Dezmine Wells was a basketball player at Xavier University. In the early morning of July 7, 2012, Wells and some other students were playing "Truth or Dare" in their dorm. During the course of the game, Wells's resident advisor exposed her breasts, removed her pants, gave Wells a "lap dance," and kissed him several times. After the game ended, he and the resident advisor went to her room, where she asked him if he had a condom and proceeded to have what Wells claims was a consensual sexual encounter.
Later that day, the resident advisor told campus police that Wells had raped her. The hospital examination showed no signs of trauma and the resident advisor then told police she did not want to press charges. The County prosecutor later investigated and found the charges not to be credible.
Xavier held a hearing related to the incident on August 2, 2012. Wells claims the Board failed to follow appropriate policies for disciplinary proceedings, and that the Board was merely trying to scapegoat him to demonstrate a strong response to an assault allegation, as the University had recently been accused of not taking such reports seriously. The Board found Wells liable for a serious violation of the Code of Student Conduct and announced he would be expelled.
Wells filed suit to have the Board's decision vacated, as well as actual and punitive damages. His claims included breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and various allegations of libel. Xavier filed a motion for summary judgment.
Under the relevant state law, to establish a claim for libel, Wells would have to show there was a false statement, which was defamatory to him, published to a third party, the defendant was at least negligent, and there was damage to Wells's reputation. Wells alleged that the statement Xavier released regarding his expulsion qualified because it stated he committed a violation which he claims he did not, and that everyone who read the statement knew it was in reference to sexual assault since the incident was publicized, likely due to his status as a basketball player.
The court took note of Wells's accusations that the hearing process was flawed, as he was denied the right to a lawyer, denied the opportunity to cross-examine his accuser, and denied character witnesses while his accuser was not. Moreover, the Board seemed to be ill-equipped to handle such serious charges, evidenced by their lack of training or experience in interpreting the results of the hospital examination. The court found that Wells's alleged facts support a libel claim sufficiently enough to survive a motion for summary judgment. His claims were allowed to proceed.
Wells v. Xavier University, --F.Supp.2d--, 2014 WL 972172