March hearing called off in suit pitting UNC against expelled student

(CJ photo by Maya Reagan)

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  • A federal judge canceled a March 7 hearing in a lawsuit pitting the University of North Carolina against an expelled student. The student claims UNC mishandled sex assault allegations against him.
  • The judge had granted a temporary restraining order forbidding UNC from releasing information about the case. That order ended once the student and university resolved issues about publicizing the case's details.

Lawyers for the University of North Carolina and an expelled honors student will not have to head to court next week for a hearing in the student’s lawsuit against UNC. A court order issued Wednesday called off a hearing that had been scheduled for March 7.

The male student accuses the university of mishandling its response to sexual assault accusations against him.

The suit alleges that the student, identified as Jacob 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 192-page complaint he filed in U.S. District Court in February.

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by most, if not all, of his friends and peers at UNC, his reputation has been permanently destroyed, his scholarship was revoked, he was excluded from his fraternity and his apartment and, most critically, he has been permanently expelled from the entire University of North Carolina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.

Doe contends UNC violated his due process rights and Title IX and engaged in a breach of contract. The suit also mentions “other state law claims.”

“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.

Chief U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger of North Carolina’s Western District granted Doe a temporary restraining order on Feb. 22, one week after he filed suit. The order banned UNC “from releasing or disclosing any information concerning the disciplinary proceedings” covered in the lawsuit.

Reidinger scheduled a March 7 hearing in Charlotte to determine whether he would replace the temporary order with an injunction.

The court order issued Wednesday canceled the temporary order and called off the hearing.  Reidinger indicated that Doe and the university had resolved issues related to any publicity about the case.