October 2013: Nathan, a sophomore, and Melanie, freshman, meet at a Michigan State University consciousness-raising group for men supportive of feminism. When they begin dating, she says she’s recovering from an abusive relationship in high school.
May 2, 2014: The MSU term ends. Melanie goes home to Canton. Nathan returns to his family’s Birmingham home.
May 31, 2014: Nathan and Melanie meet with explicit sexual intentions in Canton at 7 p.m. They are having sex in a car when a passerby interrupts them. They go to dinner, talk, sit on the railway tracks. She’s upset because the interruption in the car reminds her of her high school abuse. He tries to resume sexual contact, reaching under her shirt to touch her breast. She rebuffs him.
June 1, 2014: Melanie texts Nathan: “I feel like you went a little too far asking me for sexual acts last night…It gave me the impression that you were using the old “x” number of no’s and a yes still mean yes tactic…I didn’t really expect to have to deal with that from you.” Adds: it would “be best if we not be anything more than friends anymore.”
September 2014: Nathan and Melanie take the same bioethics class in their residential college. They go through the term and avoid speaking to each other.
January, 2015: MSU retires its former sexual harassment policy and institutes a new Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Policy. The new policy includes more specific definitions of sexual consent and sexual misconduct that are more logically applied to dating situations than the previous sexual harassment policy.
April 2015: Melanie tells members of her poetry class to watch out for Nathan because he “sexually assaulted” her.
May 18, 2015: Melanie changes her name legally, after learning the name her mother would have chosen if she’d been born biologically as a boy. She begins taking testosterone and publicly embraces a male identity.
September 1, 2015: MSU releases an agreement with the federal education department’s Office for Civil Rights. The school creates a new Office of Institutional Equity to investigate all claims of harassment and discrimination. MSU agrees to document every complaint of sex harassment and sexual violence and conduct “climate checks,” monitoring efforts to rid the campus of sexual violence.
September 21, 2015: MSU releases results of campus climate survey on sexual assault and misconduct using data from 8,352 MSU students among 150,000 participants. MSU President Lou Anna Simon says: “The survey underscores that sexual assault on college campuses is a serious national issue. No member of our community should be threatened by sexual violence.”
September 25, 2015: After telling a residence hall adviser she was sexually assaulted, Melanie is interviewed by Dr. Jayne Schuiteman, senior investigator at the newly-created Office of Institutional Equity. Schuiteman interviews Nathan a month later, saying the case will be “wrapped up within 60 days.”
February 2016: MSU decision and letter to Nathan says he violated the current policy on relationship violence and sexual misconduct, perhaps because the investigator’s report described the incident as taking place in August, 2015, rather than May 2014, when a less rigorous harassment policy was still in place. Nathan’s family hires a lawyer.
March 30, 2016: MSU review panel identifies the error, noting that “at the time of the alleged misconduct, the relationship violence and sexual misconduct policy did not exist.” The Office of Institutional Equity is directed to revise its analysis under the older sexual harassment policy.
April 27, 2016: A new investigation report restates MSU’s finding that Nathan “pushed” Melanie down before touching her breast. In an interview with Bridge, Melanie says the university’s finding is incorrect, he did not push her. They both agree they were sitting on the railroad tracks with his arm around her when the incident occurred. MSU’s final report deletes the pushing account.
June 20, 2016: Nathan, through his lawyer, challenges the MSU interpretation of the touching as a “severe, persistent or pervasive” violation of the school’s sexual harassment standards that created a hostile environment.
October 21, 2016: Denise Maybank, MSU vice president for student affairs, renders a final verdict — Nathan violated the sexual harassment policy. She changes Nathan’s probation term from “indefinitely” to ending it retroactive to his graduation, May 7, 2016. Nathan is allowed to receive his diploma but a school-imposed no-contact order (with Melanie) remains in effect, were Nathan to return to MSU.