Nearly a decade ago, an undergraduate student at Harvard was accused of sexual assault. After investigations, he was ultimately denied his degree. Now, all these years later, the issue of whether the student's undergraduate degree was wrongfully taken away from him is still being litigated in federal court. At the end of the day, the case serves as an important reminder that students should not rely on school employees to act as advocates on their behalf and that the impacts of student misconduct allegations can be long-lasting.
Did Harvard Misrepresent Student Advocacy and Confidentiality?
For context, A student was formally accused of sexual misconduct in 2013, just a few days before he was set to graduate from Harvard with his undergraduate degree. Ultimately, Harvard's misconduct board determined that the student was responsible for the actions he had been accused of, and he was denied his degree.
Six years later, in 2019, the former student/plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Harvard, asserting the school wrongfully withheld his degree after “the Administrative Board issued three charges of sexual misconduct against him, required him to withdraw from the College, and recommended his dismissal to the Faculty Council…” according to an article published by the Harvard Crimson. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2020, but on appeal, the federal appeals court ruled that one of the counts in the lawsuit shouldn't have been dismissed. The issue that survived the appeal will now go on to further litigation, where the courts will ultimately decide if Harvard falsely advertised a promise of confidentiality between students and their Ad board representative.
The Takeaway for All Students
One of the biggest takeaways from this case is that appealing misconduct decisions can work when you have the right advocate. The student should have hired an attorney-advisor from the beginning, who could have told him not to overly confide with anyone on Harvard's Ad Board. Now that the former student is working with experienced counsel, it appears he may see some legal results that work in his favor.
Another important point to take from this case, and others like it, is that student misconduct allegations take a very long time to resolve. Even when a student doesn't take their case to court, the school's administrative process can be a months-long ordeal.
Call a Student Defense Attorney
If you're accused of misconduct at your college or university, you need to speak with a legal advocate outside of your school's administration. Attorney Joseph D. Lento understands the student discipline defense process, and he can help you navigate the complex process. Attorney Lento is vastly experienced in student defense and academic proceedings across the nation, and he's worked with countless students and their families to help them get their collegiate careers back on track. To learn how the Lento Law Firm can help you, call 888-535-3686 today, or contact us online.