U-M Sued For Allegedly Kicking Out Student Accused Of Sex Assault — Without Following Their Own Rules
By Christy Strawser, digital director
ANN ARBOR (CBS Detroit) In short, he says he didn’t do it, there’s no evidence that he did — and lots that he didn’t — and a student ejected from the University of Michigan for an alleged sex assault is fighting back.
Drew Sterrett is suing the university because, as his attorney Deborah Gordon claims, his rights were violated every step of the way by a university already enmeshed in a federal investigation for alleged mismanagement of sex assault complaints.
This suit follows a headline-making incident where the university was accused of not reacting to a sex complaint filed against football player Brendan Gibbons, allowing him to play for years following his alleged attack on a fellow student. An investigation is ongoing.
This time, Gordon says U-M swung the pendulum the other way, and immediately removed Sterrett without following its own due process rules. Read the entire complaint HERE.
The lawsuit, filed April 23 in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan, targets 10 U-M administrators, who allegedly interviewed Sterrett without telling him what he was accused of, and told him if he asked for an attorney the process would just continue without him. The incident happened March 16, 2012; the victim reported it in August, 2012; and the school issued findings against him in December, 2012.
His attorney says Sterrett was immediately removed from his dormitory, told he was banned from contact with the alleged victim and all their mutual friends, which was his social circle, removed him from a mentoring position, and was eventually suspended by a decision of the university in January 2013.
“It’s hard to believe, I’ve done civil rights law for 30 something years and I find this overwhelmingly stunning,” Gordon said. “Just think about this, any job that he wants to apply to, they’re going to ask ‘Why aren’t you in college?’ — The arrogance of the university is overwhelming.”
Gordon is asking the university to reinstate Sterrett, expunge this from his record, and pay an unspecific amount of damages.
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham issued this statement to CBS Detroit: “The University is reviewing the complaints and plans to defend them vigorously. What we can say now is that our student sexual misconduct policy and practices meet or exceed due process requirements.”
This is the story as Gordon said it unfolded. Sterrett and his friend were in their dorm room when the young woman climbed into the lower bunk with him. His roommate, a friend of both, was in the bunk above.
They started kissing, she asked him to get a condom, and they had relations. His roommate sent Sterrett a Facebook message at 3 a.m. complaining about how loud they were being. She sent him a text message the next message asking him not to tell their friends what happened — and he agreed.
They remained friendly. Five months later, she went home for a visit and her mother saw something about the incident in her daughter’s diary; she called the university and complained.
“She had consensual sex with a longtime friend of hers, and a really sweet boy … She had a crush on Drew, I don’t think he thought it was going to be anything … Five months later, she’s home from the summer, her mother finds her diary, and it has some information about her so-called ‘romantic activity.'”
Her mother called the university to complain, and the process started.
“There is zero from this complainant that exists in writing,” Greene said. “We have zero written complaint, we have zero documentation of her complaint anywhere …The only evidence that this ever happened is this verbal statement from this girl to the university that he had non-consensual sex with her … Even the summary is unclear.”
What does the victim say happened?
“She says her roommate had company, she voluntarily got into the bed with Drew, she asked him to get a condom … Then she says he forced the sexual act on her. Does she try to get up? No. Does she scream out? No. Does she say ‘no’ out loud? No.'”
Months went by until she, unknowingly to him, apparently reported the incident to the university as an assault. The two remained friendly. Sterrett claims he was suddenly called and interrogated by representatives of the university, who didn’t tell him what he was accused of.
In the university’s summary of the incident, they wrote: “It is determined that the Respondent engaged in sexual intercourse with the Complainant without her consent and that that activity is so severe as to create a hostile environment. The Respondent’s behavior therefore constitutes sexual misconduct as outlined in the ‘Interim Procedure.’ As such, it is determined that the Respondent is responsible for subjecting the Complainant to sexual misconduct in violation of University policy.”