A federal judge ruled in favor of the Curators of the University of Missouri and administrators on Wednesday in a Title IX discrimination case that was originally filed in 2017.
The case alleged the university violated the civil rights of a student found responsible for violating a sexual harassment policy.
Jeremy Rowles, a black man and a former Ph.D. candidate in cultural anthropology, said he was given a harsher punishment than white men accused of similar violations. Rowles was suspended from all four UM System campuses for two years. He was also banned from residence halls and the rec center at the Columbia campus for life.
In a summary judgment ordered on Wednesday, the federal judge ruled that there was no direct evidence of any discrimination against Rowles. In addition, the judge said the students who were given a lesser punishment did not have comparable incidents to Rowles’.
“We are pleased with the Court’s decision upholding the university’s Title IX policies and finding that we provided Mr. Rowles with due process,” said MU spokesman Christian Basi. “We also are pleased that the Court rejected Mr. Rowles’ claims that we infringed on his freedom of expression and that we discriminated against him.”
Rowles first met the woman at the center of his Title IX investigation at Kaldi’s Coffee in fall 2015, where she worked, the lawsuit said.
The following spring he attended the dance class she taught at MU’s Student Rec Center, which sparked more conversations between the two. Rowles continued unsuccessfully to try to convince her to go on a date with him, according to court documents.
The woman submitted a formal complaint accusing Rowles of sexual harassment in October 2016. That November, Rowles was sent a notice that he was being investigated for potential sex discrimination under Title IX, a federal law guaranteeing women equal legal protection at federally funded institutions of higher education.
Court documents said MU’s Title IX Office had investigated a different complaint about Rowles in 2015. In that case, Rowles was found not responsible for violating the university’s sexual harassment policy after he was accused of inviting an undergraduate student to view test answers in his office in exchange for sexual favors.