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Doe v. Columbia College Chicago

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 13, 2019

John Doe, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Columbia College Chicago, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued April 10, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 17 C 00748 - Amy J. St. Eve, Judge.

          Before BAUER, MANION, and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.


         This case arises out of a sexual assault investigation and disciplinary hearing conducted by Columbia College of Chicago ("Columbia"). Jane Roe accused John Doe of sexual assault after the two engaged in what she says were non-consensual sexual relations. Doe was given multiple opportunities to submit exculpatory evidence to Columbia, and after the investigation was complete, Doe was given multiple opportunities to review the investigative materials and the evidence submitted by Roe. After a formal disciplinary hearing a panel weighed the evidence, found that some of Roe's allegations were proven by a preponderance of the evidence, and that some were not. Doe was then suspended from Columbia for an academic year.

         Doe filed a complaint in federal court alleging Roe and Columbia violated 20 U.S.C. § 1681 ("Title IX"), breach of contract, promissory estoppel, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence. The district court ruled that each claim was defective and granted the defendants' motion to dismiss. Because we agree with the well reasoned and thorough opinion of the district court, we affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Jane Roe and John Doe attended Columbia and had a sexual encounter on December 11, 2015. In February 2016, Roe filed a complaint with Columbia alleging she had not consented to the encounter. Columbia appointed staff member Sarah Shaaban to investigate the matter. She met with Doe on February 3, 2016, to discuss the allegations and provide him with an opportunity to submit whatever evidence he wished. At this time Doe did not provide any exculpatory evidence.

         Columbia's Title IX coordinator, Dr. Beverly Anderson, reviewed the investigative report and notified Doe that there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable hearing panel to conclude that Doe had violated the school's sexual misconduct policy. She informed Doe that he would be given written notification of the date, time, and place of the hearing, the names of the hearing officers, and that he had a right to review investigative materials. Anderson also provided Doe with Columbia's hearing procedures policy.

         Doe responded by asserting that the allegations were false and that he had been physically assaulted and verbally harassed by Roe and her friends since the incident. Columbia requested the names of the individuals who committed the acts Doe described in his letter; Doe refused to provide Columbia with any.

         Anderson contacted Doe two days later and suggested they meet in person to discuss his concerns, but Doe refused to do so without his attorney being present. Anderson informed Doe that he could bring his attorney. Doe said that two of Roe's friends had "flipped him off" a few days prior. Anderson said she would look into the incident.

         The associate vice president for campus safety and security contacted Doe and met with him twice to address his concerns. Campus safety and security was able to identify the student who struck Doe and addressed the issue. Doe was instructed to inform Columbia if he had any other interaction with the student.

         On April 19, Anderson provided Doe with a letter addressing each concern that Doe had raised in his March 13 letter. Anderson informed Doe that he and Roe would be provided with the same period of time to review the investigative materials. She reminded Doe that he could submit evidence, but had failed to do so, and that he needed to inform Columbia if he had evidence he intended to present. The letter again provided Doe with the specific conduct alleged against him and the categories of sexual misconduct that the allegations fell into. The letter also stated that Doe had not provided any evidence of gender discrimination and, if he provided any evidence of discrimination or bias by a Columbia employee connected with the investigation, Columbia would promptly investigate it.

         Anderson contacted Doe in early April to provide him with an academic advisor who could approve any accommodations Doe might need. Anderson followed up several times advising Doe that she needed more information before she could approve any accommodation. Doe failed to provide her with this information.

         On April 26, Columbia provided Doe with a copy of the information that Roe had submitted regarding the sexual assault. Doe responded in writing to her submission.

         On May 6, Anderson informed Doe that Columbia would schedule a hearing and again advised him of the allegations and his procedural rights. Doe reviewed a copy of Roe's submissions and the investigation materials on May 9. Doe then submitted his evidence including screen shots of text messages, his April 25 letter, and a toxicology report that he had paid an expert to prepare. All of this evidence was submitted to the hearing panel.

         On May 4, Anderson received a report that Doe and another male student made "kissing noises" at Roe when she was leaving her dorm the night before. Anderson requested that she and Doe speak about the incident. Nothing in the ...

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