Court rules university violated due process rights in sexual assault hearing

Second state-level ruling against a university in a month

A state judge ruled the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga made an "arbitrary and capricious" decision when it found a male student guilty of sexual assault and expelled him, Peter Schmidt reports for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Last December, then-senior Corey Mock was unable to prove he obtained verbal consent from his accuser, Molly Morris, who has since gone public with her account of the night. 

The campus's code of conduct defines consent as verbal or non-verbal "acts that are unmistakable in their meaning," according to the judge, Carol L. McCoy of the Nashville chancery court.

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Additionally, Mock's due process rights were violated when the school required he prove that he obtained consent, when "the ultimate burden of proving sexual assault remained on the charging party," McCoy ruled.


Morris reported that an assault occurred in March 2014 to the university. She said she drank alcohol, but not enough to cause her to become as sick and intoxicated as she did. She could not prove she had been drugged. 

She could not remember whether or not she had given verbal consent. Mock said she had not, but that she consented through nonverbal cues.

In August 2014, the campus hearing officer dismissed the charges.

Morris then met with Chancellor Steven Angle, who released a second ruling finding Mock guilty—and then expelled him.  

Mock challenged the decision and was reinstated at the university for his final semester, by order of the judge, pending his appeal. However, his scholarship and ability to participate on the wrestling team remained revoked. 

The appeal ultimately resulted in last week's ruling.

Challenging universities in court

The Tennessee ruling comes just a month after a California judge ruled the University of California, San Diego denied a student a fair hearing because it prevented him from confronting his accuser.

Meanwhile, Morris has filed a Title IX discrimination complaint with the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights. She says administrators changed her complaint, blaming her for what transpired that night (Schmidt, Chronicle of Higher Education, 8/10).

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