An expelled St. Olaf College student is alleging that the school's "kangaroo court" illegally punished him after he was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student following an alcohol-laden game of "Truth or Dare" with other young women in a dorm.
The lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, alleges that the private school south of the Twin Cities violated the onetime student's rights when it failed to properly investigate the woman's claims last November that she did not consent to the sexual contact in his dorm room. He was expelled two months later.
The plaintiff, 19-year-old Dilip G. Rao, of Barrington, Ill., was charged in January in Rice County District Court with numerous felony counts of criminal sexual conduct in connection with the incident. The charges say Rao admitted to police that he took advantage of the woman and touched her sexually.
That ongoing criminal case was not noted in the lawsuit. The same attorney, Beau McGraw, is representing Rao in both cases. McGraw said Thursday he would not comment on either case.
Rao, identified in the suit only as "John Doe" and a full-time freshman last fall, is suing for at least $75,000 in damages, expungement of the school's disciplinary proceeding, and a declaration from the court that St. Olaf's handling of this investigation was "wrongful, willful, intentional and reckless."
He also wants the right to answer in the negative if ever asked by "any third party … whether he has been accused of sexual misconduct or … any similar question."
Rao's account in the suit and that of his accuser, referenced in the court action as "Jane Doe," vary greatly about what happened when he and four female students gathered on Nov. 11.
He said Jane Doe and three other female students came to his dorm room about 1 a.m., and soon moved to her room with a bottle of vodka and Mountain Dew. The five played "Truth or Dare" and drank shots, with "dares" involving kissing among all of them, he said.
A little less than two hours later, Rao and Jane Doe went to his room, where they kissed, fondled each other and undressed, according to the suit. At one point, she was confused about why she was nude, said she never wanted to see him again and left, the suit alleges.
Several days later, Jane Doe made a sexual assault report to police, which is the foundation for the criminal case. She said in the report that he kept forcing himself on her over her repeated objections — at times while she was in a daze.
Rao's filing contends that St. Olaf has swung its investigatory pendulum too far after its highly publicized handling of a rape allegation in 2015 that led to the school not punishing the accused student.
Student Madeline Wilson said she was raped in 2015 by another student in a dorm and later raised eyebrows with her T-shirt that read: "Ask me how my college is protecting my rapist." She said the school cleared her alleged attacker in a campus investigation she said was deeply flawed.
"Defendant is overcompensating now in order to avoid bad publicity," Rao's lawsuit contends. "It was under these pressures and this climate that the allegations against the plaintiff were investigated and adjudicated, with [St. Olaf] using a process akin to a 'kangaroo court' that chose to presume his guilt before an investigation was even started."
A school spokeswoman declined to comment about Rao's allegations, but said in a statement that St. Olaf has a "rigorous … policy and process to ensure" student safety.
"We work diligently to investigate reports of sexual misconduct in a way that is fair and impartial while treating all individuals involved with dignity and respect," the statement read.
For the past several years, colleges and universities have been required by law to investigate such incidents or risk losing federal funding. However, the Trump administration in September 2017 dismantled the federal guidelines, leaving campuses across the country to review any changes they might have made.
This case is among several that male students have filed in Minnesota and elsewhere alleging colleges have presumed them guilty through an unjust process, leading to punishments ranging from suspension to expulsion.
In 2016, Aaron Wildenborg sued St. John's and the neighboring College of St. Benedict in federal court, alleging that school officials erred in determining if he had consent for sex and whether the woman was vulnerable because she was drunk. He withdrew the lawsuit last February after a "mutually satisfactory agreement," his attorney said.