Student sues Fenves over sexual assault suspension

Paul Cobler

A UT student is suing University President Gregory Fenves, claiming Fenves wrongfully suspended him for five semesters after being accused of sexual assault in the spring of 2016.

According to the lawsuit, filed Monday in a U.S. district court in Austin, the unidentified plaintiff and female student engaged in sexual intercourse following a sorority formal, which the female student gave verbal consent to. Several days later, she changed her mind, saying she was too intoxicated to provide consent.

The lawsuit cites a ruling from a University Title IX hearing that declared the plaintiff innocent of any wrongdoing. Following an appeal of the ruling, Fenves overturned the decision, saying in a letter to the student that “someone who is intoxicated cannot give consent to sexual activity because they are incapacitated.”

The lawsuit says, if applied “indiscriminately,” Fenves’ decision would “result in the suspension of thousands of young men and women who attend the University, and would unjustly interrupt their access to public education.”

In the lawsuit, the plaintiff also accuses Fenves of bias, saying the female student’s father was a wealthy donor to the University.

The suspended student wants a jury to award damages for past and future economic losses and loss of educational and career opportunities, as well as reinstate him to the University.

In a statement to the Austin American Statesman, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Brian Roark, said his client’s behavior was not dissimilar to most college age kids, and Fenves’ decision would set a dangerous precedent.

The University declined to comment. 

This story has been updated since its original publication. An earlier version incorrectly stated that Fenves suspended the student for five months. The term of his suspension, according to the suit, was five semesters.