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A University of Michigan student accused of sexual assault will be granted a hearing, a federal judge ruled this week, overriding the university’s policy that denies such hearings.

“As soon as practicable, the University is hereby ordered to provide Plaintiff with the opportunity for a live hearing in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities,” U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow wrote in an opinion filed Friday.

The University of Michigan’s policy does not grant live hearings for defendants of sexual misconduct, while doing so for others accused of wrongdoing.

The stakes are too high as those accused of sexual misconduct are at risk of expulsion and tarnished reputations, said Deborah Gordon, attorney for the accused student, referred to in court documents as John Doe.

“We feel he’s been moved from a procedure that’s completely lacking in the ability to get to the truth to a real hearing and a chance to get everyone in the same room, put questions to one another, appear live,” Gordon said. 

A UM representative declined to comment, stating that the university does not discuss pending litigation. 

According to the suit, on March 20, a female student filed a complaint alleging a non-consensual sexual encounter between her and Doe on Nov. 11, 2017. No witnesses were present, according to the court document. Doe, who has earned enough credits to receive an undergraduate degree, faces expulsion.

According to the court document, Doe and the female student knew each other prior to the alleged incident and afterward continued to speak with one another via text and in person.

“My client says he never did anything wrong,” Gordon said. “This is why you need a hearing. Each side needs to be able to present their case.”

In a policy dating to 2011, Gordon said an individual accused of sexual misconduct is called in for questioning without knowing what the accuser has said, nor who else has been interviewed regarding the accusation.

The accused student requested campus-wide changes to the university’s policies and procedures on sexual misconduct; Tarnow partially granted the request, limiting it to the ongoing investigation into the student's alleged conduct. 

The student will now be allowed to question his accuser during a live hearing, though not directly. According to the court document, he can submit questions through a resolution officer, resolution coordinator or student resolution panel.  

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN

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