Update (February 18, 2019): We will be interested in the response to Carleton College’s motion for summary judgment in the case brought against the college by a former Carleton student, Ms. Elizabeth Shank. In the posts below, we discuss Ms. Shank’s claims that arise from two different alleged sexual assaults she allegedly experienced at Carleton at the hands of two different fellow students (one during her very first week at the school, the other a year-and-a-half later).
As we point out in the previous post, below, colleges are placed in an unwinnable situation where they have to balance the interests of accusers, the accused, fellow students, parents, faculty, alumni, the public (including law enforcement) (and undoubtedly additional stakeholders clever readers can list). They want, of course, to placate every stakeholder. This might be inherently impossible in many cases, most cases, or, maybe even all cases.
Most importantly, colleges won’t know exactly what happened (on 9/12/11 and the Spring of 2013 in the case of Ms. Shank). The only certainties are (1) they will never know; and (2) what happened will be sharply contested.
We have taken the position consistently in this case that Ms. Shank’s claim against Carleton College for “intentional emotional distress” is preposterous and that her claim for punitive damages against the college is, as well. Nevertheless, the U.S. District Court (D. Minn.), to date, has refused to throw out either of these claims.
Will Carleton face the triple silver disaster: 1) the threat of a trial, on (2) a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, and (3) the threat of punitive damages? If so, we hope that Carleton will take it to and through trial and then, if unsuccessful, will appeal. There are limits as to what a college can do. In our view, the implications of the claims in this case go far beyond that.