Doe v. Univ. of Cincinnati, No. 16-4693 (GRIFFIN, Clay, Thapar).
A male graduate student at the University of Cincinnati (UC) was accused by a female student of sexual assault, which he denied. UC held a disciplinary hearing, but the accusing student failed to attend. Nevertheless, UC suspended the graduate student based on the hearsay testimony the female student gave to investigators. The graduate student appealed his suspension to the district court, arguing that the complete denial of his right to confront his accuser violated his due process right to a fair hearing. The district court granted the student a preliminary injunction against his suspension, and UC appealed.
The Sixth Circuit affirmed the grant of the preliminary injunction, holding that “[t]he Due Process Clause guarantees fundamental fairness to state university students facing long-term exclusion from the educational process.” The Court found that, although a university need not provide the level of due process afforded in a criminal trial, this case resolved itself into a problem of credibility: should the disciplinary committee believe the female student, or the male student? There was no other corroborating evidence. The Court held that in such a case, where the outcome turns on a question of credibility, cross-examination is a due process right and the committee’s decision to suspend the male student without seeing or hearing from the female student at the hearing amounted to a denial of due process.