plaintiff’s justification for his almost mind-boggling contumacy, offered at his deposition, was that these contacts were "consensual" on the part of the complainant and that "the school could not supercede her right as a consenting adult to have conversations with someone she wanted to."

This attempted rationalization will not wash. The nocontact orders could not have been clearer; they countenanced no exceptions for what Plaintiff viewed as "consensual." Despite these warnings, and with a history of serious assaultive misconduct, Plaintiff blew through the University’s attempts to exercise even minimal control over him. The sad truth is that, if Plaintiff had simply respected the no-contact orders, covering only a few months, he would almost certainly have graduated years ago.

Part of Haidak's case that UMass violated his rights under federal Title IX was data from UMass showed that of 93 men brought up on assault charges between 2010 and 2015, 13 were expelled, while none of the 26 women who faced assault charges were expelled. He had an expert witness testify that these numbers were "trending" towards discrimination.

Ponsor, however, rejected this argument:

The summaries do not include details regarding the incidents, the extent of the injuries to the male victims (if any), or the past disciplinary history of the female students. ...

In the end it is quite possible that the "trending" observed by Plaintiff's expert toward more charges and more serious discipline imposed on males who committed assaults could reflect the fact that male assaults on females are simply more prevalent and more severe. Certainly the expert's analysis does nothing to undercut this explanation.

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Comments

I certainly hope that his parents are embarassed

If one of my sons pulled this shit in college, expulsion wouldn't be necessary. I'd haul them home for an attitude adjustment and counseling after the first incident. Or kick them out should they play the "grown man" card and let them take some "grown man" responsibility.

(I don't have any daughters, but I suspect my response would be the same - like that piece of reich who perpetrated biowarfare on her black roommate. Boom. done. Home with remedial terms and conditions or subject to full consequences.)

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sadly, many of these entitled

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sadly, many of these entitled brats learn this behavior from parents and have full support of them even with damning evidence aplenty.

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texting the victim 1700 times

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texting the victim 1700 times and telephoning her over 300 times over a five-week period

Who has that much time?

The summaries do not include details regarding the incidents, the extent of the injuries to the male victims (if any)

Niiiiiiiiiice. Regardless of the details in this specific case, he really had to throw in this almost sarcastic "if any" in there? As a male (minor) victim of sexual impropriety carried out by an older female, I'm now free to leave the past behind and move on with my life, since there were no bruises, and totes no long-lasting effects that ruined interpersonal relationships through my adolescence and young adulthood. CLAP EMOJI CLAP EMOJI EGGPLANT EMOJI EGGPLANT EMOJI Also, we all know that guys just want it all the time, amirite?

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Not sure he was saying that

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Yeah, it's a bit flip, but I think the judge was arguing that the plaintiff, who was claiming that the university treats female harassers differently than male ones, failed to provide proof that the women who were accused but not expelled inflicted harm as great as that the plaintiff himself had committed. I don't think the judge was saying men are just asking for it (in any case, the plaintiff was accused of harassment and yes, assault and battery, but not sexual assault).

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Agreed

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[edit: previous comment addressed in full text of judgement]

I agree with Adam though. The judge can only rule on facts presented and it sounds like the expert only provided stats without details. How can you say it's unfair to not expel someone if you don't say what they did?

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It wasn't flip

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It was a necessary qualification. "the extent of the injuries to the male victims" implies that there were injuries, but the mere fact that there was a charge of assault does not imply that. The judge's entire point is that there is insufficient information in the argument to justify an inference of discrimination, since the only statistic presented is the charge of assault, but that all such charges are not equivalent, and can be differentiated into degrees of seriousness by the addition of additional information, which was not provided. The "if any" re-emphasizes that information about injuries was not provided.

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It isn't an either/or thing though

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I appreciate you sharing your story with us. What happened to you was wrong, and yes, our society needs to evolve with regards to how we respond to and support male victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence (as well as the various constellations of such occurring between queer individuals).

The thing is though, that while women do harass and coerce men and boys, it isn't the same thing in terms of men fearing for their lives. That's the big difference. Women fear that men who are harassing us and/or who we've said no to will kill us or seriously injure us, because time and time, they show that they do. There is a very real systemic issue at play here in which women fear for our lives at the hands of men.

Yes, women are perpetrators (and I've worked as a clinician in a female violent and sexual offender program...), but just don't participate in the type of systemic violence and harassment. And it's extremely rare that they murder their victims.

We can and should raise awareness of male victims and queer victims, but let's not downplay the power and privilege dynamic that exists by doing the "not all men" thing.

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The judge says they met up in

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The judge says they met up in person several times. So it sounds like they were talking to each other, rather than him saying "Why won't you see me?" 1700 times despite not getting a response. It's very easy to rack up that many texts and calls when you're having conversations.

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The bigger question

Why didn't they kick him out immediately after telling him not to contact the woman and he did anyway? Unless she didn't tell the school (unlikely) they should have had him removed soon after he ignored their orders.

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One big problem with the kid - alcohol

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Sounds like the kid drinks to much alcohol. If he was not drinking the motivations for the behavior might remain but the alcohol abuse would not be there removing any internal sense of right and wrong. But alcohol abuse does not erase culpability nor change consequences.

Maybe this will be a bottom for him. If so he can start change and do better. If not he probably will not stop.

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Adam, you left out the part

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Adam, you left out the part of the Daily Beast story where Haidak accused his girlfriend of hitting him in the face, but claims UMass disregarded the complaint and wouldn't allow a witness to present evidence of the assault.

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Yeah, I did

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And, in fact, the judge discusses that particular incident in some detail (and mentions the consensual sex the two had after that incident) and still ruled against Haidak because while that was basically a he said/she said thing, the rest of the allegations against him were not.

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Well, the judge seemed to

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Well, the judge seemed to focus on the technical issue of whether he violated the no-contact order. Yes, he did, but it was unclear that his girlfriend really wanted that order to continue, since she met with him consensually plenty of times, and said eventually she didn't want him to be prosecuted.

The judge didn't address what could be considered the more important issue: was it discriminatory in the first place for the school to issue a one-sided no-contact order, and refuse to acknowledge *his* assault complaint?

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Umm ...

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Yes, he did, but it was unclear that his girlfriend really wanted that order to continue, since she met with him consensually plenty of times, and said eventually she didn't want him to be prosecuted.

You've obviously read the decision, so you might want to take another look, because the judge addressed this as well.

The judge didn't address what could be considered the more important issue: was it discriminatory in the first place for the school to issue a one-sided no-contact order, and refuse to acknowledge *his* assault complaint?

Again, re-read the complaint. Even aside from the issue that the no-contact order was put in place because of a complaint from the woman - and then he got two more warnings to stop contacting her after additional incidents (including the one in which security at her place of employment had to throw him out) - the school DID open a separate disciplinary proceeding based on his complaint.

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