Marshall Board of Governors facing federal lawsuit

Marshall University’s Board of Governors is now facing a federal lawsuit from a former Marshall student who claims the university did not uphold Title IX standards when it allowed a student who attacked her to remain on campus. Filed Jan. 31, the lawsuit details how the student claims she was raped, harassed and discriminated against because of her gender.

Marshall University released a statement Thursday addressing the allegations.

“Marshall’s legal counsel hasn’t seen the complaint yet,” A university spokesperson said. “Furthermore, we don’t comment on the specifics of pending litigation. Marshall University takes all Title IX complaints seriously. The university has a fair, impartial and compliant process to support any student who experiences sexual assault, sexual harassment, or any other form of sex or gender discrimination. We maintain we followed proper procedures in this case and acted decisively to protect all our students while maintaining privacy and the fairness for the involved parties, consistent with applicable legal requirements. The university will defend itself vigorously in this litigation.”

The Marshall student was attacked in her dorm Feb. 1, 2016 by another student. After reaching out to close friends and going to the hospital, the student filed a formal complaint with Marshall University Police Department and the director of student conduct. She also decided to take the case to criminal court.

The victim claimed that her attacker was permitted to remain on campus during his investigation. She also claims that despite having an order of protection against the attacker, there were no precautions made to ensure the two remained separated.

After the director of student conduct determined that the student in question should be expelled, he appealed the decision. This appeal meant going in front of a student conduct panel. The attacker repeatedly rescheduled the dates of this meeting and was allowed to stay on campus during the process despite the victim reporting she felt threatened by her attacker’s presence.

According to the victim, the student conduct panel had many infractions. These issues included not providing counsel to the victim, not recording the procedure, not allowing the victim to hear the panel’s decision or explanation of why the attacker could remain on campus and more.

Shortly after the decision to allow the accused student to stay on campus, Marshall University’s Interim Dean Carla Lapelle recommended to President Jerry Gilbert the student be suspended until his criminal case was decided.

The accused appealed the school’s decision, but he was ultimately denied in August 2017. He was suspended from Marshall’s campus but was informed he was permitted to take online classes through the school.

After pleading guilty to misdemeanor battery Jan. 11, 2017, the attacker asked Marshall to reconsider his reinstatement. The school then decided to reinstate the him in March of 2017 even though he had violated the school’s code of conduct. The school claimed the reasons behind this decision were because the attacker needed courses that were only offered on campus, and the victim was no longer a student.

The lawsuit against Marshall’s Board of Governors claims that the board violated Title IX and its Dear Colleague Letter which identifies requirements that institutions must follow regarding to student-on-student sexual harassment, assault and violence.

Parthenon reporters will be following the case as it develops.

Sarah Ingram can be contacted at [email protected]