The Third Department, reversing Supreme Court, reinstated the petitioner as a student at Skidmore College and expunged from his school record any reference to the sexual misconduct allegations and findings which led to his expulsion. The court noted that, as a private college, the due process requirements imposed upon a state school were not applicable. However, the Third Department concluded the school’s failure to follow its own procedures severely prejudiced petitioner. The decision is too detailed to fully summarize here. The following quotation illustrates the nature of the court’s criticism of the way the college handled this matter:
Petitioner … contends that respondent failed to follow its own procedures in implementing the disciplinary process. Where, as here, no hearing is required by law, a court reviewing a private university’s disciplinary determination must determine “whether the university substantially adhered to its own published rules and guidelines for disciplinary proceedings so as to ascertain whether its actions were arbitrary or capricious” … . The determination must be annulled only where there has been a lack of substantial compliance, or where the determination lacks a rational basis … . Perfect adherence to every procedural requirement is not necessary to demonstrate substantial compliance … . Nevertheless, we find that there were multiple failures that here, taken together, demonstrated a lack of substantial compliance.
Respondent’s first such failure occurred at the outset of the investigation. Section XI of respondent’s 2015-2016 policy provides that an accused student must be given notice through a “[f]ormal [c]omplaint,” which must “includ[e] the date, time, location and factual allegations concerning a violation” … . The complaint provided to petitioner stated the date, time and location of the incident, but included no factual allegations identifying the specific actions that were alleged to be policy violations. Instead, it merely provided the text of the two policy provisions that petitioner was accused of violating — and nothing more. Thus, the complaint provided petitioner with no notice of the specific conduct that formed the basis of the alleged violations. Contrary to respondent’s argument, this failure was not remedied by the fact that the complaint recited the text of the provisions. Both provisions include such a broad range of actions that it would be impossible for an accused student to discern what particular conduct he or she was alleged to have committed. Matter of Doe v Skidmore Coll., 2017 NY Slip Op 05654, 3rd Dept 7-13-17
EDUCATION-SCHOOL LAW (SKIDMORE COLLEGE STUDENT REINSTATED AFTER EXPULSION, SCHOOL DID NOT FOLLOW ITS OWN PROCEDURES IN THE SEXUAL MISCONDUCT INVESTIGATION, SEVERELY PREJUDICING THE STUDENT 3RD DEPT)/COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES (SEXUAL MISCONDUCT INVESTIGATIONS, SKIDMORE COLLEGE STUDENT REINSTATED AFTER EXPULSION, SCHOOL DID NOT FOLLOW ITS OWN PROCEDURES IN THE SEXUAL MISCONDUCT INVESTIGATION, SEVERELY PREJUDICING THE STUDENT 3RD DEPT)/SEXUAL MISCONDUCT INVESTIGATIONS (COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, SKIDMORE COLLEGE STUDENT REINSTATED AFTER EXPULSION, SCHOOL DID NOT FOLLOW ITS OWN PROCEDURES IN THE SEXUAL MISCONDUCT INVESTIGATION, SEVERELY PREJUDICING THE STUDENT 3RD DEPT)