Former Student Sues Emory, Citing Bias in Title IX Process

A former Emory law student has sued the University after it suspended him for engaging in non-consensual sexual intercourse with a former female student and later rejected his appeal. He is seeking re-admission and monetary compensation, alleging that Emory’s Office of Title IX “held biased assumptions that female students would not make false accusations of sexual assault against their fellow male students” and deprived him of due process.

After the Office of Title IX found Troy Daly, 27, responsible for violating the Emory Sexual Misconduct Policy for non-consensual sexual intercourse last year, Daly was involved in a seven-month Title IX process, pursued an appeal and received three separate sets of sanctions. After his appeal failed, Daly filed a March 2017 lawsuit in DeKalb County Superior Court against the University. He denies that he sexually assaulted the woman, who reported that the sexual actions were consensual until sexual intercourse, court documents show. The Wheel is omitting identifying information about the woman to protect her privacy.

The lawsuit comes amid a national debate on consent, the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) review of Title IX procedures in schools nationwide and an Office for Civil Rights (OCR) investigation into Emory for possible violations of Title IX in handling sexual violence complaints.

Court documents reveal the details of a Title IX process that eventually led to Daly’s lawsuit, in which he alleges Emory breached its contract with him by suspending him unfairly after he had paid full tuition for the Spring 2017 term. He claimed the suspension caused irreparable harm since he would have difficulty enrolling in another law school, sitting for the bar exam or becoming an attorney.

He alleges Emory took gender-biased disciplinary action under pressure from federal agencies such as the OCR and ED and “internal forces at the University,” but did not identify the internal forces, court documents reveal. The lawsuit also refers to OCR’s ability to revoke federal funds from schools that violate Title IX. If institutions fail to comply with the Clery Act, the ED may impose maximum penalties of $35,000 and stop institutions’ participation in federal financial aid programs.

Daly seeks a trial by jury, monetary compensation from Emory and return to Emory School of Law.

Prior to Daly’s lawsuit in DeKalb County, Emory’s Title IX Office handled the case. Title IX prohibits “discrimination based on sex” at institutions receiving federal funding, and the ED has expanded its scope to cover sexual assault and harassment.

In February 2017, a Title IX hearing board recommended that Daly, who enrolled as a first-year law student in Fall 2016, be suspended until the woman graduated, according to court documents. Daly appealed his case with the Office of Title IX, which upheld the original decision and extended the suspension to two years. After Daly filed the lawsuit, he asked Emory to eliminate the suspension because the woman had left Emory. Former University Title IX Coordinator and current Vice Provost of Equity and Inclusion Lynell Cadray told Daly that Emory reduced his suspension to one year, court documents show.

Associate Vice President of University Communications Nancy Seideman declined to comment, citing pending litigation. Neither Daly nor his attorney returned multiple requests for comment.

Hearing Board finds Daly in violation of Emory Sexual Misconduct Policy

The woman accused Daly of sexual misconduct late August 2016, and the Office of Title IX found sufficient information to charge Daly for violating Emory Sexual Misconduct Policy, court documents show.

In its Title IX adjudications, Emory uses a preponderance of evidence standard and a majority vote of the Hearing Board to make its decision. That standard requires that “it is more likely than not that sexual harassment or violence occurred.”

Seven months after the woman’s complaint, the Board concluded that all actions were consensual until penetration. The Board found that “[the woman] gave clear signs that penetration was not acceptable to her” and that it could not substantiate Daly’s claim of receiving “verbal and/or active consent to engage in sexual penetration.”

But court documents show that Daly argued the hearing didn’t follow “procedures outlined in the code” and that the finding was inconsistent with the weight of the information.

An Appeals Board re-affirmed the original decision and extended Daly’s suspension because the woman would likely remain at Emory after graduation at a divisional school. The Appeals Board also recommended that Daly complete sexual and relationship sensitivity training before he could be re-admitted into the law school.

Cadray wrote that Appeals Board determinations are final and not appealable.

After the appeal, Daly asked Emory to permit him to finish his Spring 2017 term instead of immediate suspension, but Emory declined.

Daly sues; Emory reduces Daly’s suspension, requests lawsuit dismissal

Nine days after the appeal outcome, Daly sued the University.

At Daly’s request, DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Clarence F. Seeliger ordered Emory to permit Daly to complete his Spring 2017 term. Emory allowed Daly to complete his finals and the 2016-2017 academic year.

After finals, Emory requested dismissal of the lawsuit, arguing that Daly had completed the Spring 2017 semester, making his original request moot, but the judge denied the request.

In subsequent months, Daly discovered that the woman was not remaining at Emory and requested that Emory eliminate his suspension. Emory “suggested” it would “reconsider its decision” via the Appeals Board, according to Daly’s lawsuit.

In June, Cadray told Daly that Emory reduced his suspension from two years to one year, which would last through the 2017-2018 academic year, court documents show.

Five days before the Fall 2017 term began, Daly requested that Emory allow him to attend classes. Emory refused on the grounds that Daly filed the motion days before classes started and failed to verify his motion or complaint. The judge ordered Emory to allow Daly to take classes starting from the Fall 2017 semester. As of Spring 2018, Daly, who did not respond to request for comment, is no longer listed as a student in the Emory directory.

The parties in the case are undergoing a discovery period until March 26.

Lack of proper redaction

In March 2017, Emory filed an emergency motion to seal and redact the exhibits attached to the lawsuit to protect the woman’s identity. The court granted the motion, ordering the plaintiff to refile within three days the redacted exhibits without references to the woman.

The plaintiff re-filed the Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 2 and redacted mentions of the woman’s name, but did not re-file Exhibit 3.

When the Wheel inspected case documents at the DeKalb County Courthouse in early February, the woman’s name was partially visible on one document. The plaintiff, who was responsible for re-filing the documents, did not respond to the Wheel’s request for comment.

After the Wheel asked Seideman why the name had been improperly redacted, the University contacted the courthouse and a judge’s clerk reviewed the file for the redaction, determining that it had been improperly redacted.

“Unfortunately, the name was identifiable in the file you reviewed,” Seideman wrote in a Feb. 20 statement to the Wheel. “Emory takes the privacy of our students seriously and took action to protect the complainant’s privacy throughout this process. We regret that the name was identifiable and we appreciate that the DeKalb court is taking steps to correct this error.”