FLORENCE, Ala. – The University of North Alabama has responded to a federal lawsuit accusing it of Title IX violations. UNA is asking for a dismissal of the lawsuit based on protections provided by the 11th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Amendment addresses the sovereign immunity of states. That type of immunity is the legal idea that a state is protected from any criminal prosecution or civil suit. UNA claims because it’s a state agency it can’t be sued.
Back in August the lawsuit filed on behalf of a “Jane Doe” alleged that UNA covered up the sexual assault of a student by her professor David Dickerson. Lawyers for the university argue that’s not true.
UNA says after getting word of the accusations, it conducted an investigation and in less than a month were able to place Dickerson on administrative leave. The university also says it issued Dickerson a no-contact order and that he was not allowed back on campus for the remainder of his contract.
UNA did continue to pay Dickerson for the remainder of his employment agreement. UNA President Kenneth Kitts says he made that decision to protect the students involved and avoid possible litigation from Dickerson.
Statements from university officials named in the lawsuit were included in the response filings. We have put together a timeline of the UNA’s version of events based on those statements below.
- Florida State University hosts the International Collegiate Sales Competition from the 4th through the 8th. Four University of North Alabama students attended the competition along with Professor David Dickerson.
- A student who did not attend the competition approaches then assistant professor Jerome Gafford on November 24. The student tells Gafford two males who were on the trip claimed they witnessed Dickerson ‘making out’ with a female student who was also on the trip.
- Gafford reports what he has learned to his supervisor, Associate Dean of the College of Business Jana Beaver the same day.
- Beaver says she immediately reported the allegations to UNA’s Title IX coordinator, Tammy Jacques.
- Jacques asked Beaver to get the names and phone numbers of students who attended the competition in Orlando.
- Jacques told Beaver she had scheduled an interview with “Jane Doe” on December 1.
- Jacques says that “Jane Doe” canceled the meeting and declined to be interviewed.
- A Human Resources Director and Deputy Title IX coordinator interviewed the two male students who were at the competition. The results of those interviews indicated that Dickerson may have engaged in behavior that violated UNA policies.
- Dickerson was interviewed on December 8. During that interview, Dickerson admitted to some but not all of the alleged interactions with “Jane Doe” in the swimming pool. At the conclusion of the meeting, Dickerson was instructed to have no contact with any of the four students who participated in the competition.
- After realizing that Dickerson’s statement was not consistent with the two males interviewed by the Title IX office, Beaver reached out to “Jane Doe” and the other female student that attended the trip.
- “Jane Doe” agreed to meet with Beaver on December 9. Beaver suggested that she stay away from Dickerson while the investigation was ongoing. She also suggested that “Jane Doe” stay off campus since exams had ended before winter break. Beaver also asked “Jane Doe” to travel in the company of other people for her safety. Beaver says she didn’t think asking her to stay away from campus would adversely affect her because “Jane Doe” had already concluded her exams.
- On December 11, VP of Human Resources Catherine White followed up with Dickerson by issuing a written No Contact order. The two male students that attended the trip were also informed of the order.
- On December 14, White, the Provost, Dr. John Thornell, and Dean Greg Carnes discussed Dickerson’s employment with UNA. Dr. Kitts later makes the final decision to not renew Dickerson’s contract.
- On December 17, Carnes, White, and Beaver called Dickerson to inform him that his employment was being terminated. Dickerson got upset and threatened legal action against the university. Dean Carnes told him that his employment contract would not be renewed at the end of its term, but that he would be paid until the contract expired. Dickerson was instructed that he was only allowed on campus to collect his personal belongings. Dickerson agreed to that outcome.
- Dickerson cleaned out his office under the supervision of Dean Carnes on January 8. All students involved were informed that Dickerson would no longer be on campus.
- David Shields, VP for Student Affairs at UNA says he received a request for medical withdrawal for “Jane Doe” by Ms. Jennifer Berry, a UNA counselor, on February 17.
- Shields said he trusted Berry’s judgment and didn’t seek further information regarding the request.
- Shields says that “Jane Doe” and her father went into his office on February 28 and told him “Jane Doe” had stopped attending classes on January 28. Sheild says they wanted a withdrawal dated as such.
- Shields says that was the only contact he had with the student. He also claims he wasn’t aware of the report of inappropriate conduct or an investigation involving the plaintiff.
- “Jane Doe” called Beaver and told her Dickerson attempted to contact her on LinkedIn. “Jane Doe” asked Beaver if she should get a restraining order. At the time Beaver did not think UNA had any control over Dickerson contacting “Jane Doe”. Beaver told “Jane Doe” if she felt she needed a restraining order she should get one.
- According to the statement that was the last contact any school official had with “Jane Doe” regarding the incident.