Federal judge allows expelled UNC student to proceed as Jacob Doe in sex assault case

The Old Well UNC Chapel Hill Source: Jacob Emmons, Carolina Journal

Listen to this story (5 minutes)

  • A federal judge will allow expelled University of North Carolina student Jacob Doe to continue to use a pseudonym while pursuing a lawsuit against the university. Doe claims UNC botched a sexual assault investigation against him.
  • US District Judge William Osteen will allow the university to challenge the order on Doe's identify. While he is allowed to proceed with a pseudonym, the court is blocking UNC from releasing any information about disciplinary hearings against Doe.
  • Osteen did not extend his order to media outlets or other third parties not under UNC's authority. The judge also rejected Doe's request for a preliminary injunction against the school.

A federal judge will allow expelled University of North Carolina student Jacob Doe to continue to pursue his lawsuit against the university without using his real name. Doe accuses UNC of botching a sexual assault investigation against him.

At a hearing Monday morning in Greensboro, US District Judge William Osteen rejected Doe’s request for a preliminary injunction against UNC. Doe had asked the judge to prohibit the school “from releasing or disclosing any information concerning the disciplinary proceedings that are subject to this lawsuit,” according to a court order.

Yet Osteen granted Doe’s request to “proceed under a pseudonym.” The university can “fully respond and challenge that order.”

While Doe proceeds under his assumed name, “Defendants are prohibited from releasing or disclosing any information concerning the disciplinary proceedings that are the subject of this lawsuit, and that non-disclosure provision extends to all individuals over whom Defendants exercise control,” according to the court order. Osteen did not extend that order to  “any media outlet or third party as to what they are or are not prohibited from disclosing.”

Doe’s suit claims UNC violated Title IX and his civil rights under a federal law known as §1983. He also claims “breach of contract, negligent hiring, tortious interference with contract, and violation of North Carolina’s Constitution.”

The complaint alleges that Doe was a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2021 “when he became the subject of a targeted campaign to destroy his reputation, his education, and his connections to the UNC community,” according to the complaint originally filed in US District Court in February 2023.

Doe alleges that four female UNC students engaged in a “premeditated and coordinated” campaign against him. One of the accusers “admitted that her actions in organizing the complaints against Plaintiff were intended to ostracize him from his friends, to have him excluded from his fraternity, and to have him lose his prestigious scholarship at UNC,” according to the complaint. Doe was a Morehead-Cain scholar at Chapel Hill.

“Plaintiff has been shunned and cancelled by most, if not all, of his friends and peers at UNC, his reputation has been permanently destroyed, his scholarship was revoked, he was excluded from his fraternity and his apartment and, most critically, he has been permanently expelled from the entire University of North Carolina System,” Doe’s lawyers wrote.

Doe says he was found “not responsible for any policy violations” related to two of the complaining students. He was found “not responsible for most of the charges” involving a third student. Yet “the reporting parties succeeded in what they set out to do.” Doe “has suffered immense, compounding, and irreparable harm since the University accepted the complaints, without question, in the spring of 2021.”

“The University permitted the reporting parties to weaponize UNC’s Title IX process,” according to the complaint. Doe blames university investigators, the school’s Title IX Coordinator, the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office, the Emergency Evaluation and Action Committee, and hearing panel chairs and members. They “not only failed to ensure that the investigatory and adjudicatory processes were fair and objective, but rather contributed to the defective, prejudicial, and arbitrarily inequitable processes that were replete with gender bias against Plaintiff.”

The university expelled Doe. It barred him permanently in spring 2022 from reapplying to the Chapel Hill campus or applying to any other UNC campus, “derailing his educational goals and career aspirations, and permanently tarnishing his name and reputation,” according to Doe’s lawsuit.

“As a result of the Defendants’ unlawful, unfair, gender-biased, and improper conduct, Plaintiff was subjected to disciplinary processes that failed to comport with the University’s promises to Plaintiff as an enrolled student, the tenets of Title IX, and principles of good faith and fundamental fairness,” according to Doe’s complaint.