Expelled Students Sue University of Houston Over Sexual Assault Investigation

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The Harris County Sheriff's Office launched an investigation but charges were never filed, in part because the woman had "no memory" of the incident, according to court records. Still, there was enough evidence -- including videos university officials claim McConnell's girlfriend, Natalie Plummer, shot of the naked woman in McConnell's room and in the elevator that night -- for UH to investigate the incident. Last month, after a lengthy investigation and appeals process, UH officially expelled McConnell and Plummer for violating the school's sexual misconduct policy.

Last week McConnell and Plummer sued the university and two UH officials in federal court, claiming the way the school investigates and handles sexual assault complaints violates the rights of accused students. Attorneys for McConnell and Plummer further claim their clients are victims of a federal crackdown on campus sexual violence that "has gone too far." Their Ohio-based attorneys, Joshua Engel and Michael Allen, recently sued the University of Cincinnati over another student who, while not charged by police, was kicked out of school for sexual misconduct.

(See this New York Post article on that case, which criticizes "feminist activists and leftists" for calling college rape an epidemic and kicks off with this lead: "Ethan Peloe swears he just did what comes naturally to any red-blooded American male university student. He says he had a threesome.")

Engle, Allen, and local attorney Robin Weinburg are among a group of lawyers who claim the federal Department of Education -- by threatening to withhold funding from colleges and universities that don't revise their sexual misconduct policies -- has pushed schools into dangerous territory. UH passed a new sexual misconduct policy in late 2012 as a result of that federal push, the lawsuit alleges, and further revised its policy last year. And the case against UH is just the latest in a recent spat of lawsuits against colleges and universities filed by (mostly) men who say they were denied due process and wrongly expelled in sexual misconduct hearings.

Just last week, a group of 28 current and retired Harvard Law professors raised eyebrows after they ran an op-ed in the Boston Globe expressing their "strong objections" to that school's new sexual misconduct policy. They wrote: "Harvard has adopted procedures for deciding cases of alleged sexual misconduct which lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process, [and] are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused."

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Michael Barajas
Contact: Michael Barajas