Men’s Soccer Player Suspended For Sexual Assault Allowed To Remain At Duke

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Judge Orlando Hudson issued a ruling on a preliminary injunction Wednesday allowing suspended men’s soccer player Ciaran McKenna to remain at Duke.

Hudson issued the ruling after closing arguments by Duke’s lawyer Paul Sun and McKenna’s lawyers Emilia Beskind and Jay Ferguson. McKenna, a sophomore, had been suspended by the University after being found responsible for sexual assault. But after Hudson’s ruling, McKenna will be allowed to remain a student at Duke while the rest of the lawsuit proceeds in court.

 “We’re so happy for our client, we’re so happy that he can continue his education, that the can continue to get the things that Duke promised him while he is fighting this case in court, and we are very much looking forward to the jury hearing the facts of this case,” Beskind said.

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, said the University had no comment on the case.

A team spokesperson also declined to comment on the outcome but noted that the team will discuss whether McKenna can train with the men’s soccer team this spring in the coming days. The Blue Devils host the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of the United Soccer League Sunday to kick off their spring slate.

Background to the case

McKenna—a men’s soccer player—was suspended for six semesters in January after being found responsible for sexual assault by the Office of Student Conduct. He is suing Duke on the grounds of a breach of contract, common-law fairness violations and negligence.

A three-person panel, convened in July 2016 by the Office of Student Conduct, found unanimously that McKenna was responsible for violating sexual misconduct policy because the alleged victim had not verbally consented. However, the first panel was not unanimously convinced that the alleged victim, who is also a student, said “no” to the sexual encounter—although she claimed that she had.

McKenna appealed the decision, and the appeals panel found that there was procedural error in the first panel, which did not use the appropriate “reasonable person” standard to decide the case. The issue was then returned to the Office of Student Conduct.

A second panel, convened in November 2016, found that the victim had not given consent, and that she had also explicitly denied it. At that point, McKenna appealed to a second appeals panel, which decided not to overturn the decision. McKenna was then suspended in January.

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