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Letter: Student Services wrongfully expelled my partner

December 8, 2015

Dear Dr. Denise Maybank,

Several days ago, you chose to dismiss my partner from MSU based on a false allegation of sexual misconduct. The investigation leading up to this decision took over a year – 429 days, and for months my partner and I were fraught with anxiety over your decision. 

Now that your decision has been made, I am devastated and my life has been turned upside-down. MSU has committed a great injustice by continuing to pursue an allegation despite no credible evidence, despite months and months of insistence of innocence, despite our proving time and time again that the university has mistreated my partner, despite your own admittance that procedural errors had occurred, despite the fact my partner was never given a chance at a hearing, and despite the fact that the claimant themselves performed sexual acts on my partner without my partner’s consent.

I should not, however, be surprised. The investigation by the OCR found a number of issues in MSU’s process that have contributed to a false finding of guilt in the case of my partner. Most alarming to me was the claim MSU made to OCR that they “have not yet had a case where the administrator or hearing board believed that the respondent met his or her burden of proof” within the context of an appeal, which either indicates that every single respondent at MSU has indeed been guilty of the allegations against them, or that this university simply does not provide fair procedures to allow for respondents to actually prove they are innocent. Given my experiences with the process, it is almost certainly the latter option.

My partner does not deserve to be barred from attending my graduation in 2017 or their sibling’s graduation a few years down the road for a false allegation of sexual misconduct. Given the backlash your office has received for allowing an actually guilty individual back onto campus for these reasons, I do not believe my partner’s chances of being permitted to attend these events are good. That has absolutely shattered me.

This investigation has had a tremendous impact on their education and life outside of school, and has resulted in them losing all of their part-time employment and source of income from their various jobs at MSU. When my partner expressed suicidal thoughts, Rick Shafer recommended that they should not seek counseling through MSU’s counseling center because the claimant was also using those resources. 

This was extremely dangerous advice, and I fear for what may have happened if I were not around to support my partner and help them deal with the emotions this investigation has caused them to experience. Given the cost associated with outside counseling services, as well as my partner’s equal right as a student to take advantage of university resources, I continue to find Mr. Shafer’s advice to be horribly damaging.

My own life continues to be severely impacted by the investigation and the decision you made, as anything I participate in on campus now feels worthless if my partner cannot experience it with me. I worry about seeing the claimant on campus. I have so far only seen them once, but I nearly collapsed onto the sidewalk as I was struck by a panic attack that left my legs weak and my head dizzy. It took me several hours to recover from the incident and I now avoid the area in which I saw them. 

After all, if their words could condemn my partner, what if they chose to attack me as well? I intended to pursue graduate studies at MSU, but I no longer feel comfortable doing so, given the claimant’s presence here and how unfairly my partner has been treated by the university. I have also considered dropping one of my majors in order to allow me to graduate earlier, but believe my education is important and do not wish for my fear of the claimant to impact my future.

As a feminist, I am often critical of men who suggest the possibility of “reverse sexism” and I do still believe that it does not actually exist. However, gender discrimination in this context is a very real issue. Too often I hear stories about alleged assaults where both parties were heavily intoxicated, but one party (typically female) reports the incident as an assault, though it could very reasonably be argued that she had been the assailant because of the state of intoxication of both parties. 

This bias stems from an antiquated notion of what it means to have sex, wherein a man receives sex from a woman. We still believe sex is a transaction, with one party gaining something and the other party losing. In this case, my partner engaged in mutually consensual and sober intercourse with the claimant and was assaulted by the claimant, but responsibility lies with my partner because of their gender. That is simply horrifying.

I write to you because I am disgusted by the way this university treats its students who are pleading for a chance to speak. I write to you because I am no longer comfortable with being silent in the face of injustice. I write to you because this system that is supposedly designed to be fair and “fact-finding” picks and chooses which facts to consider in order to find innocent people guilty. I write to you because this case has taught me that gender discrimination does exist. I write to you because I still do not believe this university should expel innocent students on nothing more than the words of another student without being given the chance to speak in person to defend themselves.

An Outraged Student

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