Judge to Johnson & Wales: Unfair to Expect Students to Be Lawyers


Here’s a Rhode Island story, out of Johnson & Wales University that hasn’t received a lot of notice:

“A reasonable juror could decide that it is not ‘fair’ to require a student who knows little or nothing to figure out what s/he does not know in order to ask productive questions.”

With this finding and many more, a federal judge refused to dismiss an expelled student’s lawsuit against a Rhode Island university for allegedly running him through a Title IX kangaroo court.

One of the core issues in the lawsuit against Johnson & Wales University is the burden the administration put on “John Doe” to understand the finer details of its adjudication process, as if the student were a trained lawyer. It created confusion for John and benefited his accuser, who faced no such burdens.

This ruling, which sends the case to a jury, is procedural and doesn’t appear to get into the details of the incident, but the story may seem familiar to anybody who was once a young adult and who has followed kangaroo relationship-courts on American campuses during the last decade.

Two students were involved in a sexual relationship, which broke off after the female apparently experienced the last two of six sexual encounters negatively.  At some point, the boyfriend of the female (whether subsequent or contemporaneous isn’t clear) went to campus police with a rape allegation on her behalf, but she declined to file.  Three months later, the boyfriend accompanied her to the police station to make a statement.

During the course of the “trial,” the accused was not permitted to question his accuser, any of her witnesses, or her boyfriend and wasn’t even given access to her 18-page written complaint.  Furthermore, the hearing was not transcribed and therefore produced no record.

If these details are accurate, this is clearly a travesty of justice, which leaves the question of what treatment the customer of a private organization deserves in such circumstances.  This question is made more complicated by the importance that we now attribute to higher education in our society.  Any deviation from the standard process of high school to college to grad school or job creates a question mark that can affect a young adult at each step.

Treating a student in this way can therefore have a tremendous effect, and even if “John Doe” cannot recover compensation for the damage to his future and reputation, he can at least reduce the harm by making it publicly known that the judgment of Johnson & Wales is not to be trusted.


Featured image: The show-trial scene in Paths of Glory.