The 3-2 majority of the Appellate Division, Third Department, panel said in Haug v. State University of New York at Potsdam that many aspects of the disciplinary process at SUNY-Potsdam as it was applied to Benjamin Haug “give us pause,” beginning with the fact that the female student’s account of the encounter as presented at campus disciplinary proceedings was hearsay.
While she initially reported the incident as a sexual assault to campus police within a few hours after it happened on Sept. 7, 2014, Justice Eugene Devine noted that the woman acknowledged that she had not declined to engage in sex with the male student nor provide any “gesture saying that [the encounter] wasn’t welcome.”
Nevertheless, the court noted that Haug was found guilty before a campus disciplinary board of sexual misconduct, suspended for the remainder of the semester and made to take an alcohol evaluation and treatment program. When Haug appealed, the campus disciplinary appeals board increased the penalty to expulsion and Potsdam president Kristin Esterberg affirmed Haug’s dismissal.
Devine said that between Haug’s description of events and the hearsay from the female student, the facts weren’t there to uphold Haug’s expulsion for violating SUNY’s code of student conduct as it applies to sexual activities.
“Simply put, petitioner’s testimony seriously controverted the hearsay evidence indicating that the complainant had not given affirmative consent to sexual relations and, as a result, that hearsay proof did not constitute substantial evidence to support the [expulsion] determination,” Devine wrote in a decision in which Presiding Justice Karen Peters and Justice Sharon Aarons joined.