UCSB to pay attorney fees to wrongfully accused former student
After a half-decade battle in court, a student who would have graduated from UCSB this year will now be awarded compensation.
In a ruling issued on June 6, the Second District Court of Appeal determined UCSB should pay the attorney’s fees to “John Doe,” in the case that gained national media attention as John Doe v. The Regents of the University of California.
According to a news release sent out on June 10, John’s civil rights were violated by the university starting in 2016.
The case began with an “interim suspension” of the student before he moved into his freshman dorm. His girlfriend “Jane” recorded a video intended for blackmail that made it look like John hit her and posted it on Twitter. This resulted in John’s arrest and transport to a juvenile detention facility.
John was barred from UCSB, and an investigation by UCSB’s Title IX office began. Jane later admitted she was never struck by John, but that didn’t stop John from being tied up in court for years as he tried to fight his suspension that took two years to exonerate, clear his record and be a normal college student.
In the end, he was ostracized from campus, became depressed and never finished school.
The case sparked a massive investigation into UCSB’s Title IX Office by the U.S. Department of Education, resulting in a “Resolution Agreement” and a follow-up report.
The Court of Appeal addressed a “litany of abuses directed at John Doe” in the Court Opinion, along with Vice Chancellor Margaret Klawunn’s concealment of documents and the office’s violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The court’s ruling determined that John was denied due process.
Andrea Estrada, the director of news and media relations at UCSB, told the News-Press the administration cannot discuss pending litigation.
John’s attorney, Bob Ottilie, deemed John’s eventual court victory “bittersweet.”
“The judicial system works. Unfortunately, it often works only if you have a lot of time and money. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the Regents’ victims in these student cases don’t have time or money, so those kids lose,” he said.
It is unknown at this time if action will be taken against Vice Chancellor Klawunn or Ariana Alvarez, the director of UCSB’s Title IX Office.
However, the University seems to be acknowledging their faults and taking a step forward with entering the “Resolution Agreement,” which aims to ensure Title IX investigations resolve in a timely manner. The school has also appeared to end its practice of barring students amid pending Title IX charges, according to the news release.
If nothing else, John has chosen to look at the positives of the court battle that replaced his college career.
“I’ve been blessed my whole life. I am thankful we made a difference for the community,” he said. “The people who did this to me at UCSB will remember me more than most students, and that memory will stop them from hurting other young people. I take pride in that accomplishment.”