Colorado State University-Pueblo has reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought by Grant Neal. Neal is the athlete who the university expelled for allegedly raping a fellow student, even though that student told school officials, "I'm fine and I wasn't raped."
The settlement comes as the Department of Education is considering reforms of Title IX sexual assault investigations, which Reason and others have taken to task for numerous violations of due process. In an emailed statement to Reason, Neal's attorney Andrew Miltenberg says his client "is pleased that this matter has been resolved and is looking forward to moving on with his life."
Neal's troubles began in the fall of 2015, when he and a fellow student and athletic trainer—identified only as "Jane Doe"—had repeated consensual sexual encounters.
Relationships between trainers and athletes were frowned upon (though not prohibited), so the couple tried to keep their encounters covert. News of their relationship eventually leaked out, however, and quickly escalated into a probe by the school's Title IX investigator, Roosevelt Wilson.
Wilson, who interviewed Neal multiple times, never advised Neal to seek legal counsel, gave contradictory instructions on contacting Doe, and refused to hear from witnesses who supported Neal's version of the events.
None of this, unfortunately, is out of the ordinary for Title IX investigations. What was out of the ordinary was the alleged victim's repeated statements that their sexual encounters were consensual. At one point she told a college administrator, "Our stories are the same and he's a good guy. He's not a rapist, he's not a criminal, it's not even worth any of this hoopla!"
Nevertheless, Neal was expelledfor his alleged misconduct in December 2015, an event that cost him numerous scholarships and has prevented him from being accepted to other schools.
"One day I woke up and I had all my dreams in front of me," Neal told Reason's Robby Soave back in February. "For that to be yanked away from me for no justifiable reason...that's hard to cope with."
The university has agreed to pay an unspecified monetary amount in exchange for Neal dropping his lawsuit. Nonmonetary terms of the settlement are still being negotiated. The school admits no wrong-doing.
No one settlement will produce sweeping change to Title IX investigations overnight, says Justin Dillon, a lawyer who specializes in campus discipline cases. But he thinks Neal's case sends a message.
"If schools don't treat both sides fairly they're going to pay a price," Dillon tells Reason, saying he would like to see a number of changes to how campuses handle sexual assault cases, including legal rights to counsel for the accused and the ability to cross-examine witnesses. You know: basic due-process stuff.
He might get what he wants: Candice Jackson, the top civil rights official at the Department of Education, has said the way current Title IX investigations treat the accused is "a red flag that something's not right." What reforms will eventually come down the pike remains to be seen, but Neal's case illustrates how much the current Title IX system is an affront to due process and equal treatment under the law.
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