A UCSB freshman who was indefinitely suspended over an alleged altercation with his girlfriend is allowed to return to school, Judge Thomas Anderle ruled Tuesday. The male student sued the school earlier this year, claiming the university dragged out his Judicial Affairs case months longer than federal law allows. Though the university’s Title IX investigation of the incident is ongoing, John Doe, as he is identified in court documents, is no longer barred from walking onto campus.
Doe was arrested last August for allegedly hitting his then-girlfriend in San Diego, but the criminal charges were later dropped. His girlfriend told authorities she made up the accusations, according to court files. But footage of the alleged incident was sent by an unknown person to UCSB administrators, and the Judicial Affairs Office launched an investigation.
Doe was prohibited from starting classes during his freshman year until his case was adjudicated, but seven months later, no decision had been made. Federal law stipulates university administrative processes must be complete in 60 days.
Anderle “found that University’s inaction over such a lengthy period of time, leaving [Doe] in limbo, appears unreasonable and arbitrary,” the court ruling reads.
Andrea Estrada, UCSB spokesperson, said university administration respects the court’s rulings. “We will make every effort to ensure the student’s success while we complete our adjudication process,” she said.
UCSB was ordered to assist in Doe’s “assimilation back into the school.” This allows him to attend classes beginning spring quarter, assigns him counseling support, and returns him to his original room in Santa Cruz dorm. Doe also has unrestricted access to all UCSB programs and activities.
Estrada said the school is “working quickly to comply with the court’s order.” By Thursday, the student had moved into his room and registered for classes that begin after spring break. “Doe considers his roommate to be one of his best friends,” Robert Ottilie, Doe’s attorney, said in court. Ottilie, who is based in San Diego, took on the case pro bono because he is a personal friend of Doe’s family.
“The biggest component I am looking at now is the school’s procedural due process violations,” Ottilie said. He identified these violations as the university delaying the investigation.
Estrada declined to comment about the specifics of the case, but she said the campus “strives to conduct a fair, thorough, and impartial investigation and make factual findings as to whether the allegations are substantiated and a recommendation as to whether a policy violation has occurred.”
This ruling should benefit another UCSB freshman in a similar situation, Ottilie said. This student, who identified herself in public documents as “a female minority student,” is also indefinitely suspended even though she has not been charged by the District Attorney’s Office. Ottilie said she does “not have the resources to go to Court.” While he “is not hopeful at all because of the folks involved” that the recent ruling will benefit this second student’s case, Ottilie said, “It should.”