A male student accused of sexually assaulting a drunk female student was found not guilty in a court of law, but that didn’t stop his university from expelling him over the same accusation. The move was expected, as colleges and universities use a lower standard of proof for determining whether a sexual assault occurred — a standard that routinely ends with poorly trained administrators taking an accuser’s word over evidence.
Saifullah Khan, an immigrant who grew up in an Afghanistan refugee camp, won a full scholarship to Yale University. He would later be accused of sexually assaulting a female classmate in 2015 — an accusation that, in a rarity for campus accusations, actually resulted in a criminal trial. During that criminal trial, Khan was found not guilty, based on video evidence that showed him and his accuser walking arm-in-arm and smiling, as well as key-card evidence that supported his story that the woman invited him back to her dorm after he left, and then asked him to check on her friend who was actually too drunk.
Activists, working on emotion and not evidence, concluded that the system failed (because women, we’re told, never lie about sexual assault), and demanded Yale expel Khan anyway, ignoring the evidence in his favor.
Despite being found not guilty in a court of law, Khan still had to go through a campus tribunal, where he was not granted full due process rights (Yale is a private university and has more leeway in denying constitutional rights to students). In early October 2018, Khan was accused of sexual assault by a non-student who had previously acted as public relations consultant* for the Yale student (this young male accuser was previously the victim of a false accusation). Yale immediately suspended Khan after this new accusation. His attorney, Norm Pattis, posted on his blog that Washington, D.C. police — who investigated the accusation because that’s where the alleged assault occurred — closed the case without charging Khan. Yale, according to Pattis, “did not intend to call his accuser in Washington, D.C., concluding the young man lacked credibility.”
Khan sued Yale, which defended its suspension of him. The school argued that it had a “legitimate concern” that Khan was a danger to the Yale community because this new accuser had a restraining order (which anyone in law enforcement can tell you is given out like candy) and the accusation was at that time still being investigated by police.
This was November 2018. On Jan. 2, 2019, Yale expelled Khan for the allegation against him from 2015, for which he was found not guilty in the justice system. This made the hearing on the second accusation against him moot, according to his attorney. So, how was Khan found responsible for sexual assault by the school when a court found him not guilty? Pattis lays it out on his blog about the case, writing, “Mr. Khan was afforded due process at his criminal trial, but deprived a meaningful right to defend himself at the university’s tribunal.”
Pattis was not allowed to participate in Khan’s campus tribunal — he could only sit silently, like a potted plant. Khan’s accuser wasn’t even required to attend the hearing, as she had to in court. She provided her testimony via Skype, while Khan was in a separate room (so as not to “traumatize” her) and listening to audio of her call. Khan wasn’t allowed to cross-examine his accuser, as had been done in court. So, when she made claims about stumbling, Khan could not defend himself by playing the video that clearly showed her walking normally. He also couldn’t confront her over her explanations for why she had sent him a Shakespearean sonnet days before she allegedly wanted nothing to do with him, or why she flirted with him.
Further, Khan’s request to record the proceedings were denied, so there is no record of the campus tribunal.
“No lawyer, no cross-examination, no right to confront his accuser, no right even to make sure his accuser returned to make her case in person, no right to make a record of the proceedings. Yale’s fact-finders behaved as though the pursuit of justice were the prerogative of a secret society,” Pattis wrote.
Pattis expects Khan’s appeal to Yale to fail and wrote that they would file a lawsuit against Yale when that occurred.
“It makes me want to holler: ‘It’s just sex stupid.’ But the university wouldn’t listen. They didn’t want Mr. Khan to have a lawyer. And he was too polite to attack. He still believes in justice, and, for reasons that escape me, still wants to finish his degree at Yale,” Pattis wrote.
*I had previously interviewed this accuser about the false accusation against him, and worked with him to set up an interview with Khan, which occurred hours before the alleged assault took place.