Next month, Saifullah Khan ’19 will be in the courtroom once again — this time, suing Yale. After the News reported new allegations of sexual assault against Khan, the University issued an emergency suspension on Oct. 7, which Khan’s lawyers have called an alleged breach of contract.
But three legal experts interviewed by the News contended that Khan’s case may be moot.
The experts argued that Yale, a private institution, had the legal rights to issue Khan an emergency suspension. Early this month, the News published new allegations of sexual misconduct and assault levied against Khan, who had been acquitted on four counts of sexual assault in criminal court last March. In response, the University issued an emergency suspension two days later. Contrary to Khan’s suit, Yale can impose emergency suspensions to protect the safety of its community members, the legal experts said.
“If you have a student who’s been accused of more than one sexual assault … many schools would want to get that student off campus temporarily until [they] can figure out what has happened,” said Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor and Title IX expert. “Universities do have their own zone of discretion, especially private schools like Yale, [of] what constitutes a safety threat.”
Khan and University Spokesman Tom Conroy could not be reached for comment Monday evening. Khan’s attorney Norman Pattis — who also represented him in the March criminal case — declined to comment for the story.
In his complaint filed to the Connecticut Superior Court, Khan argued that due to the recent suspension, he “is unable to finish the classes he began in August, stands to lose education opportunity the University is contractually obligated to provide and suffers from further stigmatization.”
According to Yale’s website, University President Peter Salovey, or another administrator authorized by the president, can impose an emergency suspension when he believes the safety of Yale community members is at risk.
In an interview with the News, Chun said he cannot comment on individual cases, but in terms of general procedures, emergency suspensions are “very rare.” He noted that it often takes time to verify if an emergency suspension is warranted.
Dauber, the Title IX expert, said that the suspensions are more often used in cases of mental health where the student is a danger to themselves or the community.
According to Katharine Baker, an expert on campus sexual assault and a professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, the University does not follow the same due process standards as federal court. The University can “demand its students to follow a code of conduct as citizens of Yale” and discipline them when the expectations are violated, Baker explained, adding that students are held to a higher standard of behavior than in a court of law.
Khan’s complaint also claims that there is “no credible evidence that permitting Mr. Khan to attend classes poses a threat of harm to himself or to anyone affiliated with Yale.” The allegations of sexual and physical assault levied against Khan occurred in Indianapolis and D.C. in May and June of this year.
At the time of Khan’s emergency suspension, the University had yet to rule on its own University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct case against Khan. This UWC case regarded a 2015 complaint that spurred the March criminal case against Khan. Still, Dauber told the News that an emergency suspension may be necessary if an additional allegation of sexual misconduct is levied against a student already facing an investigation.
According to Baker, Yale is “acting in a way that is protective of everybody on campus” by issuing an emergency suspension on Khan. While some forms of misconduct, like cheating on an exam, would not threaten the safety of anyone else on campus, in Khan’s case, the University may feel the responsibility to protect the campus community, Baker told the News.
Thomas Morawetz LAW ’68 GRD ’69, a law professor at the University of Connecticut, concurred that, given the allegations against him, Khan is likely to pose a threat to other members of the University community.
“There is a huge difference between a student who is accused of some kind of misconduct that doesn’t pose a danger and one that’s accused of misconduct that continues to pose a danger,” Morawetz said. “[Khan] clearly seems to fall in the latter category.”
A hearing for Khan’s suit against Yale is scheduled for Nov. 9.
Jon Andrews, Khan’s new accuser, told the News that he has corresponded with Yale several times regarding his allegations against Khan.
The District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department is currently investigating Andrews’ claims that Khan sexually assaulted him during an alcohol-fueled threesome in D.C. and two other incidents of physical assault. On Friday, Andrews filed a grievance complaint to the Connecticut Statewide Bar Counsel against Khan’s attorney, Norman Pattis, for unethical conduct and making false statements in Khan’s court filing against Yale. According to Andrews, Pattis called him a “queen” — which Andrews called a homophobic slur — to a media outlet and has a history of making “insensitive and inflammatory remarks about sexual assault victims.” In his filing, Pattis also failed to mention that Khan is being investigated for sexual and physical assault in D.C. and left out the third alleged crime of suffocation, according to Andrews’ court filing.
Khan is the fifth student to file a suit against the University after coming under fire for sexual misconduct. Whereas Khan argued that Yale’s emergency suspension was a “breach of contract,” the other four male students alleged gender discrimination under Title IX. Among the group, only Khan and former basketball captain Jack Montague have ongoing cases. The three other students have settled with the University and permanently dismissed their lawsuits. In September, Yale settled a lawsuit from an anonymous male student accused of sexual misconduct referred to in court documents as John Doe. Doe, whose complaint with the Department of Justice prompted a brief investigation into Yale’s Title IX compliance, filed his suit against Yale in August 2016.
Khan enrolled in Yale at 2012.
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