A Black student expelled from Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine claims a racially biased administrator pushed a flawed sexual assault investigation that ended his studies.
Now, the student, who is using the pseudonym “John Doe” in the lawsuit, is suing the Ivy League school in the United States District Court in Concord in hopes of graduating. Doe was one credit shy of completing his studies when he was expelled.
According to the lawsuit, Dartmouth’s all-White Title IX Hearing Panel found he had violated the college’s Sexual and Gender Based Misconduct Policy, or SMP, and ordered him expelled. Doe is accused of raping a woman he met through a dating app. He has never been charged criminally. Doe maintains the sex was consensual.
Doe’s lawsuit claims not only did administrators violate the SMP rules for investigations, but the panel operated as a kangaroo court that denied him due process and relied on dodgy evidence.
Doe’s legal advisor for the Dec. 7, 2023 final hearing was not given access to the evidence until Dec. 6. At the last minute, the panel rescheduled the hearing to Dec. 8, according to the lawsuit.
The panel ignored the results of a rape kit, which found the alleged victim did not suffer any trauma from the sexual encounter, the lawsuit states. The panel also did not question a video the woman presented as being from the sexual assault. According to Doe’s lawsuit, the video is almost completely dark and does not show him present. Instead, the woman — who is also not visible in the video — is heard saying stop. The video was posted to social media a month and a half after their sexual encounter, Doe claims.
Doe puts much of the blame on Dartmouth’s Title IX Coordinator, Kristi Clemens. Clemens is Dartmouth’s Assistant Vice President for Equity and Compliance and has a history of being involved in a racist incident involving Doe, according to the lawsuit.
In 2015, when he was an undergraduate, Doe said he was falsely accused of threatening a professor. In a subsequent meeting with Clemens, she told him he posed a threat because he is “big, tall, and Black,” the lawsuit states.
Doe was later targeted for racial harassment and threats by other students in 2016, but those complaints were ignored when he reported them to Clemens and other administrators, the lawsuit states.
Dartmouth did not respond to NHJournal’s request for comment.
It was Clemens who decided in December of 2022 to pursue an SMP investigation against Doe, even though the accusation did not fall under the scope of the school’s policy, according to the lawsuit.
Doe’s story is that he met a woman, referred to as Sally Smith in the lawsuit, through a dating app in late October 2022. The woman was not a Dartmouth student or employee, nor was she taking part in any college program. Smith told Doe she was single, and Doe says the two talked about seeking long-term relationships.
The pair hit it off, and a few days later, on Nov. 3, they had a sexual encounter at his apartment in Vermont.
Days later, on Nov. 9, Doe says Smith accused him of rape via a text message. Doe was stunned by the accusation and cut off contact with the woman. In the following weeks, Doe began getting threatening messages via text from a man he did not know, according to the lawsuit. The threats included statements to the effect he knew where Doe lived.
On Dec. 9, Doe was contacted by Vermont State Police Detective Chris Pilner, who was investigating Smith’s rape accusation. According to the lawsuit, Doe learned from Pilner that, much to his surprise, Smith is married.
According to Pilner, Smith’s husband was now angry with Doe, and police had information he wanted to hurt Doe. Pilner went on to tell Doe that Smith reported the rape in November of 2022 but had stopped responding to police in the ensuing weeks.
Doe was never charged with a crime related to Smith’s accusations. However, weeks after Pilner interviewed him, Clemens informed Doe she was starting an SMP investigation based on a complaint from Smith.
Doe’s lawsuit states the investigation went forward even though the incident in question did not occur within the bounds of Dartmouth’s jurisdiction. The encounter did not occur in a Dartmouth-owned building or involve student accusers and accused, nor was it in any way connected to any Dartmouth-sponsored program as the SMP normally requires to open an investigation.
When questioned, Clemens told Doe the policy allows for expanding the scope of investigations in “limited circumstances.” Though, according to the lawsuit, Clemens never explained to Doe what the circumstances were in his case.
Doe is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Doe and his family struggled for years after they arrived in the United States in 2011, and he was even required to drop out of middle school to support his family for a time. Outside of school, he runs a non-profit that provides healthcare to women and children in his home country.
Dartmouth’s current Sexual Misconduct Policy is partly a response to accusations the school has turned a blind eye to sexual harassment and assault. In 2020, Dartmouth agreed to a $14 million settlement in the lawsuit brought by several women who say they were harassed and assaulted by Department of Psychological and Brain Science professors Todd Heatherton, William Kelley, and Paul Whalen.
That lawsuit claimed the college facilitated the abuse by looking the other way and allowing for a culture of drinking, rape, and sexual harassment for years in the department.