By: Dylan Frazier
The University of Findlay and two former student-athletes reached a settlement for a lawsuit five years in the making. The details of the settlement have not been released.
The case dates back to 2014, when two former student-athletes at UF were accused of sexual assaulting a woman. According to the lawsuit, Browning v. UF, on Sept. 20 and 21, 2014, Justin Browning and Alphonso Baity II engaged in sexual activity with a woman who goes by M.K. in the lawsuit. Both men say the sex was consensual.
The incident was reported on Oct. 1 M.K. accusing them of sexual assault saying she was too drunk to give consent. Within 48 hours after she reported the incident, Browning and Baity were expelled by the University.
The university sent out an email notification on Oct. 6 to staff and students with the names of the athletes announcing their expulsion. The university made the decision to expel them based on a “preponderance of evidence” as Dave Emsweller said in an interview with The Pulse in 2014. According to dictionary.com “this preponderance is based on the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy, and not on the amount of evidence.”
As stated in their initial lawsuit, Baity and Browning appealed the university’s ruling, but they were never given enough time to provide evidence to support their story as UF finished its investigation in just 24 hours. They would go on to sue the University for racial, gender, and ethnic discrimination. Both Baity and Browning are black. They also believed the quickness of the investigation was “a sham,” as stated in their lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Baity and Browning said they had students “on their side” who would have helped support their claim that they did not sexually assault M.K., but UF never interviewed them. The lawsuit also claimed UF threatened students who did not back up M.K.’s version of the story.
In the lawsuit, the men claimed M.K. also bragged to other people about having sex with them, but Baity and Browning claimed UF ignored that evidence. Browning and Baity also claimed that UF’s investigation of the complaint included only one interview with a black person and the rest of the interviews were with white people.
In a document from courtlistener.com, filed on February 21 of this year, it was revealed that M.K. also filed a counterclaim against Baity and Browning, seeking damages of bodily injury. She stated that they gave her a UTIand red sores in her throat. She also stated she was too drunk to give consent to the men.
In the Ohio Revised Code Section 2907.02, rape is also when a person’s “consent was impaired by a mental or physical condition” which includes intoxication. However, M.K. did say in the court document that she could not remember if a medical professional told her the red spots in her throat were because of Baity and Browning or not.
Senior U.S. District Judge James G. Carr denied her claim, stating that M.K.’s claims were “not evidence; it is speculation.” Carr could not find any evidence supporting her claim.
The UF marketing and communication office sent only this response to the Pulse’s request for comment about the settlement reached last month: “The University of Findlay and two previously expelled student-athletes, Justin Browning and Alphonso Baity, have resolved all claims between them to their mutual satisfaction, the specifics of which are confidential. They have no further comment.”
The Pulse also made a request with the UF Title IX office for an explanation of the procedures pertaining to sexual assault cases on campus. The request was denied.
These procedures would have been under the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA. VAWA is a Title IX policy that was implemented to prohibit sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. Overall, it was meant to help people who experience violence currently and aid survivors as well.
In an article from Newsweek.com, it shows how VAWA has changed since the Trump administration has taken office. Since Betsy DeVos took over the position of Secretary of Education, she has made changes to it. First, she changed the definition of sexual harassment. DeVos also stated that colleges no longer have to use “preponderance of evidence” as their level of proof. According to the U.S. Department of Education, colleges and universities now require that the accused get due process and presumption of innocence with the burden of proof being put on the school.
DeVos also noted in the Newsweek article hat universities now only have to investigate cases that happened on campus or campus-funded events. Previously, off-campus housing and fraternities were included in investigations. The last change she made gives the right for the accused to cross-examine the accuser, according to the Newsweek.com article.
The University of Findlay offers a web page under Title IX related to this change. It states “If you have been accused of sexual misconduct and are unsure what to do or whom to talk with, the following information will be helpful.Do NOT contact the complainant. You can contact the Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Student Affairs at 419-434-4570. The Title IX Coordinator can explain the University reporting procedures and explain the student disciplinary process.”