Alleging an unfair process, the attorney for a recent Edina High School graduate charged with several sexual assaults at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said Wednesday he will appeal his client’s expulsion from the school.
A UW-Madison disciplinary committee found 21-year-old Alec R. Cook “responsible for violating university student conduct policies related to a crime of violence” and has accepted the university’s recommendation of expulsion, school spokeswoman Meredith McGlone said Tuesday.
Cook, who was placed under “emergency suspension” from the school last fall as the allegations against him mounted, has until March 24 to appeal. Cook, a 2014 Edina graduate, was majoring in real estate and urban land economics.
“We are assuredly appealing this decision,” attorney Chris Van Wagner said in a statement Wednesday.
“It seems that the Wisconsin [Department of Transportation] affords more due process when it seeks to take away a driver’s license than the UW Madison is giving Alec Cook here in seeking to deprive him of his entire educational future,” the statement continued.
Van Wagner pointed out that no accusers went before the committee, which prevented Cook’s defense from challenging any of the allegations.
The attorney also noted that the committee vote was 2-1 in favor of expulsion, “despite a very low standard of required evidence.”
Van Wagner said that the split vote “shows that the separate criminal case is not strong.”
Cook has pleaded not guilty, and Van Wagner has said that the sexual encounters were all consensual.
Many colleges around the country, under pressure from the federal government to aggressively pursue discipline in connection with sexual assault allegations on campus, are getting pushback from the accused in the form of lawsuits or appeals of their decisions.
Cook was charged in October with multiple counts of sexual assault, spanning from March 2015 to October 2016, after a woman said he assaulted her on Oct. 12 in his apartment. He was arrested in October and released after posting bail in mid-December.
The charges say Cook knew his five accusers because they had been in class together or had met socially. In some of the cases, the women began a consensual relationship with him.
But according to the criminal complaint, those encounters with him quickly changed. Prosecutors say that one woman told investigators she was sexually assaulted over several hours and strangled to the point of near unconsciousness.