$3 Million Lawsuit Involving the University of the South Begins in Federal Court This Week

$3 Million Lawsuit Involving the University of the South Begins in Federal Court This Week

An interesting case began in Federal Court this week involving Sewanee: The University of the South. The Plaintiff, John Doe, brings this suit against Sewanee claiming negligence and a breach of contract. Specifically, he claims he was denied due process when he was punished for a rape allegation from another student.

The entire disciplinary process took less than a few days. It began with A.B. meeting with Dean Eric Hartman and submitting a written statement. Doe was then informed of the charges against him and was told about a disciplinary hearing the next day. He was told he would need a character witness, and that he should submit a written statement claiming he was too drunk to remember his actions that night.

The details of the hearing are not known, but Doe was not allowed inside the hearing except for when he testified. When the committee met the next day, it only took them a few hours to find Doe guilty. They told Doe he had two days to leave campus. It is alleged that Dean Hartman told Doe that appealing the ruling would increase his punishment and would likely cause A.B. to pursue criminal charges. Doe was also told to "destroy" all related material.

Doe was not permanently expelled from Sewanee. Instead, he was given two punishment options: he could leave school for a semester and reapply to the school with the disciplinary action on his record; or he could leave school for a year and reapply with a clean record. Doe chose the second option, but later decided not to return to the school. Doe, along with his parents, filed this lawsuit in June 2009.

The case began this week with jury selections. Seven women and two men make up the final nine jurors selected. Parties are expected to introduce expert witnesses in school administration, school disciplinary practices, and sexual harassment.

Federal Judge Harry "Sandy" Mattice told the court that the trial could last until August 31st. It will certainly be an interesting case to watch.

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