A student at Yeshiva University sued the New York City school on Monday for allegedly covering up her her rape by another student in order to avoid impeding the “Rise Up” fundraising campaign, which seeks to raise $613 million for the university over five years.
The student, identified in the complaint as “Jane Doe,” also sued YU general counsel Andrew “Avi” Lauer; Title IX coordinator Chaim Nissel; Seyfarth Shaw LLP, the firm that YU hired to conduct the investigation into the student’s allegations; and Dov Kesselman and Emily Miller, the firm’s attorneys who served as investigators in the plaintiff’s Title IX complaint.
YU allegedly mishandled the situation
The plaintiff claimed that she was raped in January 2021 by a member of YU’s basketball team in his Washington Heights apartment. After she informed the university, YU conducted what she called a “sham investigation” that resulted in a verdict that the perpetrator was not responsible, according to a complaint submitted to the United States District Court of Southern New York.
Furthermore, Nissel insisted that the student sign a non-disclosure agreement before receiving the results of the investigation, the complaint asserts. The plaintiff’s lawyers have argued that this request was illegal based on the Clery Act, which mandates that universities must provide participants of an investigation with complete access to all Title IX reports and relevant evidence without preconditions.
The complaint included a number of additional allegations against YU and the other defendants. According to the complaint, the university did not apply mandatory Title IX procedures, falsely suggested to the plaintiff and the YU community that it was handling the complaint as a Title IX matter; conducted a “sham investigation” with a predetermined verdict; and appointed lawyers from Seyfarth Shaw LLP to conduct the investigation even though the firm had previously received millions of dollars from the university for defending it from sex abuse claims brought by students who attended schools affiliated with YU.
Additional allegations claimed that the investigators never requested access to a rape kit and failed to interview key witnesses, that YU did not implement security measures to protect the plaintiff, and that the university refused to allow the student to appeal the “not responsible” verdict in her case.
“After surviving her worst nightmare, [my client] was shocked and appalled at the craven and callous behavior of the Yeshiva University officials charged with the sacred duties of protecting YU students and punishing those who egregiously violated YU’s Torah-based code of conduct,” said Kevin T. Mulhearn, the plaintiff’s attorney, in a press release.
A history of cover-ups?
According to the plaintiff, YU covered up her complaint so as not to interfere with its “Rise Up’ fundraising campaign. In addition, the student identified a decades-long practice of “rape cover-up” at YU, noting that the university did not report any incidents of rape on its campuses from 2001-2020.
YU and Seyfarth Shaw deny the allegations
“The allegations against the university asserted in this complaint are categorically false,” a YU spokesman said in a statement, according to The Forward. “We are fully confident that this matter was appropriately and thoroughly investigated.”
The school added, “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.”
After surviving her worst nightmare, [my client] was shocked and appalled at the craven and callous behavior of the Yeshiva University officials charged with the sacred duties of protecting YU students and punishing those who egregiously violated YU’s Torah-based code of conduct.Kevin T. Mulhearn, plaintiff's attorney
Seyfarth Shaw LLP similarly refuted the complaint’s allegations in a statement, The Forward reported. “The claims asserted in this complaint are entirely without merit and the firm looks forward to presenting the facts of this matter before the Court.”
Nevertheless, the plaintiff remains steadfast in her allegations.
“My client is and will remain relentless in her pursuit of justice because she is compelled to do everything in her power to prevent what happened to her from ever happening again to another YU student,” Mulhearn stated in the press release.
“[The] 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.”