An unwanted touch. Two lives in free fall. A dispatch from the drive to stop sexual assault on campus.

man with head in hands

As colleges make a more concerted effort to reduce campus sex assaults, a point of emphasis is ensuring that unambiguous consent is given for sex.

The facts are largely undisputed: Two college students on summer break – he’s a sophomore; she, a freshman – make a date. It’s Memorial Day weekend, 2014, and their intentions are explicit. They meet and have sex – consensual, enthusiastic – when a passerby interrupts them.

A few hours later, still together, the male student attempts to resume the sexual encounter. He reaches under her shirt to touch her breast. He stops immediately when she asks him to. They agree about these facts.

Yet this “one-time, non-consensual touching,” as university documents summarize it, is the crux of a startling Michigan State University sexual misconduct case. It has generated a thick stack of legal documents, months of MSU administrator time, and tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills since the female student, known here as Melanie, formally complained on Sept. 25, 2015 – almost 16 months after the incident.

More importantly, though, the case – which has traveled through an internal appeals process, exhausting the now-22-year-old man’s hope for reversal of sanctions at the university level – challenges what some might see as common-sense assumptions about sex and dating behavior. MSU’s findings draw sharply etched lines into the blurry world of dating intimacy and reveal the power of university administrators to mark a student as a sexual offender – for touching a lover’s breast after sex, miles from campus, without any accusations of violence, intimidation or stalking behavior.

Deborah Gordon, the Bloomfield Hills lawyer representing the man, says she intends to file a federal lawsuit against the university. She calls the case “beyond ridiculous.”

The woman who brought the case to Michigan State authorities – intelligent, well-spoken, well-schooled in feminist theory – thinks otherwise: “I feel very secure in the fact that he did sexually assault me; he did cross a line. He did know what he was doing, even if he didn’t want to acknowledge it.”

See timeline of MSU sexual misconduct investigation

The male MSU student, whose name is redacted from official documents and changed here to Nathan, has not been charged with or convicted of a crime by local police authorities. But he has been formally disciplined for sexual harassment by MSU, under federal Title IX anti-discrimination law – a ruling that he and his family say they fear will haunt him for life, and that his lawyer says has already cost him at least one career opportunity.

Gordon, the lawyer, has famously made her career as a civil rights lawyer, specializing in employment law. At 65, steely-eyed and serious, she has risen to Super Lawyer status in a male-dominated profession, winning a reputation as a fierce advocate for her clients. Fearless, she once took on the case of a fired Bloomfield Hills district court secretary, placing the court’s judges on the stand – and convincing a federal jury that her client, rather than the chief judge, was telling the truth. That she’s recently become an advocate for young men accused of sexually assaultive behavior at the University of Michigan and Michigan State surprises even her. But this case?

“This is absurd. It’s Alice down the rabbit hole,” she told me at a conference table in her spacious Bloomfield Hills office suite. “It’s a story that needs some attention from the other side.”

Addressing campus assault

In the middle of a national conversation about rape culture on college campuses, with statistics demonstrating that women are being forced into sex and their perpetrators rarely challenged, the story of Nathan and Melanie is a provocative one; it illustrates how university investigations into sexual behavior can reverberate in unexpected, and painful, ways, potentially scarring both partners.

MSU has endured its share of negative publicity about the prevalance of sexual assault on campus: Only four days before Melanie complained to authorities, reported on an Association of American Universities study that found one-in-four female undergraduate students at Michigan State said they had been “sexually assaulted” – language used to describe non-consensual penetration or sexual touching involving force or incapacitation.

The emergence of sexual violence as a searing issue on college campuses can be traced to September 2011, when the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights wrote to college administrators nationwide, asking for tougher, more timely enforcement of sexual assault cases.

The so-called “Dear Colleague” letter – which urged schools to lower the standard of proof for sexual assault and misconduct — has been credited with protecting female students and blamed for inciting institutional panic and over-prosecution of male students.

Many schools, including MSU and the University of Michigan, complied with the letter’s aim, lowering the standard of proof required to find wrongdoing and beefing up their internal investigation process for such incidents. Instead of requiring a finding of “beyond a reasonable doubt” against the accused, MSU and many other schools now use the lower “preponderance-of-evidence” standard used in civil court cases. The lower standard has helped empower victims to come forward, but some experts see universities stacking the deck against the accused.

Deborah Gordon

Bloomfield Hills attorney Deborah Gordon contends that in trying to reduce the very real problem of campus rape culture public universities are sometimes shortchanging the protections and rights that should be afforded to the accused. (Courtesy photo)

To Gordon, the case involving Melanie and Nathan is a classic example of overcorrection; at the least, it provides a window into a changing culture of sexual conduct enforcement on campus.

