The Benedictine University Sexual Abuse Case has caused much media attention. The case involves a student, Markham Caswell who was sexually abused by another student, Jamar Clark. Mr. Caswell has filed suit against Mr. Clark and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is suing for damages due to emotional distress, physical disability, loss of earning ability, medical expenses, pain and suffering, future loss of earning ability and more. Although the case is extremely complicated, the overall story is simple: a young man, sexually abused by another student, seeks some form of retribution.
Benedictine University Lawsuit
Both the University and the Dean of Students are named in the suit. Mr. Caswell’s suit names both, as well as several other “narcotics investigators” associated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. What makes this case different than others is that Caswell’s lawsuit names an actual representative of the University. Michael Barnes, the Associate Dean for Student Affairs, is listed on the court documents as being the official party responsible for handling any issues involving sexual harassment or abuse. The University has also hired an investigator to review the case, a move it hopes will improve its public image.
So what exactly is the basis of the lawsuit?
According to Caswell’s attorney, Michael Barnes, the case revolves around a “clearly established” violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This refers to a federal law that bars gender discrimination in education. Title VII also makes it clear that people cannot be fired based solely on their sexual orientation. In addition, the complaint notes that the original incident was not isolated, but a regular occurrence which happened over a six-month period.
Despite the many complexities inherent in a Title IV case like this one, a few things stand out.
The first is that Caswell’s lawsuit does not appear to be a harassment case based on gender discrimination, but rather a Title VII case. In cases like these, two parties must prove discrimination and either there has to be a direct case of discrimination or the defendant can rebut that claim with evidence that isn’t considered hostile. Title VII also makes it clear that sexual abuse can only take place when it occurs in a workplace.
Additionally, the fact that the University is claiming confidentiality, even going so far as to change the signage in the student union to say “no sex students allowed” lends additional suspicion.
And perhaps the most telling part of all is that Caswell chose to file the suit against the very institution that had given him his job: The University of Kentucky. If Caswell had approached someone else to pursue his dream, there may have been different results.
What do you think about the case?
Do you think that Caswell has a legitimate argument here? Would you be willing to bet that the media will make a big scoop about the lawsuit? Do you think that Kentucky’s athletic department is at fault for allowing Caswell to play?