Dez Wells is the best basketball player on the University of Maryland’s men’s team. He came to Maryland after being kicked out of Xavier University due to allegations that he sexually assaulted a female student.
My first reaction to Wells’ transfer was disappointment that the team I support would accept a player deemed morally unsuitable by his prior school. But it quickly became apparent to me that Xavier treated Wells unfairly and that Maryland was right to admit him.
First, the alleged victim (there’s no dispute that Wells had sex with her, but he says that it was consensual, arising out of a game of “truth or dare”) declined to press charges against Wells. Second, the local prosecutor nonetheless pursued the case, but he and a Cincinnati grand jury ultimately declined to indict Wells.
Indeed, the prosecutor, Joseph Deters, stated that the decision not to prosecute wasn’t a close call. And he publicly criticized Xavier’s handling of the matter, stating that the University’s actions were “fundamentally unfair” and “seriously flawed,” and that the matter “should never have gotten to the point where someone’s reputation is ruined.”
Third, the NCAA, which usually requires transfer students to sit out for a period before they can become eligible to play for their new school, waived this requirement for Wells. Clearly, it believed that his forced transfer was the result of an injustice.
Hoping to remedy the injustice, Wells has now sued Xavier. He alleges that the school denied him fair process. Wells seeks damages and an apology from the University.
Xavier has responded that the process it used in Wells’ case is the same standard it uses for all students and the one used throughout American universities.
Sadly, there may be some truth to this. The federal government has pressured many universities into adopting a minimalist “preponderance of the evidence” standard for judging allegations of student sexual misconduct. Moreover, and unforgivably, this standard typically is applied without the use of basic procedural safeguards — e.g., a well-trained, impartial finder of fact, representation by counsel, discovery, and standard rules of evidence.
But Xavier apparently was under additional federal pressure because of its handling of previous complaints of sexual harassment. Thus, it may well be that, in order to appease the feds, Xavier gave Wells even less process than is normally afforded to male students accused of sexual misconduct. Indeed, his suit alleges that Xavier failed to follow its own procedural rules.
As prosecutor Deters put it, “Any time you get federal people involved in this, you should expect a disaster.”
I haven’t yet analyzed Wells’ suit to the point that I can offer an opinion as to its merit as a matter of law. But Wells is to be commended for challenging Xavier’s decision to throw him overboard in the name of political correctness and obsequiousness to the over-bearing, ideologically-driven feds.