Editor's note: This article has been revised to correct an error. A previous version incorrectly reported the school's findings regarding their investigation into the referenced accusations. We regret the error.
For now, a Chicago federal judge has permitted a onetime student's suit to proceed against the University of Chicago, saying, while the student must furnish a more full explanation, he has squeaked out a plausible case a school official encouraged retaliation against him for complaining about sexual assault allegations.
The ruling was laid down Sept. 20 by Judge Edmond Chang, of U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois, favoring a student known in court papers as "John Doe," who is suing the university.
The suit also concerns two female students, whose names are hidden in court papers behind the pseudonyms "Jane Roe" and "Jane Doe." Chang explained the parties are permitted anonymity, because of their "relative youth" and because the case involves sexual accusations.
In spring 2014, a female student accused Doe of sexually assaulting her, but university officials determined there was not enough evidence to support her allegation. The woman then told people, in person and online, Doe assaulted her. The school found the evidence did not support a finding of guilt. However, the female student next put his name on the "Hyde Park List," which purported to name people guilty of "gender-based violence." The campus is in Chicago's Hyde Park and Woodlawn neighborhoods.
Doe complained to the university, but said officials replied the school's confidentiality rules prohibited him from refuting the accusations. Officials also allegedly declined to take action against the woman. Doe and the woman ended up in a physics class together, with Doe removed from the class at the woman's behest, according to court papers.
Another female student also made online accusations from 2014 to 2016 that Doe assaulted her.
Doe said he then complained to the school that the female students' conduct toward him constituted sexual harassment, but officials declined to take action. Instead, Dean of Students Jeremy Inabinet allegedly encouraged the first female student to lodge a retaliatory complaint against Doe, according to Doe.
Doe filed suit against the university in August 2016, claiming the institution violated federal law by discriminating against him, because he's male. In particular, Doe claimed the school favors sexual complaints lodged by females at the expense of males, because the school wanted to appease the officials then in charge of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights under former President Barack Obama.
The university countered Doe's action should be tossed, because he failed to show any violations occurred.
Judge Chang tossed the part of Doe's suit that argued the women sexually harassed him, determining they were not sexually motivated in their alleged harassment.
"There is no reason to think that Jane Roe and Jane Doe’s comments were aimed at John because of his gender. The allegations suggest only that Doe and Roe harassed him either because they believed he had committed sexual assault or because of personal - not gender - animus," Chang said.
However, Chang did "narrowly" conclude John Doe has viable claims he was the target of discrimination by the school, retaliation and intentionally inflicted emotional distress. Chang said he is allowing these claims to go forward, based on his interpretation Inabinet intentionally urged one of the women to direct a retaliatory complaint against Doe.
However, for his ruling to stand, Chang said Doe must provide a position paper by Oct. 2 confirming Chang's interpretation "intention" was involved or explaining how the claims should otherwise be read.
A status hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5.
Doe is represented by Saper Law Offices of Chicago and Rosenberg & Ball, of Granville, Ohio. The university is defended by the Chicago firm of Franczek Radelet P.C.