Federal Lawsuit Accuses Reed College of Gender Discrimination

Case alleges Reed expelled male student accused of sexual assault to protect school's image

A male student expelled from Reed College after being accused of sexual assault is suing the school and alleging he's a victim of gender discrimination.

The case, brought in U.S. District Court, centers on an episode of group sex in 2013 involving the plaintiff and two women. One of the women, the male student's ex-girlfriend, later claimed the sex was not consensual.

In a blistering complaint filed Tuesday, the male student, identified as John Doe, accuses Reed of ignoring evidence that supported his innocence because of biases that tilted the investigation in favor of the female accuser, identified as Jane Roe.

"Reed—concerned by years of reports criticizing the school for its permissive culture and purportedly weak sexual assault policies—responded to Jane's accusations with a series of arbitrary, discriminatory, and illegal actions directed toward a predetermined outcome: [Doe's] expulsion from Reed," the 58-page complaint reads. "Despite the clear evidence that the events of July 25, 2013 were fully consensual, Reed expelled [Doe] anyway, and vowed to label him as a rapist to anyone who might ask or to whom his transcript was released."

It adds: "Reed took those actions despite sworn testimony from AM—the third participant in the July 25 group sex—that Jane was not only 'fully aware of what was going on,' but also that she 'was totally into it . . . enthusiastic and seemed to be really enjoying herself.'" 

The male student was expelled in April 2014.

The lawsuit follows on the heels of a bizarre episode in March when a Reed student, Jeremiah True, claimed to have been ousted from a Humanities course for questioning statistics on campus sexual assaults that advocates use to argue the problem is widespread. True's initial complaint—that he was being punished for voicing unpopular opinions—was quickly drowned out by his own outlandish, offensive and attention-seeking behavior. Reed's student newspaper, The Quest, this month reported that True had been excluded from campus, pending the results of an honor case against him because of his behavior.

The lawsuit is also a part of a nationwide movement to push back on campus policies seen by some as unfairly harsh toward male students accused of sexual assault.

After John Doe was expelled from Reed, his disciplinary record prevented him from enrolling at other, similarly elite colleges, the complaint says.

"When Reed ultimately imposed that draconian sanction on John, Reed also made clear its intent to disclose the facts and circumstances surrounding John’s expulsion to anyone who might inquire about his status with or departure from Reed, including any university to which John might apply or any future employer seeking a copy of his transcript," the lawsuit says. 

The lawsuit says a third participant in the 2013 sexual encounter —a former female student then taking classes at Reed — has said it was consensual. All three were drinking and doing drugs that night. Reed's sexual misconduct policy says a person whose judgment is seriously impaired by alcohol or other drugs cannot give consent.

The suit also takes aim at Reed's president, John Kroger, Oregon's former attorney general. John Doe appealed his expulsion to Kroger, who ultimately decided to uphold the order.

"Reed’s perceived need to respond to public criticism of its permissive culture and history of mishandling claims of sexual assault—reflected by its hiring of a former federal prosecutor to serve as its President—created an environment that made it impossible for Reed’s administration to equitably and impartially review the [Sexual Misconduct Board's] factual findings and the propriety of the penalty it imposed," the lawsuit says.

Kevin Myers, a spokesman for Reed, says Reed's policies against sexual assault are in compliance with federal law. They are the result of a lot of work and consultations with experts. "It's an area in which the college has spent a tremendous amount of time," Myers says. "We'll continue to do everything we can to prevent and respond to student conduct that violates our policies and harms individuals and the community."