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.