The University of Oregon went to court Tuesday seeking dismissal of the lawsuits filed by Brandon Austin, Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, former UO basketball players.
The lawsuits claim that the former players were treated unfairly, and school officials denied them due process when they were suspended.
All three players have been expelled and banned from campus up to 10 years for allegedly raping a female student in March 2014.
The university’s attorney, Michelle Barton Smigel, said that neither federal nor state law prevents a public university from suspending a student who is “found to have engaged in an act of sexual misconduct,” according the university’s student conduct code.
The UO administration “pre-judged the situation,” Austin’s attorney, Alan Milstein, said in court Tuesday.
“To expel these kids [was wrong],” Milstein said, according to The Register-Guard. “They should have had access to a fundamentally fair hearing.”
Artis and Dotson’s lawsuits also argued that the university responded to the allegations with a series of “arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory and gender-based actions.”
“From the outset, the investigation and hearing process were slanted in favor of the female accuser because of her gender,” the lawsuit said.
UO officials “granted the female accuser the presumption of truth because she’s a female,” the suit stated.
Barton Smigel said the accusation was invalid, citing the university’s duty to protect students from sexual assault on campus in accordance with federal Title IX protections.
“That argument really falsely assumes that efforts to keep women safe and from being sexually assaulted, and to keep men from sexually assaulting others, is somehow against men,” Barton Smigel said in court, according to the Guard.
The hearing lasted three hours with attorneys on both sides arguing whether UO handled the incident legally.
The players’ attorneys said the decision to expel them violated the players’ Fourteenth Amendment rights to a due process hearing.
Barton Smigel argued that the former players, under legal advisement, waived their rights to a more formal hearing-like process where they could have cross-examined witnesses and potentially appealed a finding.
U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said he expects the process to take several weeks to review all the materials, including police reports, before coming to a ruling.
This is the latest episode of lawsuits surrounding the alleged rape case of the three former basketball players in March 2014. Since then, the university has settled with Jane Doe, the alleged victim, of the amount of $800,000 and a full-ride scholarship. The university also settled with two former counseling center employees for $425,000 in July. About the same time, director of the University Testing and Counseling Center Shelly Kerr was fined by the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners for failing to take reasonable precautions to protect the student’s confidential mental health information.