Judge dismisses Title IX complaint against University of California

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Nathaniel Solley/File

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U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick dismissed a Title IX complaint in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against the University of California on Thursday, stating that “no reasonable jury would determine that UC is liable” under the circumstances.

The complaint was filed by former UC Berkeley student Aryle Butler, and it alleged that she had been sexually assaulted in the summer of 2012 when she was still a UC student, studying at the Wildlands Studies program in Alaska.

In 2015, three former UC Berkeley students — Butler, Sofie Karasek and Nicoletta Commins — filed a lawsuit against the University of California with several complaints of Title IX violations and sexual harassment. But in the past three years, each complaint has been individually dismissed and thrown out in court.

Butler’s Title IX complaint outlines several incidents in which the assailant, who was described as “John Doe” in the document, allegedly assaulted Butler.

Butler was an undergraduate student from 2012 to 2015, and during the summer of 2012, she worked in a remote part of Alaska as a research assistant for UC Berkeley graduate student Margot Higgins.

On one occasion in June or July 2012, Butler was cleaning up the common area at Wrangell Mountains Center, where she lived with other students, faculty and staff, and “Doe came up behind her, trapped her against a table, put his hands down her pants, into her underwear, and grabbed her buttocks and genitals,” the complaint alleged.

There were allegedly several other incidents in which Doe violated Butler, who reported the incidents to Higgins but never filed an official complaint. It was when she returned to UC Berkeley’s campus that Butler began to report the incidents of sexual assault to UC Berkeley’s Title IX office.

The judge’s summary judgment stated that Doe visits campus about once or twice a year as a guest lecturer. In her complaint, Butler stated that she continued to feel vulnerable on the UC Berkeley campus, as she feared that she would run into her assailant.

Butler’s entire complaint was dismissed Thursday by Orrick, who stated that Butler’s assailant and the program were not under UC jurisdiction. In Orrick’s summary judgement, he stated that the UC Berkeley Title IX office reached out to the Wildlands Studies program and found that “the program had no connection with UC Berkeley.”

Orrick proceeded to detail how the UC Berkeley Title IX office allegedly attempted to connect Butler with the administrators at the Wildlands Studies program, but Butler allegedly never reached out.

“Accepting Butler’s contention that she was vulnerable to additional harassment, she did not attempt to argue that her vulnerability deprived her of access to UC’s educational opportunities or benefits,”  Orrick stated in his judgement. “She has not established how UC’s inaction ‘subjected’ her to harassment that rises to the level of discrimination.”

Malini Ramaiyer is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @malinisramaiyer.