Student sues school over allegedly mishandling Title IX investigation, claims the college acted with bias against her

Last+week%2C+Union+College%2C+the+Board+of+Trustees%2C+Title+IX+Coordinator+Melissa+Kelley%2C+Senior+Associate+Dean+of+Students+and+Director+of+Student+Conduct+Trish+Williams+and+Chief+of+Staff+Darcy+Czajka+%E2%80%9900+were+sued+by+an+anonymous+plaintiff+claiming+that+the+College+botched+a+Title+IX+investigation.+Photo+by+Matthew+Farr.
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Student sues school over allegedly mishandling Title IX investigation, claims the college acted with bias against her

Last week, Union College, the Board of Trustees, Title IX Coordinator Melissa Kelley, Senior Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct Trish Williams and Chief of Staff Darcy Czajka ’00 were sued by an anonymous plaintiff claiming that the College botched a Title IX investigation. Photo by Matthew Farr.

Last week, Union College, the Board of Trustees, Title IX Coordinator Melissa Kelley, Senior Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct Trish Williams and Chief of Staff Darcy Czajka ’00 were sued by an anonymous plaintiff claiming that the College botched a Title IX investigation. Photo by Matthew Farr.

Last week, Union College, the Board of Trustees, Title IX Coordinator Melissa Kelley, Senior Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct Trish Williams and Chief of Staff Darcy Czajka ’00 were sued by an anonymous plaintiff claiming that the College botched a Title IX investigation. Photo by Matthew Farr.

Last week, Union College, the Board of Trustees, Title IX Coordinator Melissa Kelley, Senior Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct Trish Williams and Chief of Staff Darcy Czajka ’00 were sued by an anonymous plaintiff claiming that the College botched a Title IX investigation. Photo by Matthew Farr.

Alex Appel, Editor in Chief

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Union College and several high ranking officials have been sued by an anonymous plaintiff who was allegedly raped during her first week on campus, before classes began, after attending an off-campus party at Theta Delta Chi (TDX). The alleged rape took place in his off-campus apartment.

The party she met her alleged assaulter at was supposedly only allowing freshmen women in. The formal complaint filed against the school mentions TDX’s reputation of being aggressive and the fact that the fraternity had been previously expelled from the campus for violent hazing, information that was allegedly not known by the Plaintiff during her first week on campus. At the start of the last academic year, TDX was allowed back on campus by the College.

The Plaintiff claimed that she had previously consumed alcohol before going to the party with a few of her friends and once she was there, continued to consume alcohol. After asking for directions to the bathroom, her friends had told her that they had left, and unsure of how to get back to her dorm from the party, she agreed to go back to the apartment of the alleged assaulter in order to smoke marijuana with him. On the way back, she had allegedly reminded him numerous times that she was not interested in having sex with him.

At his apartment, she allegedly smoked marijuana on his terrace and immediately felt sick afterwards. She claims that later she was unable to move and was assaulted. She attributed this effect to the mixture of alcohol and marijuana. The Plaintiff was allegedly raped on or around September 3, 2017. Days later, the Plaintiff reported the incident and the identity of the alleged assaulter to Title IX Coordinator Melissa Kelley who allegedly did not inform her of the option to request a formal action to be taken or initiate an investigation.

The Title IX office. Title IX Coordinator Melissa Kelley is a party to the civil suit received by the College. Photo by Alex Appel.

The Plaintiff requested a formal investigation in Winter term of 2018. The Plaintiff claimed that the investigation and the ruling process that followed were conducted improperly with a bias against her.

Currently, the school is under investigation for the alleged mishandling of a sexual assault case that happened in 2015, on the basis that the school was “non-responsive” to an allegation of sexual assault. You can read a letter from the Department of Education, Civil Rights Division, to President Emeritus Ainlay about that case here.

On Friday, March 1, 2019 a civil action lawsuit was filed against the College, the Board of Trustees, Kelley, Senior Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct Trish Williams and Chief of Staff Darcy Czajka ’00. The College is accused of mishandling a Title IX Investigation and is being charged with violating the Title IX rights of the Plaintiff, referred to as “Jane Doe” in the formal complaint. You can read the full complaint here.

Timeline of the alleged incidents. Every asterisk (*) indicates an alleged violation of a mandate in the Violence Against Women Act. Graphic by Alex Appel.

The attorneys of the Plaintiff accuse the investigators, Associate Director of Minerva Programs Laura Munkres and Associate Director of Campus Safety Thomas Constantine, of conducting an incomplete investigation. One of the allegations made against Munkres and Constantine is that they interviewed the alleged assaulter before the alleged victim and never spoke with the alleged assaulter again to ask about any differences between the two testimonies. Williams accepted their report, despite its alleged flaws, and allowed for the process to move forward.

When asked if she felt the Report was “flawed or incomplete,” Williams responded: “I cannot make any comments about the case or the article at this time.”

On February 23, 2018 Jane Doe met with the Hearing Panel for a pre-decision conference. This panel allegedly started 15 minutes late because a member of the panel, a sophomore at the time, showed up late. This student allegedly came unprepared. Jane Doe claims that she was not given a copy of the evidence packet that she was interrogated about, but was expected to answer questions about the evidence in that packet anyway.

The next day the alleged assaulter was interviewed by this same panel. Jane Doe claims that, unlike her, he was given a copy of the evidence packet. Additionally, he was allegedly allowed to submit more evidence to the trial.

Jane Doe was informed of that the Hearing Panel found the accused “not responsible” on May 22, 2018, days after the accused had been informed. Jane Doe requested an appeal which was denied on June 11 by an Appeals Panel headed by Czajka. Jane Doe’s lawyers argue that, as Chief of Staff, Czajka had the school’s best interests in mind and therefore should not have been allowed to deliberate on the case, let alone as the head of the Appeals Panel.

When asked about the investigation, college spokesman Phil Wajda responded: “We can not comment on pending litigation. We will not comment on specific allegations involving a student or relating to a student in order to protect the privacy of our students and the confidential nature of any records relating to a student. We take all allegations of sexual assault seriously and encourage individuals to come forward if they believe they have been a victim. Union College is committed to ensuring a safe and inclusive campus for all of our community members.”

This is a developing story. Check back to Concordiensis.com for updates. 

A previous version of the story incorrectly labeled Phil Wajda as Director of Communications. He is the Director of Media and Public Relations and a college spokesman. The Concordiensis regrets the error and has corrected the mistake.