Title IX administrators at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks essentially presumed a male student was guilty of sexual assault, and were willing to do whatever it took to derail his life.
"The alleged perp graduates in three weeks," wrote Mae Marsh, UAF's Director of Diversity and Equality, in an email to colleagues sent on April 14, 2015. "We need to get the administrative investigation concluded so we can make a preponderance call and expel prior to graduation."
There's only one way to translate that email: officials wanted to wrap up their investigation of Nolan Youngmun as quickly as possible so that they could render a guilty verdict under the preponderance of evidence standard—the "more likely than not" standard—and prevent him from collecting his degree.
They didn't finish the investigation in time—in fact, they are still investigating, a year and a half later—but it didn't matter. Officials asserted the right to hold Youngmun's degree in limbo for as long as they want, even though a jury has already found him innocent of the sexual assault charge the university is still doggedly pursuing.
Youngmun had sex with a female student on in early April of 2015. They disagree on whether the encounter was consensual. The female student alerted the authorities a week later, and Youngmun was arrested for sexual assault.
The charge was adjudicated in a court of law, and on February 22, 2016, Youngmun was cleared. According to newsminer.com:
Youngmun's attorney, William Ingaldson, argued UAF police botched the investigation and were too quick to believe Youngmun was guilty. Ingaldson also pointed out inconsistencies in the woman's account, such as the fact she initially told investigators she awoke to find Youngmun standing naked in her doorway but testified at trial that she awoke to find him on top of her in her bed.
The student is innocent in the eyes of the law. But he isn't innocent in the eyes of the university. UAF initiated its own investigation—under the authority of Title IX—and told Youngmun that he could not receive his degree until they had settled the matter.
That was 15 months ago.
Youngmun has still not received his degree in petroleum engineering, even though he paid the full tuition fees, completed the course requirements for his major, passed his final exams (which he completed at an off-site location, given that he was banned from campus as a de facto condition of the investigation), and, perhaps most importantly, was deemed innocent of sexual assault by the only people who can competently render such a verdict: a judge and jurors.
I don't know whether Youngmun committed sexual assault. He was accused by a second woman, though that charge was dismissed before it went to trial. No one knows the truth of the matter except for Youngmun and his accuser. But he has been subjected to the scrutiny of the criminal justice system, and found innocent.
UAF, on the other hand, can't even be bothered to complete its own investigation. Officials have also failed to articulate a reason for denying Youngmun his degree, according to the lawsuit he has filed against the school. As his lawyer explains, even if Youngmun were guilty, the only relevant grounds on which the university may deny a student his diploma is if he is a threat to campus, according to UAF policy. But Youngmun clearly isn't a threat—he isn't living on campus. He's still banned, and would be a graduate, off to the next chapter in his life, if he could just get his degree.