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Student sues Duke after expulsion for sexual misconduct

After being expelled due to an alleged sexual assault, Lewis McLeod—who entered Duke as part of the Class of 2014—is suing the University for his degree.

A female freshman student reported being sexually assaulted by McLeod in November 2013, and a February hearing by the Office of Student Conduct found McLeod responsible for sexual misconduct with the sanction of expulsion. McLeod appealed the decision, but an April decision by a student conduct appellate board upheld the original conclusion. McLeod has now filed a civil suit against the University for his diploma, arguing that his expulsion came after an unfair investigation and hearing.

After a meeting between lawyers representing McLeod and the University, McLeod was permitted to take his final exams, though he had already been officially expelled.

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, said that the University cannot comment on pending litigation.

McLeod and the female student met at Shooters II Saloon and left together in a cab, according to the filing. Many of the details of their accounts of the evening differ from that point forward—although both recognize that sexual intercourse occurred, the female student alleges that it was not consensual. The following day, the female student filed reports with both the University and Durham police.

McLeod's filing alleges that the University initially performed a "sloppy investigation" and that the hearing "violated Duke University's own written standards for sexual misconduct and student disciplinary hearings, as well as all notions of fundamental fairness."

The suit argues that the University conflated intoxication with incapacitation of the female student, which does not correspond to the language of the sexual misconduct policy. The two did not drink together, and McLeod did not witness her drinking, said Rachel Hitch, McLeod's lawyer and a partner at Schwartz & Shaw of Raleigh.

The case comes after the University's announcement last summer that the preferred sanction for sexual misconduct cases would be expulsion. Although this sanction was originally not publicly codified—which is not uncommon for Duke disciplinary procedures—it was disclosed this Spring that the University would publish the sanctioning guidelines specific to sexual assault. The language of the guidelines, however, has not yet been made public.

Stephen Bryan, director of student conduct and associate dean of students, said that the office of student conduct cannot share information regarding specific sanctions for specific cases. Although overall caseload statistics are released for each year, the 2013-2014 statistics are not yet available.

McLeod is listed in the Duke Directory as a student set to graduate in Fall 2014, rather than Spring 2014. He was a member of the men's soccer team during the 2011 and 2012 seasons.


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