Let’s agree that campus sexual assault is a serious problem — and that the combination of campus freedom, access to alcohol, and an absence of clarity about the rules of sexual behavior and the consequences for breaking them helped create a murky and dangerous sexual climate on campuses — one that enabled sexual misconduct and created hurdles for victims. The universality of this situation became so obvious in the last few years that Michigan’s cautious first lady, Sue Snyder, took up sexual assault prevention as her own cause.

The new regulations at MSU have statistically improved reporting rates and findings that students have violated the standards. Over the last two years, MSU has invested extraordinary resources in revamping procedures for investigating sexual misconduct. Beyond the legal proof required, MSU has visibly heightened its commitment to making the campus a safe and respectful place. For example, all first year students are now required to attend a two-hour workshop designed to educate students about the rules for sexual consent, and sexual assault prevention. Those rules have become more detailed and explicit.

Sex misconduct reports, violations rise at MSU

Michigan State University reported a sharp increase in reports of sexual violence and misconduct during the 2015-16 school year after adopting its new Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Policy. The school also reported a quicker resolution of cases and a spike in findings of violations since MSU transitioned from its previous policy.

Sexual misconduct incidents reported:
2014-2015: 201
2015-2016: 461

Average time to complete student conduct process:
2014-2015: 88 days
2015-2016: 57 days

Findings that students violated the relevant policy:
2011-2012: 0
2012-2013: 3
2013-2014: 6
2014-2015: 21
2015-2016: 38

Source: MSU Office of Institutional Equity statistics and Title IV Annual Report

Gordon, whose two adult daughters graduated from the University of Michigan within the last five years, views herself as a feminist. But the situation has gotten out of hand, she says. Her practice is humming with similar cases from other Michigan universities. As a lawyer, she sees institutions laying waste to due process: “The net result is that the university has thrown out normal procedures for finding out the truth,” she says.

Melanie’s struggle to come to terms with her feelings and Nathan’s behavior is sincere and thought out: In her view, he violated the letter and spirit of the sexual harassment policy and needs to be held accountable for violating her trust.

“I want him to be honest with himself about his character and his beliefs and whether his actions really reflect the beliefs he espouses,” Melanie says. “I didn’t see him reflecting on it.”

An unwanted touch

Timing may not be everything but, in the case of Melanie and Nathan, it is likely something. On September 1, 2015, Michigan State announced an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, promising to “promptly and equitably respond to all incidents of sexual and gender based harassment, assault and violence (of) which the University has notice.” Sweeping in its ambition, the resolution called for the university to end harassment, assault and violence, and eliminate “any” hostile environment. Twenty-five days later — four days after the MLive article and 16 months after the incident — Melanie walked into a residence hall advisor’s office and said she had been assaulted.

The facts, as described here, are based on MSU documents, a transcript of Nathan’s interview with the MSU investigator in the case, a 90-minute in-person interview with Melanie, interviews with Deborah Gordon and with Nathan’s mother.

It was May 31, 2014, a pleasant spring evening when Nathan and Melanie (their real names are redacted in all MSU documents and changed here) “met with the plan to have sex,” as Melanie explained during a recent interview in a Williamston restaurant. School was out, but the couple – who had seen each other romantically, on and off, for most of the school year – were geographically separated.

They first met in 2013 through a campus group called Compass. Ironically, the group’s mission was to help men create a safer and more respectful campus, to support women students. The son of a Birmingham psychologist and psychiatrist, political progressives, Nathan saw himself as a political being, a person trying to do good in the world.

“He is a humanitarian. He’s the sensitive one. He’s the kind of guy you want dating your daughter. That’s the kind of person he is,” his mother, soft-spoken and weary-looking, told me. “You know, he conducted training in sexual harassment…” He was so proud of his involvement in Compass that he invited his mother to attend a couple of meetings with him.

When Nathan and Melanie began their sexual relationship in October, 2013, Nathan was a self-described virgin. Melanie, a year younger, found him charismatic, high-energy, appealing; it was she who initiated sex. But their relationship, “emotionally close” at first, became more distant and problematic by the time MSU classes ended that spring in 2014. She pushed for more closeness; he declined to call her his “girlfriend.” And he complained to friends that she belittled him, “bullied” him, as the investigator’s report noted.

