(New York Jewish Week) – In a federal lawsuit, a student at Yeshiva University alleges the administration conspired to cover up her accusation that she was raped by a varsity basketball player in January 2021.
In the complaint, filed Monday, the plaintiff identified only as “Jane Doe” alleges that the university failed to apply rules mandated under Title IX, the federal anti-discrimination law. The suit alleges administrators led her to believe they were doing in the investigation, and instead treated the matter as a disciplinary matter beyond the scope of Title IX.
This lawsuit comes nearly a year after the plaintiff published an anonymous essay in the YU Commentator, a student newspaper, detailing her rape and the ways she felt the university failed to support or guide her through the reporting process.
In the essay, the student writes that she was raped by one of the school’s basketball players — a member of the team that was in the midst of a record-setting season. She also wrote that she and her alleged rapist, who is not identified in the lawsuit, were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements before they were permitted to hear the results of the investigation.
In January 2022, more than four months after the essay was published, the Modern Orthodox university announced that it was restructuring the school’s Title IX office, and in March, the school hired a new Title IX officer who would be dedicated exclusively to responding to Title IX complaints. Campus advocates against sexual assault cautiously lauded the announcements as steps in the right direction.
In the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the plaintiff alleges that the results of the investigation — a “not responsible” verdict and no consequence for her accused rapist — was preordained.
The suit asserts that the university did not want bad publicity to undermine a major fundraising campaign in 2021 that raised $92 million.
The plaintiff also alleges a culture of “rape cover-up” at the university, and cites statistics from the U.S. Department of Education that Y.U. has reported zero rapes on their undergraduate campuses from 2001-2020, which she believes is false.
“Plaintiff is eager to make sure that Yeshiva University leadership finally understands that it simply is no longer acceptable for school administrators, officials, and/or directors to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the rapes and/or sexual assaults of its students,” wrote Kevin Mulhearn, the lawyer representing Jane Doe, in a press release.
Though the plaintiff did not specify a number, the plaintiff is seeking compensatory damages for “severe and extreme emotional distress, punitive damages and reasonable attorney’s fees.
Yeshiva University maintains that the university properly handled the investigation. “We are fully confident that this matter was appropriately and thoroughly investigated. Our professionals, including the individuals named in this lawsuit, work tirelessly to ensure the safety and well-being of our students and they have taken extensive steps to provide assistance in this matter specifically,” said a spokesperson for the university in a statement to the New York Jewish Week.
“We at Yeshiva University take seriously our duty to do all we can to prevent and address sexual assault within our campus atmosphere and surrounding areas,” the spokesperson added.