Expelled Dartmouth Student Sues College, Claims Administrators Unfairly Favored Accuser

Jan 8, 2019

Credit Allison Quantz for NHPR

A former Dartmouth undergrad is suing the college, arguing he was illegally expelled over a sexual assault allegation.

A complaint filed Monday in federal district court outlines an encounter between the plaintiff, identified anonymously as John Doe, and another student, identified as Sally Smith, last spring. (Scroll down to read the filing.)

The two students allegedly differed over whether the encounter was consensual. The plaintiff argues his accuser lied and presented doctored evidence to school officials. Dartmouth’s disciplinary process, he alleges, unfairly favored her story over his.

At stake, the complaint argues, are the plaintiff’s future career opportunities in finance, a field where he says he was in line for a lucrative job post-graduation. He would also like to finish his junior and senior seasons on Dartmouth’s Division 1 hockey team.  

The complaint cites a recent proposal from federal Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to overhaul the way colleges and universities handle sexual misconduct allegations, calling earlier Obama-era guidance “discredited.”

DeVos’ proposed new rules would bolster due-process rights of the accused. Supporters say the change will improve fairness in the system. But women’s rights advocates, including Democratic members of New Hampshire's congressional delegation, have denounced the move, saying it would force schools to hold courtroom-like proceedings and discourage victims from coming forward.

The plaintiff in this case suggests that, had the proposed new rules been in place last year, his outcome may have been different.

The complaint also details recent media coverage of sexual misconduct cases at Dartmouth, arguing the college is under public pressure to “respond harshly” to allegations of violence against women, and points to a “pervasive view” at Dartmouth that women should be believed over men. One cited example is an email sent to students by Dartmouth’s Student Assembly during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings expressing support for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

According to court records, at least two other cases were filed against Dartmouth last year by former students alleging they were unfairly expelled over misconduct allegations. 

"Lawsuits related to our student sexual misconduct process are uncommon," said college spokeswoman Diana Lawrence in a statement. "These are difficult and deeply personal situations for all parties involved and there are bound to be times when one party or the other is dissatisfied."

Read the complaint:

Correction: This article has been edited to remove a statement referring to the dismissal of two 2018 cases against the college.