A federal appeals court Tuesday revived a lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California brought by a Chinese national graduate student who alleges UCLA violated his civil rights in a disciplinary proceeding instituted after a former student accused him of misconduct.
Based on the former student’s allegations, and before beginning a formal Title IX investigation, UCLA issued an immediate interim suspension of the graduate student, identified in court papers as John Doe, who was just months away from completing his doctoral degree in chemistry/biochemistry, according to the ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
More than five months later, UCLA suspended Doe for two years after finding he violated the university’s dating violence policy by placing the woman — his former fiancé — “in fear of bodily injury,” just one of 13 charges the university brought against him. As a result, Doe lost his housing, his job as a teaching assistant on campus, his ability to complete his degree, and his student visa, the appeals court stated.
A message sent to a spokesperson for the UC Regents seeking comment was not immediately answered.
In December 2019, the man filed suit in Los Angeles federal court against the UC governing board, alleging violations of his civil rights and system-wide bias against males. In particular, he alleged that a UCLA official told him that “no female has ever fabricated allegations against an ex-boyfriend in a Title IX setting.”
A federal judge granted UC’s motion to dismiss the following year, concluding that the plaintiff had not sufficiently stated a Title IX claim against the board.
But in its decision, a three-judge panel of the appeals court, meeting in Pasadena, found that Doe had, in fact, stated a Title IX claim because the facts alleged in his complaint, if true, raised a plausible inference that UCLA discriminated against him on the basis of sex.
The panel concluded that the appellant’s allegations of external pressures from the Department of Education impacting how the university handled sexual misconduct complaints, an internal pattern and practice of bias throughout the university system and at UCLA in particular, and specific instances of bias in Doe’s particular disciplinary case, when combined, “raised a plausible inference of discrimination on the basis of sex sufficient to withstand dismissal,” according to a summary of the appellate panel’s opinion.
The panel reversed and vacated the district court’s order dismissing Doe’s Title IX action and sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.