Education

Duke official denies treating soccer player accused of date rape unfairly

Posted February 13

— A Duke University administrator said Monday that the school's policies and procedures for handling a sex assault allegation were properly carried out in a case involving a Duke soccer player who was suspended based on an accusation that he raped a female student.

Ciaran McKenna filed suit last month against Duke and Associate Dean of Students Stephen Bryan, who heads the Office of Student Conduct, alleging breach of contract, violation of his due process rights and negligence.

The case began with a Nov. 14, 2015, encounter between McKenna and the female student, who met and danced at a Durham nightclub before going back to their dorm for sex, which he claims was consensual. Several months later, the suit says, she filed a complaint with OSC, alleging that she hadn't consented to sex.

During a first hearing last July, a disciplinary panel wasn't convinced the female student had verbally denied consent, but the panel found that her actions didn't constitute consent, according to the lawsuit. McKenna appealed the second part of the ruling, arguing that it wasn't supported by evidence.

An appeals board determined the disciplinary panel didn't view the female students nonverbal actions under the standard of a "reasonable person," as called for in Duke's policy, so the board sent the case back to the panel to correct the error, according to the lawsuit. Instead, Bryan set up a new panel to hear the whole case again in November. That second panel determined that the female student had verbally denied consent and that her actions didn't constitute consent.

Duke then suspended McKenna for six semesters, which he said in the lawsuit would result in the loss of his student visa – he is from the U.K. – and financial losses for his family, as well as dealing a blow to his goal of playing soccer professionally.

McKenna, who hasn't been charged criminally in the case, contends that Bryan violated Duke policy by setting up the second panel after the player had been partially cleared of wrongdoing by the first one.

"You're trying to imply that my motivation for moving forward with a hearing was as if I'm out to find a student responsible," Bryan testified Monday during a hearing to determine whether McKenna should be reinstated until a trial is held. "That is not my role. My role is to be fair to all parties."

The injunction hearing will continue Tuesday.

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