Huffpost College

Former Brown Student Sues School Over Expulsion

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A former Brown University student alleges in a lawsuit unsealed Monday that he was removed from campus more than three years ago after being falsely accused of rape by the daughter of a major donor and fundraiser for the Ivy League school.

William McCormick III and his parents say university administrators gave him a one-way ticket home to Wisconsin after he was accused of rape in the fall of 2006. McCormick alleges the school never told the police about the rape allegations and accepted them as true without doing an investigation.

The lawsuit says the father of the accusing student is a Brown alumnus who has "donated and raised very substantial sums of money," was in regular contact about the allegations with school administrators and contacted university president Ruth Simmons directly.

Brown, which has asked for the case to be dismissed, said in a statement late Monday that university administrators acted appropriately but declined to comment further, citing student confidentiality.

The university's lawyer, Steven Richard, told a judge Monday that the lawsuit didn't show any wrongdoing and that it merely made vague and unsubstantiated claims against various administrators.

"My difficulty is responding to the broad net cast on everyone," Richard said.

A university administrator told McCormick his removal from campus was to be on an interim basis, according to a letter submitted in court. But McCormick wound up withdrawing from Brown later that fall under an agreement with the accuser's family he says he was coerced into signing.

The lawsuit names 15 people affiliated with Brown, including Simmons, as well as the female student and her father. It was filed last fall, just before the three year-statute of limitations for bringing such claims was to have expired. A federal judge unsealed it Monday.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they were sexually assaulted, and is not naming the father to avoid identifying the woman here. The woman maintains that she was raped and that the sexual assault allegations are true, said her lawyer Joseph Cavanagh.

The lawsuit says McCormick, a nationally ranked wrestler in high school who obtained a scholarship to go to Brown, was accused of rape in September 2006 by a fellow freshman who lived in his dorm.

The student initially accused him of stalking and harassing her, at which point a no-contact order was issued against McCormick by the university, lawyers say.

The following week, the student – encouraged and pressured by friends, according to the lawsuit – reported that she had been raped by McCormick to the resident adviser, who urged her to repeat her allegations to deans at the school.

Administrators told McCormick he was being accused of sexual misconduct but never gave him a written copy of the allegations or a chance to defend himself, according to the lawsuit, which says he was also ordered to leave campus, driven to the airport and put on a flight back to Wisconsin.

The lawsuit says no sexual contact occurred and no charges were ever filed.

U.S. District Judge William Smith heard arguments Monday on whether to dismiss the lawsuit, but did not immediately rule.

He told J. Scott Kilpatrick, a lawyer for the McCormick family, that the complaint was a "mess" and that some of its claims so far appear unsubstantiated. He said the lawsuit was not detailed enough in specifying what each staff member and administrator is alleged to have done wrong.

But he also said he was troubled the university never alerted the police about a rape allegation it considered credible.

"The thought that with all the people involved in this matter at different levels, a determination is made to not tell law enforcement, even the Brown Police Department – I'm having trouble getting that," Smith said.