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Qayumi v. Duke University

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

April 18, 2018

ARIANA QAYUMI, Plaintiff,
v.
DUKE UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Catherine C. Eagles, District Judge.

         The plaintiff, Arianna Qayumi, has sued Duke University for violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. She contends that Duke's response to her March 6, 2011, rape by two other students was clearly unreasonable and created a hostile educational environment, depriving her of access to educational opportunities and forcing her to transfer to another school. The evidence viewed in the light most favorable to Ms. Qayumi shows that Duke's response was not clearly unreasonable, and therefore Duke's motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         THE EVIDENCE

         Ms. Qayumi began attending Duke in the fall of 2010.[1] Doc. 81-6 at ¶ 2. According to Ms. Qayumi's evidence, on March 6, 2011, a fellow student, Colby Leachman, drugged her and then raped her. Id. at ¶¶ 3-10. Mr. Leachman was the son of a Duke professor and the stepson of the Duke provost, and the rape occurred in the provost's home. Id. at ¶¶ 6, 10. He also invited another student, Brian Self, to rape Ms. Qayumi while she was drugged. See Id. at ¶ 10. This rape occurred later that night in Mr. Self's dorm room. Id. Mr. Leachman recorded a short video of Ms. Qayumi's rape by Mr. Self. Doc. 71-3 at 3, 4-5. After the event, Mr. Leachman showed the video “to a few people, but not [his] entire fraternity.” Id.

         Ms. Qayumi awoke the next day with bruises and indicators of sexual activity but no memory of any sexual encounters. Doc. 83-2 at 6. She visited the Student Health Center on March 6, but she left without seeing anyone. Doc. 71-16 at 37-38. She left anonymous notes to Resident Advisors reporting that someone had engaged in sexual conduct with her, that she was bruised, and that she didn't remember the event. Doc. 83-2 at 6-7. She did not provide the names of anyone involved, including her own. Id.

         A little more than a month later, the Duke University Police Department heard about two incidents of possible sexual misconduct. Doc. 71-7 at ¶¶ 3-4. Officers Dyson and Stotsenberg investigated the rumors by interviewing numerous students to identify persons with firsthand knowledge or information. Id. at ¶¶ 4-11. They eventually identified Mr. Leachman and Mr. Self as two of the men involved in the two incidents. Id. at ¶¶ 3, 11. During interviews by law enforcement, Mr. Leachman and Mr. Self each said the sexual activity was consensual in both incidents. Id. at ¶ 11; Doc. 71-3.

         As to the incident not involving Ms. Qayumi, several other witnesses reported that the woman involved had told them at or around the time of the event that it was consensual. Doc. 71-7 at ¶ 12. Mr. Leachman and Mr. Self as well as the other witnesses denied knowing the woman's name, and Officer Stotsenberg was unable to identify the woman involved. Id. at ¶¶ 11-12.

         As to the incident involving Ms. Qayumi, Mr. Leachman initially lied to Officer Stotsenberg, denying he had videotaped a sexual encounter. Id. at ¶ 14. When Officer Stotsenberg examined Mr. Leachman's phone and located the video, Mr. Leachman again lied and identified the woman as his previous girlfriend. Id. Eventually, Mr. Leachman admitted that the people in the video were Mr. Self and Ms. Qayumi. Id. He continued to say the sexual encounter was consensual. Id. at ¶ 11. On the video, Ms. Qayumi clearly and audibly objected to the videotaping, but she cannot be heard either explicitly consenting or objecting to the sexual activity. See Doc. 71-3 at 5.

         Officers Stotsenberg and Dyson then interviewed Ms. Qayumi. Doc. 71-7 at ¶ 15. She told the officers she did not remember having sexual contact with anyone on the night of March 6 and that she had not consented to any sexual activity with anyone. Doc. 83-2 at 5. Ms. Qayumi asked the officers to continue investigating and asked them to talk with her further after finals were over. Id. at 6, 8. She also asked the officers not to disclose her name at that point. Id. at 8.

         At some point around this time, Mr. Self and Mr. Leachman told Ms. Qayumi that they could be expelled and urged her not to “get them in trouble.” Doc. 71-4. Ms. Qayumi reported this to the Duke Police. Id.

         In June 2011, Stephen Bryan, Duke's Associate Dean of Students, began an investigation into the incidents involving Mr. Leachman and Mr. Self. Doc. 71-10 at ¶ 5. Among other things, Dean Bryan wrote both men that he was considering whether to initiate disciplinary proceedings for alcohol policy violations, disorderly conduct, and unauthorized photography against Mr. Leachman, Doc. 71-11, and for alcohol policy violations and disorderly conduct against Mr. Self. Doc 71-12. He did not indicate he was investigating claims of sexual misconduct or rape. Lieutenant Stotensberg told Ms. Qayumi about this investigation, reminded her that “as I promised you, I have not revealed your name to [the student conduct] office, ” and he asked her to tell him if she still wanted to remain anonymous. Doc. 65-25 at 5.

         On July 13, 2011, Ms. Qayumi told her academic dean, Dr. Baishakhi Taylor, that she believed she was a victim of sexual misconduct in March 2011. Doc. 65-27 at 3. Ms. Qayumi told Dr. Taylor she wanted to maintain privacy for the time being so she could “decide what to do.” Id. Dr. Taylor reported the incident to several Duke administrators, including Dean Bryan. Id.

         Duke administrators thereafter contacted Ms. Qayumi on several occasions, informing her that her cooperation was needed to go forward with university disciplinary processes against Mr. Leachman and Mr. Self for sexual misconduct and providing information about Duke's resources for sexual assault victims. E.g., Doc. 68-2; Doc. 68-3. In September 2011, Ms. Qayumi told Dean Bryan she did not want to be involved in a disciplinary case and she did not want to talk about the incident. Doc. 68-4 at 3.

         In November 2011, Dean Bryan issued a formal warning and written reprimand to Mr. Leachman for violating two aspects of Duke's alcohol policy. Doc. 71-13 at 3. He also said that Duke was dropping the sexual misconduct investigation because the victim decided “not to engage, ” but noted Mr. Leachman's “very concerning” behavior. Id. In January 2012, Dean Bryan gave Mr. Self a formal warning and written reprimand for violating Duke's alcohol policy. Doc. 71-14 at 3. Dean Bryan's letter to Mr. Self did not mention any investigation into sexual misconduct. Id.

         Ms. Qayumi took a leave of absence from Duke in the spring of 2012. Doc. 83-2 at 23. That spring, she sent Officer Dyson several emails indicating she was ready to talk and wanted to “file an official police report about what happened to me.” Doc. 65-25 at 2-4. In May 2012, she spoke with Officer Dyson by phone. Doc. 71-16. Officer Dyson told her he had discussed the case with a Durham County prosecutor, who told Officer Dyson that Ms. Qayumi would need to testify if charges were brought. Doc. 71-6 at 4. Ms. Qayumi told Duke police officers that she was ready to testify, but officers told her the prosecution would not be successful. Doc. 83-2 at 20-22.

         Later that summer, Ms. Qayumi told Dean Bryan that she wanted to initiate a disciplinary case, but she did not follow through on the next steps when she returned to school in the fall of 2012. Doc. 71-10 at ¶¶ 12-13. Eventually, in March 2013, she submitted a written statement accusing Mr. Leachman and Mr. Self of non-consensual sexual activity and unauthorized recording. Id. at ΒΆ 14; Doc. 68-1. Near the end of the month, Dean Bryan sent a no-contact order to both men, directing them not to have any contact with Ms. ...


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