Even so, separated geographically, they eagerly planned for their Memorial Day weekend encounter. She texted a nude photo of herself, and a succinct description of her mood: “Feeling frisky.” They bantered, by text, back and forth, agreeing to meet in Canton, where she was living with her parents for the summer. Their tryst took place, by necessity, in his car. When a stranger banged on the car window, Melanie was embarrassed and upset.

She cried, and said she had a flashback to an earlier, abusive relationship in high school. Nathan tried to comfort her, but she described her tearful reaction as distressed, “extremely upset.” Later, they met a few of her friends for dinner in Plymouth and, after that, walked along the train tracks for an hour or longer, as he listened, while she talked. He recalls listening sympathetically. She remembers him dismissing how upset she was, and called his reaction “invalidating.”

Eventually, they sat down, his arm around her. A few hours earlier, they had been interrupted trying to have sex in a car. She says she told him she didn’t want to have sex again that night. This time, he reached beneath her shirt and bra, in what he later described as “a momentary touching of the breast,” and she characterized in a text the next day as “a groping.”

“I told you I don’t want to do this anymore,” she recalled saying to him. “And he did immediately stop.” At no time, she said, was he violent or threatening. At no time in their relationship was he ever physically violent or threatening. She dismisses the first official account of the incident — which stated that Nathan “pushed (Melanie) down and pulled up (her) shirt” offered by the Michigan State University investigator — as an exaggeration. “He never pushed me down,” Melanie said.

In his mind, the transgression, on an evening when they’d engaged in intercourse, was redeemed by his immediate response when she asked him to stop.

She was wounded: In her mind, she’d been sharing deep feelings about being abused by men, thinking he was being supportive. Instead, she experienced his touching as an act of betrayal.

According to Melanie, Nathan knew the campus rules of sexual conduct required him to seek voluntary, “unambiguous and willful” consent to touch her sexually, even if she had given sexual consent in the past, such as when they had sex hours earlier.

[Actually, that isn’t quite accurate. As it happens, this more explicit definition of consent wasn’t in effect on that evening along the railroad tracks. MSU did not adopt the policy until 2015, with similar provisions implemented at the University of Michigan and many other universities.]

Nathan’s reliance on a perceived cue rather than explicit assent was, to Melanie, an admission of sexual assault. (She later warned other students in her poetry class to beware of him, telling a circle of students that he had “sexually assaulted” her. At least one of them inferred that Nathan had raped her.)

The next day, she texted him, angrily, saying she had made it clear she believed he had disregarded her feelings and words. “You even went to lay me down and groped me after I’d told you I didn’t want to do anything more,” she texted. He denied, in MSU documents, that she’d told him she wanted no further sexual activity.

In the fall of 2014, a few months after the May 31, 2014 incident and a full year before she reported it, she and Nathan took the same MSU residential college course – Science Fiction and Bioethics. Although it was uncomfortable for them, and they never spoke to each other, they both completed the course.

woman on bench

Melanie says she felt betrayed by Nathan at a time when she was in pain. Nathan says he acted appropriately and sensitively when she asked him to stop.

Change, and an accusation

More than two years after the incident, even Melanie’s gender has changed. When 16 months later she reported what happened on the train tracks, Melanie had been taking male hormones for 12 weeks; she had legally changed her name, adopting a male identity. Her voice dropped; she shaved her facial hair. The woman referred to in this account as Melanie now hopes to surgically alter her gender in the future, and lives and dresses as a man.

Back in 2014, she had also been hospitalized after a suicide attempt, and taken a semester-long medical leave to pursue therapy. While her mental fragility, hormone treatment and gender change appear to have played no role in the administration’s decision-making process, the transitioning did make a difference to Melanie.

Had taking male hormones changed Melanie’s outlook on the situation, the world?

“The world, definitely,” says the senior, who is majoring in art history and humanities at MSU. “I suppose transitioning was one of the driving elements for why I reported, because I felt uncomfortable using the men’s restrooms in my residential college, for fear that I would encounter him.”

The case was made more complicated when, in late 2014, MSU overhauled its policy on relationship violence and sexual misconduct. Because Jayne Schuiteman, the MSU investigator, had mistakenly cited the wrong date of the incident, Nathan was essentially tried twice: Once under the new policy; later, after his legal appeal, under the sexual harassment policy that was in place at the time of the incident.

In her final investigative report this past fall, Schuiteman, who is also a feminist scholar and gender studies professor, described the consensus factual account. “The evidence indicates [Nathan] made physical contact with an intimate part of the Claimant’s body – her breast,” the report reads, explaining the touch as “sufficiently severe to constitute sexual harassment.”

