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Former St. John's student alleges bias in sexual misconduct case

COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. — A Red Wing man suspended from a central Minnesota college for alleged sexual misconduct with a female student after a night of Halloween partying last year is suing for violation of rights and unfair treatment.

Aaron Wildenborg, 20, was subjected to "discriminatory gender bias" during the investigative and disciplinary process, including failure by school officials to investigate alleged sexual misconduct by the female accuser, according to the suit filed Oct. 25 in U.S. District Court.

The suit names St. John's University and the College of Saint Benedict as defendants. The private men's and women's colleges located near St. Cloud have a partnership to share facilities and jointly adjudicate conflicts involving students from both schools.

"Because of the sloppy investigation and evaluation of this woman's claims by the College of Saint Benedict and St. John's University, and the backwards burden created by requiring a young man to obtain consent for sexual activities a young woman performed upon him without seeking consent from him, Aaron has decided to bring suit against both schools," according to a statement Friday by Wildenborg's attorney, Andrea Jepsen. "As you can imagine, this whole process has been deeply embarrassing to a private young man who loved the educational and religious community at both schools."

Wildenborg is seeking re-enrollment to St. John's, reinstatement of scholarships, expungement of charges from his academic record and at least $75,000 in damages.

A college spokesman said a federal law prevents officials from commenting on the suit.

The alleged incident occurred in the woman's dorm room during the early morning hours of Nov. 1, 2015. Though Wildenborg contends he was not seeking sexual activity because of a medical condition that made it painful, he and the woman began kissing and removed each other's clothes. According to Wildenborg, he asked the woman if she wanted to have sexual intercourse, which she said she did not. He said in the suit they continued to kiss and engage in other sexual activity before spending the night together in her bed.

The suit states the woman later sent a text message to Wildenborg in which she said she was drunk the night before and asked whether they had intercourse. Wildenborg responded that they had not. He also said in the suit that the woman gave no indication of being intoxicated.

In April 2016, five months after the alleged incident, the woman submitted a formal complaint accusing Wildenborg of sexual misconduct.

A school-appointed adjudication panel determined in June that it is "more likely than not that (Wildenborg) engaged in non-consensual sexual contact with (the woman)," according to the suit. Wildenborg was suspended from St. John's University until the woman graduates, likely in spring 2018. No criminal charges were filed against Wildenborg.

The suit alleges the adjudication panel did not support its finding that the woman was unable "to understand the fact, nature, or extent of the sexual situation" — the definition of incapacitation in the school's policy on sexual misconduct.

It further criticizes the idea that Wildenborg could be guilty of sexual misconduct by not getting consent for acts performed on him, calling it an example of gender bias against males and a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 forbidding sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funding.

The case is among several similar lawsuits nationwide in recent years claiming anti-male bias by schools investigating accusations of sexual abuse.

"Aaron's experience is one that young men all over the country are experiencing," Jepsen said, "and courts and the public are coming to realize that when a postsecondary institution labels a student as guilty of sexual misconduct with little or no due process and with only a cursory review of the facts and the application of little or no logic or commonsense, no student is served."

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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