AUSTIN (KXAN) — Two lawsuits have been filed against the University of Texas by plaintiff’s who say they were expelled from the university after being accused in sexual assault investigations. They claim the university’s Title IX investigators showed bias against male students by recommending their expulsion without giving them the proper due process.
A passage in the lawsuit says the university has sought publicity and prestige by portraying itself as a national leader in the effort to curb on-campus sexual assault, “The university has a vested interest in expelling as many male students for sexual assault as it can in order to maintain its appearance as a leader in this area.”
Brian Roark is the attorney representing the male students in both lawsuits. In 2015, Roark successfully represented former Texas Longhorn football player Kendall Sanders in a sexual assault trial. During that trial, Roark highlighted shortcomings in the University of Texas Police Department investigation and a jury acquitted Sanders after four hours of deliberations. After the verdict, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office dropped the case against co-defendant and Longhorn teammate Montrel Meander.
The lawsuits against UT are unrelated to Sanders and Meander, but go on to say the university’s disciplinary decisions leading to student expulsions are being deeply questioned for their fairness and accuracy.
One of the suits claims expulsion from the university was recommended despite Austin police and the Travis County District Attorney’s Office closing the case without criminal charges or prosecution. The second lawsuit claims expulsion against a student was recommended without the alleged victim ever personally making a sex assault accusation.
UT said criminal investigations into campus sex assaults are a completely separate process than Title IX investigations. Title IX is a federal law to prevent sexual discrimination on college campuses, including sexual harassment and assault. Chief Compliance Officer Paul Liebman said the standard of evidence for the two investigations are also completely different.
“Our investigation determines if it is more likely than not that a violation of our general information catalog has occurred, whereas the police in their process must determine beyond reasonable doubt,” said Liebman.
By law, the university and any investigating law enforcement agency do not share information from their investigations. While one investigation adheres to the code of criminal procedure, Liebman said the Title IX investigation only determines if campus rules were broken and what discipline is appropriate.
“We review our process every year and renew every year based on what other universities are doing,” said Liebman.
The Title IX investigators involved in the two cases are named in the lawsuits along with UT President Greg Fenves. The plaintiffs are asking for an injunction to stop any disciplinary action by UT.