Students file lawsuit against university for gender based descrimination

Mikaela Cannizzo

Two men, one recent UT graduate and a current student, have filed a lawsuit against the University after accusations of sexual assault, which they believe are unjustly based on their gender.

Latoya Hill, associate vice president of University Compliance Services and Title IX coordinator, said the University does not discriminate against students on the basis of sex during investigations of assault. While Hill said she can not comment on the lawsuit, she said UT adheres to Title IX, an amendment implemented in 1972 that focuses on providing gender equity in educational activities.

“Title IX is the umbrella term that includes making sure that we are compliant to federal, state and local regulations, but we’re also ensuring that we have a safe, welcoming environment for all genders,” Hill said. “The University is committed to maintaining a learning environment that’s free of discrimination based on gender.”

The University of Texas Police Department said the men filed the lawsuit against the University, not the police department. The men did not face criminal charges. There are differences between a criminal investigation and an administrative one, UTPD Capt. Don Verett said, and the two processes do not interact.

“[UTPD] does not share information on those cases with Student Judicial Services,” Verett said. “We really have a firewall between the two investigations.”

Verett said the two processes differ in the standard of proof required and the consequences that result. In a criminal investigation, Verett said probable cause, which indicates enough evidence to believe the crime occurred, is the standard of proof officers need to arrest someone. Consequences include jail time and a loss of freedom.

On the administrative side, Hill said the standard of proof is based on credible evidence, indicating the assault was more likely than not to have occurred, as determined by the Title IX investigation unit. Hill said sources of evidence in the administrative investigation include physical proof through medical examinations, social media activity, witness statements and interviews with everyone involved.

If the outcome of the investigation reveals a violation, Hill said Student Judicial Services within the office of the Dean of Students handles disciplinary action, which usually means expulsion for students who have enough evidence against them in a sexual assault case.

While the criminal and administrative investigation processes are separate, Verett said the police department also does not discriminate based on gender in sexual assault cases.

“It doesn’t make any difference to us whether it’s a male or a female victim or a male or a female suspect,” Verett said. “A sexual assault is an assault.”

Meridith McDonald, director of public relations with Not On My Campus, a student-led group that raises awareness on sexual assault, said current University policies keep students safe.

“I don’t want to point to any particular instance,” government sophomore McDonald said. “But I think overall the university does a good job of complying to Title IX procedures and upholding the University policies for protecting students in the event of a sexual assault.”