Nathan had acted without consent, unreasonably relying on “cues” that weren’t explicit, the report concluded. After months of costly appeals, his final sanction? He was found to have violated the university’s sexual harassment policy and banned from contact with a person he hadn’t spoken to in more than two years.

Despite a designated 60-day timeline for the whole process, Denise Maybank, MSU vice president for student affairs and services, didn’t issue her final ruling until Oct. 21, 2016, shortly after the man identified here as Melanie complained to another administration official about the slow process and suggested he might pursue another complaint, this time against the university.

Buoyed by MSU’s decision, he also considered seeking a personal protection order against Nathan in state court – even though the two hadn’t spoken or crossed paths in a year. He said he remains fearful of what might happen if they were to meet. He has gone through therapy and believes that Nathan should, too.

Ultimately, MSU modified the sanctions against Nathan, ending his probation term retroactively to coincide with his May 7, 2016 graduation. A no-contact order from MSU remains in effect, along with a finding that Nathan violated MSU’s policy on sexual conduct.

“It’s like being on the state sex registry because it doesn’t go away. It’s a stigma that will continue to haunt him and already has,” says Gordon, Nathan’s lawyer. “If a potential employer asks him if he’s faced discipline in college, what’s he going to say?”

The MSU investigator, Jayne Schuiteman, declined to be interviewed. Ande Durojaiye, director of the Office of Institutional Equity, did not return calls from Bridge.

Nathan’s mother, a clinical psychologist, says Nathan has not dated since the incident. “He’s anxious, depressed. He’s lost his self-confidence,” she says.

Despite a favorable result, the victor in this case says he’s discouraged by the process, which he found stressful, overly long, and often overwhelming emotionally. He remains angry that the nude photo he’d sent Nathan before their encounter became part of the official record, emailed to lawyers and staff investigators. Resentful of Nathan’s family’s affluence, and ability to hire an attorney, he remains disturbed that Nathan has not demonstrated remorse. Given what he knows about the sexual misconduct complaint process, would he do it again?

He shakes his head, slowly. “No,” he says. “If I could go back in time, I would not say anything. It’s so sad for me because the process was so traumatic. It was absolutely not worth it.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Thu, 01/19/2017 - 10:01am

What a colossal waste of time, money, energy and emotional angst. An example of what can happen when common sense gets thrown out the window. Perfect fodder for those, particularly from the right, who like to throw institutions of higher education under the bus.

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 10:09am

Why are universities involving themselves in a judiciary and police matter, to begin with?! They should take action after a court has issued its ruling. It is not the place for unqualified administrators to make such rulings.

I think at this present time with such draconian administration systems vastly unbalancing any form of campus crime proceedings that all rooms, corridors, dorms, etc shall be fitted with CCTV with total surveillance coverage. Otherwise, all sexual activity should just be banned

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 6:36pm

You have absolutely no evidence that the right throw higher ed under the bus.

Michael Paul Go...
Wed, 10/04/2017 - 7:39pm

You have to be joking.

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:21am

I'm not on the right, but I want to throw higher education under any bus, train or earthmover I can find. It is a colossal and criminally corrupt politically partisan scam which fleeces students and their parents of vast sums of money and gives them nothing in return but indoctrination and injustices like the one outlined here. Mark my words, a college degree is quickly becoming more of a burden than an asset.

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 7:23am

Tarrou, agree w/ all of your comments *except* for the last one. A college degree is still an asset, especially from elite universities as it broadcasts one's IQ. Since employers are not able to IQ test (because of disparate impact), the degree shows (for only $240k!) how smart one is. It's a total joke. A trumpian move to destroy his enemies would involve finding a way to reduce the impact of higher education's virtue signal across the universe. Maybe ending federal guarantee on student loans is the way ahead?

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:55am

Yeah, let's destroy education Even More, what would go wrong. So far the biggest issue has been that public education has been pillaged and torn apart in favour of elitist private education. The solution isn't wrecking that As Well.Bring high quality public education.

Michael Paul Go...
Wed, 10/04/2017 - 7:38pm

I agree, Sean, except these schools chose the pc approach over justice and fairness. They should never been given that opportunity and it’s the Obama Justice Department that screwed up. Much as I despise Devos, she got it right in retracting the stupid letter that made a case like this possible. Lots of blame to go around. The people screaming that now rape is being legitimized on campuses are simply unconcerned with real justice and don’t mind seeing lives ruined for no reason.

Eileen Kippen
Thu, 01/19/2017 - 10:41am

Common horse sense is the least common kind of sense.I will repeat the mantra I always instilled in my students: read, listen, pay attention, and keep your hands on your own body. It's amazing how powerful this philosophy is.

