The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is investigating whether Texas A&M University went too far when it suspended a male student accused of assaulting a female classmate. The Texas Tribune says that focus surprised officials at A&M, a university that has been praised by student groups for its work to curb sexual violence on campus. The Tribune learned specifics of the Texas A&M investigation through a trove of documents released by the university under the state's open records law. A female student told campus officials that a male student had groped her and forced her to perform oral sex on him after they went to dinner together. The male student denied abusing the female student.
There were no criminal charges, but the male student was suspended for seven months. He complained to the school and federal officials that A&M's system for investigating allegations of sexual violence was “flawed” and that he was penalized based on “lies.” Those kinds of complaints from male students are increasingly common at universities, said Wendy Murphy, a professor at New England Law. Many men who have been suspended or kicked out of school over accusations of rape have sued their universities over claims of gender discrimination, she said. The Department of Education isn't supposed to investigate just because a student thinks he's been unfairly kicked off campus, Murphy said. It's supposed to intervene to see if a student suffered from a discriminatory learning environment or if a university's processes are unfair to a particular gender or ethnicity.