UC Santa Barbara concealed evidence from a UCSB student defending himself against a suspension issued by the university for an alleged Title IX violation, according to a March court order and a complaint submitted in July.
The student, referred to in court documents as John Doe, was barred from attending UCSB in August 2016 after the university opened a Title IX investigation against him. The university opened the investigation after it discovered a 19-second video in which Doe and his ex-girlfriend argued on camera before the screen went black.
University officials said the video “amply justified” Doe’s suspension while the university conducted a Title IX investigation.
Doe filed a complaint against the university in December 2016 to remove the interim suspension and returned to school in April 2017.
Judge Thomas Anderle of the Santa Barbara Superior Court ruled against the imposed suspension in the March court order, citing the university’s concealment of evidence as a cause and calling the university “seriously prejudiced” in its actions.
“This court disagrees with UCSB’s claim that the University’s use of the detective’s summaries in issuing the interim suspension does not violate his due process rights,” Anderle said in the court ruling. “John Doe is entitled to know all the information against him at the hearing, not via emailing his counsel allegedly critical and decisive information at a later time.”
Bob Ottilie, Doe’s lawyer, submitted an amended complaint to Anderle in July alleging that the university concealed evidence from Doe and violated his right to due process.
According to the court order and complaint, former director of judicial affairs Sandra Vasquez withheld two police emails from Doe during a hearing with him on Sept., 22, 2016 that the university used in the investigation. One email included statements by third parties attributed to Doe’s ex-girlfriend, Jane Doe.
Anderle found that the university never contacted Jane Doe to corroborate the statements.
After the hearing, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn made the decision to continue Doe’s suspension until the conclusion of the Title IX investigation.
The court received the evidence in March days before a court hearing on March 21. At the hearing, Klawunn said under oath she had considered the two pieces of concealed evidence in making her decision.
The university declined to comment on the case.
Vasquez has since left her position at UCSB and is now the dean of students at Pitzer College. Vasquez could not be reached for comment.
In an email to the Pitzer student body in August in response to allegations of concealing evidence from Doe, however, Vasquez said she has “never concealed material evidence in any case.”
Anderle also said in the court ruling that the university took too long to investigate, the Nexus reported in April, failing to conclude the Title IX investigation within the 60 calendar day deadline federally required for Title IX investigations and the 60 business day deadline required by the university.
The Title IX investigation is still ongoing, and the university has not placed charges on the student or interviewed any key witnesses.
The judge also ruled that the university caused Doe “irreparable harm” in barring him from the majority of his first year at UCSB.
Ottilie said he is “confident” Doe’s record will ultimately be cleared due to the evidence in support of the student and Judge Anderle’s ruling in March.
“If charged and convicted, we are just going to go back to court with the same record and the same judge and ask the judge to throw it out — which we’re confident he would,” Ottilie said.
In a letter from Ottilie to the UC Regents and the Office of the Chancellor at UCSB, Ottilie expressed concern that the university mistreated Doe through the suspension because he is a minority student and unable to legally contest due to lack of financial resources.
According to the March court ruling, Doe has incurred more than $100,000 in attorney’s fees since his filing in December. Ottilie said in an interview with the Nexus on Monday that Doe is currently unable to pay the expenses.
The United States Department of Education accepted the case for further investigation of potential Title IX and VI policy violations.
According to the Department of Education’s website, Title IX “prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex” and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin.”
A version of this article appeared on page one of the September 21, 2017, print edition of the Daily Nexus.