By J. STEVEN DILLON
A long-pending civil lawsuit, filed by two former University of Findlay students who were kicked out of school following a reported on-campus sexual assault in 2014, has been resolved.
A settlement was reached last month in U.S. District Court, Toledo, between the university and the former students. Terms of the agreement have not been publicly released.
“The University of Findlay and two previously expelled student-athletes, Justin Browning and Alphonso Baity, have resolved all claims between them to their mutual satisfaction, the specifics of which are confidential,” Joy Brown, the university’s media relations coordinator, said Friday.
Baity, of Henderson, Kentucky, was a UF basketball player and Browning, of Detroit, a UF football player when they were expelled in 2014 after a university review of a complaint found a “preponderance of evidence” that they were involved in sexual activity with a freshman student.
The woman, who did not file a police report initially, claimed both Browning and Baity sexually assaulted her in September 2014 at a university-owned property on Howard Street where both men lived.
The men claimed the sexual activity was consensual, while the woman maintained she was incapable of consenting to the sexual activity because of “extreme intoxication.”
The Findlay Police Department later investigated the incident and forwarded the case to the prosecutor’s office, but no charges were filed.
Browning and Baity sued the university in December 2015, a year after an appeal of their expulsions was denied by the school.
The lawsuit claimed that university representatives intentionally discriminated against the two black athletes in terms of race, ethnicity and gender, and violated their rights to due process and equal protection.
The suit called the university’s 2014 investigation of the incident “a sham,” but the university claimed it was following its policy and federal requirements in responding to the campus incident.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights had set new guidelines in 2011 for schools when dealing with allegations involving sexual crimes, harassment or domestic violence.
Under those guidelines, such matters were to be promptly investigated by university officials, who were to rely on the “preponderance of evidence” standard used in civil cases, instead of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard employed in criminal trials.
That meant a student could be disciplined if a college found it more likely than not that an assault occurred.
Schools that did not comply could face an investigation and a cutoff of federal money.
After 2011, however, numerous lawsuits, including the one involving the University of Findlay, were brought around the country.
As a result, rule changes have been proposed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos under Title IX, the 1972 law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funding.
The yet-to-be-finalized rules would require “live hearings” where accusers and the accused would be allowed to cross-examine each other through an adviser or lawyer.
Hearings would be conducted by a neutral decision-maker and with a presumption of innocence. Both parties would have equal access to all the evidence school investigators used to determine the facts of the case.