The college has entered litigation as a result of the lawsuit filed last spring by a recent graduate, according to publicly available court records. The civil docket for the case indicates that the college has dismissed the plaintiff’s claims and that the plaintiff did not agree to the dismissal. A hearing on the dismissal occurred Wednesday, Sept. 21. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff claims she was raped twice while at Carleton and that the administration’s mishandling of her case caused her ongoing emotional trauma, made her unsafe and limited her educational opportunities.
The lawsuit, which was filed on May 2 in the Federal Court of Minnesota, mentions specifically that Carleton violated Title IX, the American with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Minnesota Social Host Liability statute. The lawsuit also points out Carleton’s institutional failings that led to the rape. It states that Carleton staff, RAs and SWAs violated the college’s alcohol and drug policies. According to the lawsuit, they “condoned the excessive consumption of alcohol by its students, including underage students” and allowed underage drinking during New Student Week. Throughout the Title IX process, the plaintiff claims to have witnessed the mishandling of and the inadequacies in Carleton’s Title IX process and Dean of Students Office.
Since the filing of the lawsuit, Carleton has undergone several institutional changes in areas that the lawsuit mentions explicitly. Residential Life revamped its RA policies pertaining to underage drinking (see article page 2). The SWAs reoriented their NSW program on alcohol and are refocusing their alcohol education for first years (see article page 1). Julie Thornton, the Title IX Coordinator during the time in which the plaintiff went through Carleton’s Title IX process, no longer works at the college. In addition, Dean of Students Office and Title IX in particular are in the process of expansion and restructuring (see last week’s article “Changes coming to Dean’s office”).
College policy dictates that the administration cannot comment on pending litigation or personnel issues, and the administration declined repeated requests from The Carletonian for an interview. Because the administration will not discuss the lawsuit, it is unclear whether the lawsuit had any influence on the changes to RA policies, the SWAs’ NSW presentation, the Title IX Coordinator or the Title IX process.
Among other things, the lawsuit would require Carleton to punish sexual misconduct with a minimum two-term suspension, step up its efforts to curb underage drinking, offer better Title IX training to College employees and give more funding to SHAC.
Carleton was last sued in 1991 when four alumni filed a lawsuit claiming that the college had violated Title IX. The plaintiffs asserted that they had been assaulted while attending Carleton and that the administration had not adequately protected them from their assaulters. The lawsuit settled out of court and college Title IX policies were changed as a part of the settlement, according to a 1992 article in The Voice, Carleton’s alumni magazine.