Sat, 01/28/2017 - 10:54am

"Like Alice down the rabbit hole".

Exactly. One wouldn't believe how insane our sex crime hysteria is until they fall down the hole. It happens faster and easier than you could believe. All it takes is an accusation.

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 12:56pm

Hey, they wanted to have sex. They alone. Sometimes your partner gets mad if you DON'T initiate it. But if they hooked up for it, I don't see why this is such a big problem. She said no, he stopped. Jeez.

Reality Check
Sun, 01/22/2017 - 2:07pm

My god, he missed a signal and touched her boob. There aren't enough words to describe how much of a non incident this is, rather, it is obvious from the description of what happened that what Melanie was really upset about was that she felt he didn't listen to her (after an hour of listening). Are we really supposed to take someone to court and ruin their lives every time some misses a cue? This is a terrible was to live.

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:09am

" keep your hands on your own body" Always?

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:18pm

Guess I should have thrown at least a couple of dozen women out of the university then.

DJ Lorenzo
Tue, 05/29/2018 - 10:09am

In reply to Eileen Kippen, it may also be amazing at how lonely a life led by this philosophy may be.

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 10:56am

This story is heart breaking on all fronts. If the MSU investigators job was only to fit "facts" into an algorithm of the law, MSU should pay a computer to do this rather than an FTE. Their job unfortunately requires judgement. Sounds like loud voices of punitive judgement, institutional defensiveness and assumptions of the "bosses" desired outcome influenced their professional behavior. A more experienced professional might have recognized the enormous personal toll this process would take and fully informed Melanie of the high likelihood that litigation would not lead to resolution of the pain he has experienced. Creating a work atmosphere where the investigators are encouraged to pursue Justice rather than a win/lose mentality takes more leadership skills than many bureaucrats possess.

Tom Fuller
Wed, 02/01/2017 - 10:43am

Lord, deliver us from liberal hypocrisy and duplicity.

William C Plumpe
Thu, 01/19/2017 - 11:10am

A much easier solution than lowering standards for rape---which I think denies due process and assumption of innocent until proven guilty---would be for Colleges, fraternities and sororities to actively campaign against alcohol abuse on campus. The real problem on campus is not so much rape but epidemic alcohol abuse that fosters, encourages and sets the stage for non-consensual sex. Come down hard on groups that sponsor wild alcohol fueled parties and you will see instances of campus rape decrease significantly. Let students know that alcohol abuse is a serious problem and that alcohol fueled excess will not be tolerated. Too much alcohol that is wantonly abused creates too many instances where the judgement of young people of both sexes is severely impaired making it much more likely bad decisions about sexual intimacy will be made. Aggressively educate about the dangers of alcohol abuse and enforce rules against alcohol abuse at campus parties and even sue groups that sponsor such parties leading to non-consensual sex and the incidence of campus rapes will decrease accordingly. Discouraging alcohol abuse on campus won't entirely solve the problem of campus rape but it would be an important first step to begin to reign in improper sexual contact by lessening the probability that unwanted sexual advances will occur.

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 5:10pm

Thank you fir this. I can tell you that people who care about sexual assault do NOT care about binge drinking. They won't discuss it. They are so terrified of being accused of blaming the victim that they will not touch the subject of alcohol and drugs. I consider this refusal a scandal.

William C Plumpe
Sat, 01/21/2017 - 3:19pm

Or we have a situation where the woman thinks it's OK to get so drunk she passes out and has non-consensual sex white unconscious---which I think is absurd and the woman's fault as much as the man's---but will claim "rape" if a male friend touches her in an intimate place and backs off when she says no. Political correctness run amok. We need sensible rules that recognize the rights of the man too. A distinction needs to be made between foreplay and actual sex particularly with two young people who were in high school not too long ago.

David Holden
Sat, 01/21/2017 - 5:18pm

William, I'm a little confused by what you're saying. You said that in "a situation where the woman thinks it\'92s OK to get so drunk she passes out and has non-consensual sex white unconscious," it would be "the woman\'92s fault as much as the man\'92s." This strikes me as really problematic. If you got too drunk and passed out (which is obviously not smart, but people make mistakes), would someone be allowed to assault you? If I (a male) had sex with you while you were unconscious, would you and I share equal blame? You talk about "a distinction...between foreplay and actual sex". In the same hypothetical, would it be alright for me to touch your genitals while you were passed out? It's ostensibly foreplay, and not "actual sex". It seems to me that this would be wrong and my fault, not yours because you drank too much. I'm on Nathan's side in the article, but your comments seem to point to a different issue.

