Yale Holds Hearings in Case of Student Cleared of Rape

Saifullah Khan, right, during his criminal trial on sexual assault charges. He was found not guilty in March, but now faces a university panel.

Yale University is holding hearings of its University Wide Committee on Sexual Assault in the case of Saifullah Khan, who was found not guilty in March of sexually assaulting a fellow student on Halloween night 2015.

Mr. Khan, 25, said on Thursday that the hearings began on April 5. Yale said it would not confirm or deny the existence of his case for confidentiality reasons.

Mr. Khan, a native of Afghanistan, was suspended from Yale after the alleged assault, and whether or not he will be reinstated depends on the results of his university hearings. The Yale Daily News first reported that the hearings had resumed after being postponed until the conclusion of Mr. Khan’s criminal trial.

The university panel will likely use a different standard of evidence than the criminal courts, where prosecutors are required to prove a crime was committed “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Under the Obama administration, the federal education department offered guidance to universities conducting Title IX investigations of sexual misconduct that they should use a “preponderance of evidence” standard. Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, revoked that guidance, but universities still use a lower standard than the criminal courts.

“Universities like Yale are free to apply any standard within reason,” said Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago Law School. “Also, the fact that someone is acquitted of a criminal offense does not mean they can’t be held responsible in another context.”

But Andrew T. Miltenberg, an attorney with Nesenoff & Miltenberg LLP in New York City who has represented many students accused of sexual assault, said the low legal standards and the lack of safeguards of these committees make it nearly impossible for anyone to get a fair and reasonable hearing. Mr. Miltenberg is not representing Mr. Khan.

“I think we would all like to believe that he could and will get an unbiased and uncompromised hearing by Yale, but I think it is virtually impossible,” he said.

At the same time, an online petition against Mr. Khan’s being reinstated had drawn more than 77,000 signatures by Thursday.

The petition was begun by Lacey Kohlmoos, who is the online organizing strategist at Care2, a social networking platform. One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted in college, Ms. Kohlmoos said.

“Care2 believes there are so many barriers for victims to come forward and get justice in a court of law. There don’t need to be that many barriers on college campuses. We need to make sure our college campus is safe for everybody,” she said.

Mr. Khan said, “I would like to put all of this behind me. I have a lot of things to do in life. I have a tremendous trust in the Republican constitution America has. I’m not worried. I have already been vindicated.”

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