Former Carleton student Taariq Vanegas is suing Carleton College for wrongful expulsion following a finding of sexual misconduct.
Vanegas was accused of sexually assaulting another former Carleton student on April 28, 2017. The incident occurred following Vanegas and his accuser’s initiation into a now-disbanded secret society on campus. Participants had consumed large amounts of alcohol as part of the initiation.
Carleton’s Community Board on Sexual Misconduct (CBSM) began an investigation in May, concluding that Vanegas was guilty of violating the school’s sexual-misconduct policy by having sex with an incapacitated person who could not consent. The CBSM consequently recommended that Vanegas be suspended for three academic terms.
In June 2017, Vanegas and his accuser both appealed the decision to Carleton’s Dean of Students Carolyn Livingston. As stated in the accuser’s appeal, “The three-term suspension levied by the CBSM was not sufficient punishment for the seriousness of [Venagas’] actions.” After considering video evidence of the accuser during the night in question, as well as Vanegas’ stated attitude towards alcohol consumption and consent, Livingston concluded that the sanction issued by the CBSM did not in fact match the gravity of his offense.
In a written response to Vanegas’ appeal, Livingston asserted that his “continued attendance at Carleton would pose a danger to not only [the accuser], but other members of the community as well.” Vanegas was expelled later that month.
Subsequently, in July 2017, Rice County prosecutors charged Vanegas with third-degree criminal sexual conduct—a felony that carries a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison. However, the case was dismissed after his accuser left the country.
In July 2019, Vanegas filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against Carleton on three counts: gender discrimination in violation of Title IX, racial discrimination in violation of Title VI and the Minnesota Human Rights Act, and negligence.
As stated in the Complaint, “The erroneous outcome of the hearing and purported appeal can only be explained by gender bias against males in cases involving allegations of sexual assault.”
According to the complaint, Vanegas was also “subjected to harassment, discrimination, and disparate treatment on the basis of his race when he was removed from Carleton College on the basis of allegations that did not result in the removal of similarly situated caucasian students.”
In addition to these assertions, Vanegas contends that his accuser was in fact the aggressor during the night in question, alleging that she introduced herself and initiated a kissing exchange.
But medical records indicate that the morning after the alleged assault, his accuser’s blood-alcohol level was .24—three times the legal limit to drive. Moreover, she had little recollection of the night’s events. Vanegas, in contrast, participated in a 6 a.m. football practice that morning.
In a motion to dismiss Vanegas’ complaint filed by Carleton last week, the school contended that “the process that led to the decision to expel [Vanegas] was thorough, consistent with Carleton’s policies, and in full accord with the law . . . Carleton stands by its decision.”
With his lawsuit, Vanegas is seeking a clean disciplinary record as well as $75,000 at minimum in compensation for emotional distress and diminished educational and career opportunities.
Vanegas’ legal counsel has represented several cases in this district in which young men were either suspended or expelled from educational institutions following allegations of sexual misconduct by a female student. In cases against St. Thomas University, St. John’s University, and the Blake School, all three plaintiffs’ complaints were dismissed.
The Carletonian contacted Carleton’s Dean of Students, Title IX Office, and Public Relations Office for comment, but all parties declined to respond as the investigation is pending.