LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Two women filed a class action lawsuit on Wednesday against Hillsdale College, accusing it of failing to properly investigate their reports of sexual assault and violating their rights under Title IX and Michigan law.
Plaintiffs Grace Chen and Danielle Villarreal allege they were sexually assaulted by fellow students while enrolled at Hillsdale College. According to the lawsuit, the college did not provide any support services or safety accommodations and failed to supply any formal documentation of its investigation.
It also alleges the college did not take any meaningful disciplinary action against the assailants, whom Chen and Villarreal say they continued to regularly see on campus and at school events.
The lawsuit also challenges Hillsdale College’s exemption from Title IX due to its refusal of federal funding, arguing the college’s nonprofit status and tax exemption should require it to be accountable under Title IX.
“This class action isn’t solely about Hillsdale College mishandling my report of sexual assault on campus; it’s also about the school’s overall approach to addressing such reports from any student,” said Chen in a statement through her legal representation. “My goal in filing this complaint is to prevent others attending Hillsdale from enduring the same painful experience I did.”
“I want to emphasize that our collective complaint goes beyond our individual experiences. It sheds light on a systemic issue at Hillsdale College concerning how sexual assault reports are handled,” said Villarreal, who has since left Hillsdale College and is now a junior at Vanderbilt University.
Hillsdale College released this response on Wednesday:
“Hillsdale College is aware of the lawsuit filed against it today in federal court. The accusations made in the suit are serious mischaracterizations of Hillsdale College’s campus culture and sexual assault policies and procedures which have been developed with the utmost concern for the protection of our students.
Hillsdale College takes the safety of its students very seriously and strives to educate students about sexual assault, answer frequently asked questions about sexual assault, and detail the procedures for contacting appropriate persons at the college, Hillsdale Hospital, and Hillsdale City Police. Hillsdale also, however, understands the importance of maintaining the rights of the accused as the process of investigation and remediation is carried out.
The college has established procedures for dealing with allegations of misconduct; these procedures are outlined in resources provided to all students. Over the past decade, Hillsdale College has worked with expert third parties to ensure its policies and procedures regarding investigations of sexual assault are exceptional with respect to ascertaining the true nature of the alleged incident while also protecting the rights and reputation of both the accused and the alleged victim.
When allegations of sexual misconduct are made, Hillsdale promptly and thoroughly investigates the accusations, through independent counsel, as was done with the allegations of Ms. Chen and Ms. Villarreal. Hillsdale also offers assistance to the alleged victim and implements necessary interim measures, whether supportive or protective.
Based on the findings of the independent counsel, if a student is found responsible for violating any of the Regulations of Proper Student Conduct or the Honor Code, the deans are authorized to impose disciplinary measures as outlined in the Procedure for Student Discipline. The deans are further authorized to take any other necessary action to stop the conduct, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects while protecting the Hillsdale College community.”Response to lawsuit allegations from Hillsdale College