Former Yale men’s basketball captain Jack Montague filed a lawsuit against the university Thursday, arguing that the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct (UWC) unjustly made him a “poster boy” by expelling him in February for violating university policy on sexual misconduct.
Deputy Title IX Coordinator Angela Gleason and Senior Deputy Title IX Coordinator Jason Killheffer are also named as defendants in the lawsuit in addition to the university. The suit alleges that the university’s expulsion was a breach of Yale’s contractual obligations and a violation of his Title IX rights.
The suit notes public criticism the university faced leading up to the formation of the UWC in 2011. “As a consequence, the University had to show it was willing to take a hard line against male students accused of sexual assault in order to dispel the notion that Yale’s campus was an unfriendly and unsafe environment for women,” the suit alleges.
The suit subsequently details the U.S. Department of Education’s 2011 “Dear Colleague Letter, which advised institutions of higher learning that sexual violence constitutes sexual harassment under Title IX, directing schools to eliminate such harassment or risk losing federal funding.
The lawsuit also chronicles interactions between Montague and the UWC complainant, referred to as “Jane Roe,” who alleged one incident of “nonconsensual” intercourse with Montague in October 2014. Roe initially was reluctant to report the incident, with Gleason asking a suitemate of Roe’s to encourage Roe to participate in UWC’s anonymous informal complaint process after the suitemate told Gleason of Roe’s “bad experience” with Montague.
Roe “liked the idea of” an anonymous informal complaint process, according to the suit, thinking it would “fulfill her goal of making sure Mr. Montague understood [that] his behavior was wrong and hurtful and [would] stop him from doing it again to someone else.”
Gleason later told Roe that Gleason could not keep Roe’s name confidential, informing Roe that Montague had already been referred for sensitivity training at the Yale Sexual Harassment and Assault Response & Education Center after a previous complaint against him and so the option of informal resolution and training was no longer available to him.
The suit argues that Gleason was wrong to inform Roe that her anonymity was no longer guaranteed
The UWC states:
An individual who makes an informal inquiry to the UWC Chair or Secretary may request that the UWC keep the matter confidential from the accused or other persons involved in the events. However, the UWC will not be able to hear a formal complaint unless the individual is willing to reveal the complaint (including the complainant’s identity) to the respondent, the fact-finder, and the hearing panel (see Section 7, below). In some cases (for example, allegations of violence), the UWC may not be able to honor a request for confidentiality if doing so would endanger the safety or well-being of the complainant or other members of the Yale community. In addition, the University may not be able to preserve the complete confidentiality of UWC records in the event of litigation or a government investigation. Finally, an accused individual may have access to sexual misconduct allegations that become part of that individual’s student record or personnel file, although in such cases the University will remove information identifying the complainant.
The suit argues that Montague was never previously the subject of a complaint of sexual assault, although a female student accused him of rolling up a paper plate and shoving it down her tank top while Montague was intoxicated on the last day of his freshman year. The female student, named as “Sally Smith,” filed a formal Title IX complaint against Montague in fall 2013, alleging sexual harassment. Montague told an independent fact-finder he did not remember the incident, but that it likely occurred as Smith alleged.
In light of that incident, the UWC panel recommended Montague be placed on probation for four terms; that he not be permitted to hold a leadership position in any student activity, organization or sport; that he be required to enroll in sexual harassment and gender sensitivity training through Yale’s SHARE Center; that he be required to meet with a member of the SHARE Center once each semester for the remainder of his time at Yale “to review and reflect on his interactions and relationships with female students at Yale”; and that he be required to receive training on the appropriate use of alcohol.
Montague was named captain of Yale men’s basketball in April 2015, and Yale men’s basketball coach James Jones was Montague’s adviser during his UWC hearing process, but the lawsuit states that Jones, Montague’s only assistance during the process, was unaware of the practice of reading an opening statement during the hearing. Roe prepared and read a lengthy written opening statement in advance of the hearing, accompanied by a SHARE Center adviser, while Montague did not, unaware of that custom. The hearing was not recorded by audio or visual means, the suit states.
The lawsuit argues the UWC’s categorization of the 2013 incident as sexual harassment was “erroneous” and not of a “sexual nature,” instead arguing that Yale’s Executive Committee, which has jurisdiction over other undergraduate student disciplinary infractions, should have handled the case.
Yale appointed an impartial fact-finder per UWC procedures, and Montague told the fact-finder he had four to seven alcoholic drinks in the space of a few hours on the night of October 18, when the alleged “nonconsensual sex” occurred.
According to Roe, she also said, “no, I said I wanted to hook up but not have sex.” Roe explained to the fact-finder, however, that Montague looked “as if he did not hear what she was saying.”
The suit states Roe left Montague’s house after the encounter and later returned, accompanying Montague back to his house, where Roe declined further sexual contact and he ‘did not object.”
The lawsuit further argues the university did not give Montague proper advance notice of Roe’s account, putting him at a disadvantage at his interview with the fact-finder “because he was asked to respond to those claims without knowing or being able to reflect upon any of the detailed allegations,” also failing to address the proceedings stemming from the Title IX sexual harassment complaint filed against him in 2013.
Montague was informed of the details of Roe’s claims on or about Jan. 15, 2016, six days before the Jan. 21 UWC hearing on those claims, the suit states.
The Yale Daily News reported that neither Montague nor his counsel – lead counsel Max Stern or local counsel William Dow, the filer of the suit – will be commenting now that litigation has been brought forth, per Karen Schwartzman of Polaris Public Relations. The Yale Daily News also reported that in a statement, university spokesman Tom Conroy said “the lawsuit is factually inaccurate and legally baseless, and Yale will offer a vigorous defense,”
The full 101-page lawsuit can be read here, via the Yale Daily News.