Judge tells college to reenroll student
MIDDLEBURY — On Sept. 16, U.S. District Court Senior Judge J. Garvan Murtha ordered Middlebury College to re-enroll an undergraduate student that the college had expelled this summer.
Under the court’s order, the student (going by the pseudonym “John Doe”) will be permitted to attend Middlebury while his lawsuit challenging the expulsion continues.
Middlebury College found the student responsible for the sexual assault of a non-Middlebury student while both were attending a non-Middlebury study abroad program run by the School for International Training in the fall of 2014. After the non-Middlebury student who lodged the assault allegation said she was dissatisfied with SIT’s findings in the case, Middlebury in January initiated an investigation of the student based on documents, physical evidence and other information it received from the student who made the report. Concerns were also raised about the study abroad program’s investigation and adjudication process.
On July 24 the student was expelled, and as part of his appeal he met with the college president on Aug. 24; she denied his final appeal on Aug. 26.
On Aug. 28, John Doe sued for “breach of contract” saying the college’s investigation and decision were “biased, unfair, and discriminatory and in violation of Middlebury’s policies.”
According to court paperwork, John Doe was due to graduate next spring and was offered a job, contingent upon his graduation from Middlebury, with an $85,000 per year salary, a $10,000 signing bonus and a $5,000 relocation stipend.
Murtha wrote in his order that John Doe would suffer greater harm if he were not admitted to Middlebury during adjudication of his breach of contract suit, than Middlebury College would be if allowed to keep him off campus:
“If Middlebury prevails on the merits, it can refuse to award, or revoke, Plaintiff’s diploma and maintain Plaintiff’s disciplinary record in its files. The harm Middlebury will suffer if Plaintiff is allowed to remain a student for the fall semester is not as great as the harm Plaintiff will suffer if he is not permitted to return to campus but ultimately prevails in the case.”
An official college statement on the Middlebury College website says:
“The Middlebury College Handbook holds students accountable for policy violations that take place between the time they first arrive on campus and their graduation. Under its policies, a Middlebury student’s off-campus conduct may be subject to Middlebury’s disciplinary processes when, among other things, such conduct may represent a threat to the safety of the Middlebury community or any of its members. Middlebury initiated an investigation and adjudication of the student’s conduct on that basis and we believe we properly applied our policies in this case.
“Middlebury College is deeply disappointed by the court’s decision,” the statement continued. “We believe the court erred in its interpretation of the facts and the law in reaching this decision.”
College officials are considering legal options, but said they would comply with the court’s order.