Curtis Pennington
Tue, 01/24/2017 - 4:11pm

As one who has closely followed the sexual assault situation at Baylor, I can tell you that the university's official policy against alcohol and drugs (and pre-marital sex) has actually been used against the university because it supposedly creates a situation that is "hostile" to "victims" who have been drinking (or engaged in sexual activity). So ironic.

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 11:28am

So basically the regular guy is being thrown to the wolves because the woman changed into a guy. If two people go to a place to eat pizza and one person decides they do not want pizza. The other person says ok, no pizza. The person who complied should not be sent to jail because they did not go some other place to eat. I help teach Sunday School. I have read about how abuse happens. I would consider my self socially awkward. But if some one complies with a wish, then I would figure there would be no fowl.

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 1:01pm

Laura Berman, this story is an absolute jaw-dropper. I look forward to reading more of your work on Bridge.

Thu, 01/19/2017 - 8:32pm

This manipulated situation reminds me of a circumstance involving my son and psychiatrist at the high priced well accorded not named college in Kalamazoo back in the 1980's.My son had come out of the closet to me and we were at peace and continued our father /son loving old relationship.All was well until I received his request to go there and sit down with him and a college psychiatrist.The meeting started off innocently but soon she was asking if I had ever molested my son. I looked at him and he was blank faced and not accusatory.I then focused on the psychiatrist and asked her why she was accusing me of such a disputable act. I was pissed and let her know it.She quickly backed off meekly and explained that she was just exploring. Years later I read that many psychiatrists had been found guilty of imprinting their extreme conclusions on children and teens and were incorrectly accusing parents of devious acts upon their children.So as in this case the university dooo goooders created overkill. The problem has now escalated now given the new easily abused powers of lesser proof of suspected guilt ruining lives because of their inexperience and the need to provide results.Some would say it will all come out in the courts and it will but with much avoidable pain on each side and non-justified expense. The end result in this case will likely be Nathan will be judged not guilty but the university will walk away saying well we tried without acknowledgement of how legal expenses and stress negatively affects the lives and futures of those falsely accused.

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 7:17am

"Down the rabbit hole," indeed.Sad out-of-controlness that elevates process above judgment. Where are the adults, the teachers, the common sense? Gone to feminist theory and presumed guilt, every one.

Fri, 01/20/2017 - 1:08pm

The one ray of hope is Deborah Gordon.

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 2:28am

I am very confused. Why would a University even be involved in an incident that did not even occur on the premises? It seems clear to me from the admissions made by the accuser here that these accusations were made out of a misplaced feeling of guilt over his own sexual confusion. Help should have been offered to assist in transition if desired and all charges dropped. This is getting out of hand.

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 7:32am

Title IX a/k/a FEDGOV sticking it's nose in the tent of higher education on the basis of "fairness". Also: there's money and positions to be made in this diversity racket - look who got to lead the investigation: "Jayne Schuiteman, the MSU investigator, had mistakenly cited the wrong date of the incident, Nathan was essentially tried twice: Once under the new policy; later, after his legal appeal, under the sexual harassment policy that was in place at the time of the incident.In her final investigative report this past fall, Schuiteman, who is also a feminist scholar and gender studies professor, described the consensus factual account. \'93The evidence indicates [Nathan] made physical contact with an intimate part of the Claimant\'92s body \'96 her breast,\'94 the report reads, explaining the touch as \'93sufficiently severe to constitute sexual harassment.\'94 A feminist scholar and gender studies professor led the investigation, messed it up and came up with the exactly the findings you thought she would. In what real world should this person be employed at all? What sort of value does she provide the taxpayers of the state of Michigan, the parents who pay tuition or the students themselves?

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 9:07am

I guess the message to college age men is that no woman can be trusted not to call any personal contact an assault.Nice message. Guys. Look up MGTOW.

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 12:54am

Exactly. The clear message to every college age man is - do not engage in any sexual contact with any woman. Period. The sad thing is that this unbelievable special snowflake status that people Melanie are given does not exist outside the college campus. I don't agree that what is presented here represents "sexual assault" in any way, shape, or form, but beyond that, this person has an unhealthy obsession with Nathan and the entire event. What possible reason do you have to fear what would happen if you ran into someone whose only crime is they tried to cop a feel and stopped immediately when asked ??!?!?!? Remorse ? He has nothing to really feel remorse for in the first place, but in any event his "remorse" is entirely irrelevant. The idea that an off campus (WAY off campus) interaction should have university related implications is insane. I certainly hope there is a very near term revision of the Title IX policy and a new "Dear Colleague" letter that you can sum up with "nevermind". What a bunch of complete jackasses.

