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Newsletter > March 2016 > "Federal Suit Filed Against MSU and Kappa Sigma"
Federal Suit Filed Against MSU and Kappa Sigma
Tim Burke, Manley Burke, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Michigan State University Board of Trustees, two university officials, and Kappa Sigma Fraternity, face a federal court lawsuit.1 Four female students from Michigan State claim the University failed to appropriately investigate and respond to complaints each of them made after being sexually assaulted on campus. One of the plaintiffs makes a specific claim against Kappa Sigma Fraternity.
The claims against the University largely revolve around lengthy delays in considering complaints of sexual assault. In the first case, the University took approximately 200 days to conduct the initial investigation; in the second case it was over eight months; in the third — 13 months; and in the final one – 4 months.
The plaintiffs also complained that they were not advised of their rights to appeal certain decisions, and were denied accommodations or the enforcement by the University of no contact orders.
The claim against Kappa Sigma involves one of the plaintiffs who alleges she went to the Kappa Sigma Fraternity House to “hang out” with one of the members. The complaint states she was given alcoholic drinks by the member identified only as John Doe. According to the complaint:
“At one point during the night, and the next day, [the plaintiff] could only recollect flashes of the evening. The next day, John Doe informed [plaintiff] that they had engaged in sexual intercourse, one time at the fraternity house, one time in her dormitory room at Case Hall, and one time in his dormitory hall in Case Hall.”
The plaintiff promptly filed a complaint with the University. The Plaintiff claims that Kappa Sigma was negligent in failing to protect the plaintiff as “an invitee” to the Chapter House. She argues that the fraternity should have known of John Doe’s “dangerous and exploitive propensities.” According to her, the fraternity breeched it’s duty of care “by allowing John Doe to come into contact with [plaintiff] without supervision” and “by failing to warn [plaintiff] that John Doe posed a risk of sexually assaulting female students.” Nothing in the complaint explains what, if any, knowledge the fraternity had that John Doe had a history of such conduct.
The complaint details the impact the alleged assaults had on the plaintiffs — drops in GPAs, inability to sleep, withdrawal from social activities, dropping of classes, leaving classes in tears, moving back home, missing classes, and so on.
The 26-page, 150 paragraph complaint seeks damages from all the defendants. The claims against the University and its officials are based on violations of Title IX (20 USC 1681), the Federal Civil Rights Act (42 USC 1983) and the Michigan law against sex discrimination (MCL 37.2101 and 2301). The sole claim against the fraternity is based on negligence.
The fact that claims are made in a complaint does not make them true. They need to be proven in court. But if the claims of great delays in the University’s consideration of sexual assault reports are accurate, the University may be hard pressed to justify those acts.
1 Kollaritsch, et al. v. Michigan State University Board of Trustees, et al., U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan, Southern Division, Case 1:153-CV-0091.