Civil Liberties

Student Expelled for Rape Has Evidence He Was the Victim. Amherst Refuses to Review It.

Process was fair, says Amherst.



A preponderance of the evidence suggested that John Doe, a male student at Amherst College, raped his girlfriend's roommate, Sandra Jones, according to the college's sexual assault adjudication process. But text messages sent between the alleged victim and other Amherst students point toward the opposite conclusion: that Doe did nothing wrong.

He was expelled anyway—and Amherst has utterly refused to take a look that text messages that might acquit him.

In a just-filed rebuttal to Doe's lawsuit, the college defended its handling of the case—and subsequent expulsion of Doe—on grounds that it was "conducted with fundamental fairness, in good faith, and in full compliance with the College's policies and the law." Amherst maintained that administrators were justified in refusing to reopen Doe's case, since college policy requires that appeals be filed within seven days of a verdict being reached.

But Doe wasn't able to procure new evidence supporting his side of the story until many months after his expulsion. That evidence establishes that Jones—in her own words, no less—was an active participant in the sexual encounter. Amherst just doesn't seem to care.

The incident in question took place on the night of February 4 / morning of February 5, 2012. Doe was drunk to the point of incapacitation when he and Jones—his girlfriend's roommate—began a mutually-consensual sexual encounter. Jones claimed that while she was performing oral sex on him, she withdrew consent and tried to stop. Doe held her head and forced her to keep going, she alleged. Doe denied doing so, but couldn't remember exactly what had happened because he was black-out drunk.

After the encounter, Jones kicked Doe out. She then texted her male residential advisor, and another male acquaintance. She invited the acquaintance to come over, and he spent the night with her.

When asked during the hearing about the text message to the residential advisor, Jones described it thus:

Um, so – so I think I – um, so, – um, so I think I did say like well, something about … Something about – something about like well doing … Well, about … Well, about like well doing a bad thing. But I mean… So actually like well texted him, um, so almost – so almost like right after, um, [Plaintiff] had, um, left. Um, I – when I didn't – so I didn't… So I didn't … So I didn't … So I didn't … I'll have to type.

Jones is a stutterer, and was allowed to type her response:

Um.… I didn't want to address what had happened to me and I was in no position yet to accept that it had been rape. So, in my text messaging to DR, I only said things about the hook-up as if it had been consensual.

The adjudicators never looked at the text messages, instead relying on Jones' recollection of them. Had they read the messages, they might have reached a different conclusion. In reality, Jones admitted to her residential advisor that she "did something so fucking stupid" and "fucked" Doe. She was the active party, not "an innocent bystander," she claimed in the texts.

Jones also complained to the advisor that the male acquaintance she had invited over (ML) wasn't making a move on her. In a subsequent text, she lamented that it had taken ML hours to agree to sexual activity with her.

Of course, it's possible that everything happened exactly as Jones described it. It's possible Jones withdrew consent and Doe continued anyway. It's possible that Jones was unable to process the fact that she had been assaulted, and omitted this detail in her recollection of the encounter to her residential advisor. It's possible that Jones was ready for sexual activity with a different, reluctant partner immediately after she was victimized by Doe. It's possible that the claims she made more than a year later represent the truth, and the claims she made on the actual night in question were merely a coping mechanism.

But how could anyone say this explanation is more likely? That the facts should not be taken at face value? That they should be ignored to the extent that they conflict with Jones' assertions and Amherst's decision?

On Twitter, KC Johnson—a campus due process expert—called the Doe/Jones dispute a "He-said/she-said situation—along w/numerous text messages undermining credibility of accuser's version of events!"

It seems clear to me that a preponderance of the evidence does not establish Doe's guilt. Quite the opposite: a preponderance of the evidence casts doubt on Jones. Amherst's decision to ignore that evidence and defend the conviction of Doe is itself evidence of something: systemic anti-male bias—and manifest unfairness for accused students—in college sexual assault trials.

More from Johnson on the Amherst case here.