Mitch Z.
Thu, 02/23/2017 - 2:12pm

In the coming months, now that the leftist zealots who despise men (REAL MEN who drink beer, play ,watch and bet on sports, curse, smoke cigars, play cards and love to talk about and ogle hot women), and who perverted Title IX far beyond its initial intended purpose, are gone, OCR of the Dept of Ed. will retract the shameful dear colleague letter. Liberal are such transparent hypocrites. While they freak out about the non-existent due process rights of non-citizens in foreign countries, American teens in colleges and universities are having their lives destroyed by the lack of even the most basic due process, all to further a very blatant political agenda, which is hardly about eliminating sexual assault and much more concerned with reordering the power dynamics between males and females in America.

Orange Tabby
Sun, 01/22/2017 - 11:50am

"with statistics demonstrating that women are being forced into sex and their perpetrators rarely challenged"In lieu of the story told above, I am skeptical this assertion is true and would demand to see the data and methodology backing up the claim. Feminist activists on college campuses have gone out of their way to erode the definition of rape and sexual assualt. The culture also views victimhood as a status symbol which further incentivizes false claims.That the accuser in this case just changed her gender is right to my point. Rape accusation is the latest tool of radical feminist culture. I believe there is a lot of "regret" sex happening on campus that is now conveniently redefined as rape by activists who can't admit to themselves that casual sex is unfulfilling for women because their culture promotes it. Hence, if I'm not happy it must be rape. This pheomenon is being driven by a feminist subculture that at its heart despises men (the "patriarchy") and is content to misuse our laws to seek petty revenge for itself. Time to demand due process for men in the actual court of law, and ban college kangaroo courts from existence.

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 12:23pm

Thank you for your dogged reporting, Laura. A world without harassment is a noble goal. Redefining all unpleasantness as harassment doesn't get us there. It creates its own form.

Sun, 01/22/2017 - 12:57pm

The money, time, and effort wasted on this could have been better used for millions of other things. Like people ACTUALLY GETTING RAPED.

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:17am

Rules and laws developed by Man hating groups to hurt men nothing more. Go back to due process and the constitution problem solved.

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 11:21am

So, this basically comes down to Nathan's father never having the talk with him about- 'never stick your ..... in crazy.' One of the indicators to consider in conjunction with others is 'being well versed in feminist theory' and their bogus statistics.My son understands if he dates any fellow student my financial support for his education ends. He's worked too hard for too long, hasn't dated much so not a good judge of women's character, so as small as the risk is of happening to get involved with a lunatic it isn't worth the risk.

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:23pm

The incident did not occur on campus nor while school was in session. How then does this become a MSU problem?

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 6:52pm

Sad... This is how you disillusion an entire generation of young men. And how you turn a generation of middle-class women into perpetual victims who scurry to college administrators and other authority figures to punish men that don't read all their cues 100% correct all of the time (instead of taking personal responsibility for setting firm boundaries and clearly distinguishing with their partners what they will and will not accept).

A Jonathan Haidt Fan
Tue, 01/24/2017 - 1:10am

If you're reading this, please become familiar with the term "Concept Creep", and how it relates to this "incident".

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 6:30am

Melanie seems to want to be able to progress in life without making any mistakes. Which means, in practice, having everyone around her covering her mistakes up so she doesn't have to acknowledge them. Clearly this isn't a viable strategy for everybody at once.On Sam harris' podcast last week Jordan Peterson seemed to be advocating Something similar - that dead ends of enquiry, or ones with fatal outcomes, must necessarily be false. So no there's only one path forwards to truth, and no backing up is allowed.

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 9:15am

On another note, this case will find its way into the rape statistics of the university, state, and federal level.Countless victim rights groups, newspapers and news shows will cite those stats as more reasons for more legislation, more feminist theory classes, more punishment, more federal funding, etc etc

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:11am

"More than two years after the incident, even Melanie\'92s gender has changed. When 16 months later she reported what happened on the train tracks, Melanie had been taking male hormones for 12 weeks; she had legally changed her name, adopting a male identity. Her voice dropped; she shaved her facial hair. The woman referred to in this account as Melanie now hopes to surgically alter her gender in the future, and lives and dresses as a man.""Back in 2014, she had also been hospitalized after a suicide attempt, and taken a semester-long medical leave to pursue therapy. While her mental fragility, hormone treatment and gender change appear to have played no role in the administration\'92s decision-making process, the transitioning did make a difference to Melanie."WHOA, Whoa, whoa.... So it's not until paragraph 38 that it's explained that this girl is completely insane! Oh, man. He really rolled snake-eyes.

