Michigan State University, perhaps the epicenter of Title IX disputes, has tried a new tactic to resolve sexual misconduct allegations that it has botched: pay the accuser and the accused hundreds of thousands of dollars to make the situation go away.
Michigan State University Settles Title IX Case for $1.2 Million
The settlement agreement was originally reported by ESPN. It involved a woman, known only as “Jane Doe” in court documents, and former Michigan State University football player Keith Mumphery. In order to “set aside” the results of a pair of contradicting Title IX decisions at Michigan State, “Jane Doe” was paid $475,000 by the school while Mumphery received $725,000.
The settlement involved a Title IX dispute dating from 2015.
According to the woman, she was sexually assaulted in her dorm room by Mumphery in March 2015. After a six-month investigation, Michigan State determined that Mumphery had not violated the school's sexual misconduct policy.
By that time, though, Mumphery had been drafted in the fifth round and was playing in the NFL for the Houston Texans as a wide receiver and punt returner.
The accuser appealed the outcome and the university reviewed the case. What they did was interview the nurse who examined the accuser and the existing evidence. What they didn't do was notify Mumphery about the appeal.
Michigan State then reversed its decision, found that the recently-graduated Mumphery had violated their policy, banned him from campus for the remainder of the semester and three more, and prevented him from reenrolling in the school, ending his graduate studies there.
The first that Mumphery heard of the appeal was when he received a copy of the finding of violation and the sanctions on June 7, 2016.
When the case was made public on May 31, 2017, Mumphery was cut by the Texans. He has yet to sign with another NFL team.
He sued the school, with that lawsuit ending in the settlement.
Large Settlement Sends a Problematic Message
Once again, Michigan State University has put its reputation over what is right in the Title IX context. Rather than setting up a legitimate hearing and allowing evidence to be present for and against a Title IX violation – as due process requires – they ended a debacle of their own making by offering huge payouts to the aggrieved parties. However, in so doing, the university sends a signal to accusers that they could possibly get a huge payday if they make an accusation and their school messes up the misconduct hearing and investigation.
While the accused in this case got a larger settlement offer, he also likely lost his professional football career. Worse, accused students nationwide face the possibility that accusers get bolder with even less evidence to back up their claims.
Title IX Advisor and Defense Attorney Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento is a national Title IX advisor and defense lawyer who represents those who have been accused of sexual misconduct in the higher education system. Contact him online or call his law office at (888) 535-3686.