Yale University denies it was trying to make an example of former basketball captain Jack Montague when it expelled him over a sexual assault allegation.
The school filed its formal response late Friday to Montague’s federal lawsuit, which accused the Ivy League university of punishing Montague over what he believes was consensual sex.
The lawsuit, filed in June, argues the university expelled the popular athlete in February to prove it was tough on sexual misconduct. It also argues the school coerced the alleged victim into cooperating by inappropriately telling her about a previous misconduct complaint against Montague.
The school “admits that some Yale students and some alumni raised concerns about how Yale responded to complaints of sexual misconduct,” according to the court filing. “(It) denies that it had to show that it was willing to take a hard line against male students accused of sexual assault in order to dispel the notion that Yale’s campus was an unfriendly and unsafe.”
The lawsuit argues that the university used the case against Montague, a popular and well-liked athlete, in part as an opportunity to respond to a survey on sexual assault by the Association of American Universities. The association estimated that one in four Yale undergraduates had an experience that “does not meet Yale’s standard for consent.”
“In short, imposing harsh discipline on Montague would surely make an impact,” the lawsuit says.
A spokeswoman for Montague’s attorney, Max Stern, said they were still reading the Yale response Saturday and were not ready to comment.
Montague, a senior, was expelled after a friend of the woman involved in his case went to a school official who ensures Yale’s compliance with Title IX, the federal law designed to prevent gender discrimination in education.
The lawsuit alleges the Title IX officer brought the complaint more than a year after the incident and despite being told the woman did not believe Montague heard her when she tried to end their sexual encounter. The victim eventually cooperated only after the Title IX officer informed her that Montague had previously received counseling after an incident involving another woman, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges the school didn’t tell her that case involved him shoving a paper plate down someone’s shirt following a drunken argument outside a pizza parlor.
The woman was not “affirmatively misled by the defendants into participating in a formal complaint process initiated by Yale,” the school said in its response.
The allegation involved the last of four sexual encounters between the two students, his attorneys say.
Police and the local prosecutor have said no criminal allegation was ever made against Montague.
The lawsuit asks that Montague be reinstated as a student or for Yale to reopen the proceedings against him. It also seeks monetary damages. It is scheduled to go to trial no earlier than February.
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