Gregory Eaton
Tue, 01/24/2017 - 12:30pm

This is a bunch of bull. She met the dude in a feminist group lol. She's ruining things for women down the road by being part of the large group of women whom use these laws and what not to punish men they're mad at. Reading this I had flash backs of college days and reasons I would have been kicked out. Missed signals, improper touching, and I distinctly remember a potentially disastrous situation being drunk. I know that sexual assault is real and it happens but can we please focus on that and not feelings. Hell lots of people get emotional over things that happen in sexual situations.

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 1:11pm

Get a good lawyer son, the one you have should be suing MSU stat ... this woman/man is obviously mentally impaired... to put this young man through this, with no penalty to the university, is beyond pale... I don't believe in law suits.. .but this one deserves a turn.. .and I hope Melanie gets the help she needs....

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 5:33pm

We went from tolerating to glorifying mental illness. Is it appropriate that such institutions receive federal funding, or benefit from tax exempt status?

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 6:49pm

The behavior in question happened off school grounds, outside of the school year. How does the school have any right to bring charges?

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 12:26am

"Let\'92s agree that campus sexual assault is a serious problem."Uh, no thanks. That's simply not a factual statement. Crime statistics show that there is absolutely no safer place for a female in the entire world than a Western college campus.

Viorika Aresteanu
Wed, 01/25/2017 - 5:59am

Well written story, facts not some biased narrative ! The university position is ridiculous. Life is full of moments of mixed feelings and cuts and bruises. The so called "assault" is a result of REGULAR misunderstanding or misreading between two different human beings. I am surprised by Melanie virginal reaction after sending Nathan nude pics. She gave away a signal " I am game".

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 7:56am

It's interesting. People reading it, please get off the "ruined lives" nonsense. Nathan was put on school probation and then graduated.

Mitch Z.
Thu, 02/23/2017 - 2:00pm

This is absolute lunacy!
1. ANYONE who enthusiastically engages in sex as a female, but who a year later decides they are instead male, and only upon that transformation determines, in hindsight, they were sexually assaulted, is a complete nut case whose judgment and motivations are well beyond suspect!
2. If the University had any commons sense, it would have offered counselling to the poor boy who was victimized/duped into having sex with what he, at the time, assumed was a female. Imagine how he felt learning his former girlfriend is now proclaiming she's in fact a dude. That’s what the dopey boy gets for trying to be a feminist, which on college campuses these days, almost always means shrill wackos.
3. If you have an ongoing consensual sexual relationship with someone with whom you had sex earlier in the day, and later that day they touch you in a sexual manner, and the person STOPS when you say stop, there is NO assault or incident to even report, unless you previously had told that person to stay away from you and to never again touch you. Just saying that you’re no longer in the mood hours earlier does not mean that when your lover tries to initiate something hours later, it somehow is magically transformed into anything of note. Upon reporting it, the wacky transformo-he-she should have been told “you have much bigger problems than whether, in your jumbled mind, your then boyfriend committed any wrongdoing. Please consult with a psychiatrist."
4. If the situation was reversed. It would be a JOKE: “Last year, when I was still a boy -- although I’m now a girl -- my then girlfriend grabbed my crotch and made a sexual overture toward me. It didn’t bother me then, but once I determined that I am really a girl, I began to feel violated, like I was sexually assaulted.” Such muddled crap is ridiculous. That some poor kid’s life has been turned upside down by psychotic university officials trying to assuage the embarrassment of another mentally ill kid, is a genuine travesty. As long as wacky leftists engage in this ridiculously indefensible crap, Trump and the GOP will forever reign supreme!!!!

Janice Stuckey
Tue, 02/28/2017 - 1:07pm

If this is the kind of judgement and intelligence that the governing body at MSU has, then a degree from the college is worthless. These people are in charge of your children's college education? They are supposed to teach kid's to be deep thinkers, to be resilient etc.

Mon, 12/25/2017 - 11:13am

Fooled by the way romance is portrayed in the media, this man failed to get an affirmation of consent as the policy requires. The litigiousness, stigma, and bureaucracy described are regrettable. The result of the investigation being " found to have violated the university’s sexual harassment policy and banned from contact" with a person he , as a seemingly good person, already decided it was best to avoid contact with. This seems reasonable. The issue seems to be more about the stigma of sexual misconduct from when it meant something severe like rape or physical coercion, to this newer expanded form that deals with any small mistake in sexual situations.

Whether or not universities, which are not impartial arbiters in these situations, should be so involved is a different conversation altogether.