College continues to request dismissal of Title IX lawsuit

by Dina Kleiner / Beacon Staff • September 10, 2015

The college continues to request the dismissal of an amended complaint in a lawsuit filed by a former student Jillian Doherty, who alleges Emerson mishandled her rape case. The college filed its reply brief, a document in support of the motion to dismiss the lawsuit, on Aug 31. 

Doherty, 22, originally filed a civil complaint against the college last August, which claimed that the college violated Title IX, a gender equity law, and acted negligently by failing to prevent her rape. Doherty alleges she was raped by a male Emerson student after a consensual sexual act in his dorm room in April 2012.

After her original complaint was dismissed by a federal judge in May, Doherty resubmitted an amended complaint two weeks later. The college’s July 16 motion requested that her amended complaint also be dismissed.

The college’s reply in support of the motion to dismiss focused on Doherty’s allegations in her amended complaint that the college acted with “deliberate indifference.” The school stated that her claims—that the college had inadequate resources regarding sexual assault, and a failure to properly educate the student body on sexual violence prevention—were factually invalid. 

“Emerson College published written policies, procedures, and educational materials to prevent and respond to sexual assaults, and in response to Plaintiff’s sexual assault report, the College investigated, issued no contact directives, interviewed witnesses, reviewed evidence, made written findings, held two hearings, granted an appeal, and expelled her assailant,” the document reads. “As a matter of law, the Court cannot find on those facts that Emerson College was deliberately indifferent to campus sexual assault.”

However, Doherty’s amended complaint also stated that by allowing untrained administrators (including the current Director of the Office of Student Conduct and the case’s Title IX investigator, Michael Arno) to handle her investigation, the college therefore did act with deliberate indifference.

“Due to Emerson’s lack of proper policies and procedures pursuant to Title IX and the lack of education and training of college administrators, Michael Arno’s investigation was woefully inadequate,” the amended complaint reads.

Doherty’s amended complaint also dropped claims against all but one of the four school administrators originally accused of mishandling the investigation. The amended complaint also dropped claims that the college violated the Jeanne Clery Act, which requires colleges to disclose campus crime information. In the past, lawyers for the college argued that the Clery Act can only be enforced by the Department of Education and not through lawsuits, which Doherty’s lawyer acknowledged in the April hearing.

Andrew Tiedemann, vice president for communications and marketing and the college’s spokesperson, wrote in a statement to the Beacon that Emerson maintains the position that Doherty’s amended complaint should be dismissed for the same reasons the court dismissed her initial complaint.

“The allegations establish that the College acted promptly, reasonably, and fairly in response to Ms. Doherty’s sexual assault report,” the statement reads.

Tiedemann wrote that the college expects a hearing on the pending motion to be scheduled by the court in September.

Doherty did not respond to requests for comment.