OU Student Sues University Over Texting

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Ohio University is being sued in federal court by a student who claims he should not have been suspended for texts he sent to a female student. He disputes OU’s finding that the texts constituted sexual harassment.

Student Michael Marshall filed the lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court, naming the university, Ryan Lombardi and Diane Bouvier as defendants. Lombardi is vice president for student affairs, and Bouvier is interim executive director of the OU Office for Institutional Equity and the OU Title IX coordinator.

According to the lawsuit, a complaint was filed with the Office for Institutional Equity because of texts Marshall sent to a female student and he was suspended for a semester on the recommendation of a hearing panel. Lombardi upheld the suspension.

The lawsuit claims that Marshall sent a series of texts to the female classmate last fall in which he expressed his desire for a romantic relationship. The court case asserts that the texts were not threatening, although the female student repeatedly said she was not interested in such a relationship.

It’s claimed in the lawsuit that universities — including OU — have been pressured by the federal government to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct, use a lower standard of proof and focus more on victim advocacy. The lawsuit asserts that OU’s sexual misconduct policy, and its application to Marshall, are an overreaction to that pressure.

The lawsuit argues that Marshall’s free speech rights and civil rights have been violated, and that the disciplinary decision shows gender bias. It asks the court to order Marshall reinstated as a student, and seeks unspecified monetary damages and a finding that the university violated Marshall’s constitutional rights and Title IX (which prohibits discrimination based on sex).

Asked about the lawsuit, OU spokeswoman Katie Quaranta said the university does not comment on pending litigation.

The university has not yet had time to file a response with the court.