Court Grants Administrator Leave to Amend Title IX Complaint Involving Wichita State Athletic Department

Mar 31, 2017

A federal judge from the District of Kansas has allowed an embattled former administrator at Wichita State University (WSU) to amend his complaint alleging that the university and individual defendants (including the athletic director) retaliated against him — violating Title IX, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and state laws — for his persistence investigating reported sexual assaults by student-athletes.
In so ruling, the court found that plaintiff Wade Robinson was not asserting new claims, but rather adding more substance to existing claims.
Robinson’s claims arise from the time he spent working for WSU as Vice President for Campus Life and University Relations from July 2009 to July 2014.
In April 2013, the plaintiff learned about an alleged rape by someone on the WSU men’s basketball team. The alleged rape occurred shortly after the team’s trip to the Final Four in the 2013 NCAA basketball tournament. Robinson claims that the WSU President, John Bardo, and its athletic director failed to inform him and WSU’s General Counsel Ted Ayers about the rape for several days after the alleged rape occurred. Plaintiff did not learn about the alleged rape until the Wichita Police Department made a public statement on April 25, 2013. Two days after that, the plaintiff requested a meeting with President Bardo, the athletic director, and general counsel to raise his concerns about WSU’s alleged failure to comply with Title IX. After this meeting, the plaintiff began to investigate the incident.
The plaintiff asked the associate athletic director for help getting the alleged perpetrator to talk with him as part of the investigation. The associate athletic director apparently told the plaintiff it was not the right time to bother this person but that he would help at the right time, according to the court. Then, plaintiff learned about another alleged rape—this one purportedly by a member of the WSU men’s track team—in January 2014. The plaintiff met with this alleged perpetrator twice, first in March 2014 and later in July 2014. In March, plaintiff emailed President Bardo’s executive team with plans to launch an initiative to end sexual violence on the WSU campus.
Robinson alleged that President Bardo threatened his job twice—once in May 2013 and again in April 2014. In July 2014, he was demoted from his position as vice president of campus life to vice president of student engagement. As part of his demotion, the plaintiff was moved to an “inadequate office facility.”
In January 2015, Robinson reported to President Bardo, University Provost Tony Vizzini, and general counsel that the alleged victim of the January 2014 alleged rape planned to make a formal complaint. Also, plaintiff informed them that he planned to proceed with a formal Title IX investigation. The plaintiff also informed his superiors about a possible Code of Conduct violation involving members of the men’s basketball team, and that a reporter was investigating alleged sexual assaults on the WSU campus. Three days later, the plaintiff was informed that WSU was terminating his employment, effective on June 30, 2015.
On March 2, 2015, co-defendant Registry for College and University Presidents, a Division of Collegiate Enterprise Solutions, LLC, published an announcement seeking applicants for the vice president for student affairs position at WSU. The announcement stated that “the incumbent is aware he is leaving at the end of the academic year or sooner; the incumbent does not fit with the culture of the executive leadership team,” and that the “current operation is too hierarchal and punishment-centered.”
On May 9, 2015, The Wichita Eagle newspaper reported plaintiff’s termination. Part of this article included a conversation between President Bardo and Student Body President Matt Conklin. According to the article, President Bardo told Conklin that there were three reasons for plaintiff’s termination: first, that the “student process is too punitive in nature rather than educational as it should be”; second, that the student affairs department “had improperly allocated finances”; and, finally, that the student affairs office is “too bureaucratic in nature.” The same article also quoted Registry’s announcement asserting that “the current operation is too hierarchal and punishment-centered.”
In his lawsuit, the plaintiff claimed that WSU retaliated against him for “opposing the inaction of WSU to incidents of alleged rape by” WSU students, and that President Bardo violated his Due Process rights when he made defamatory statements and retaliated against the plaintiff. He also brought state law defamation and invasion of privacy claims against President Bardo and Registry, and claims that Registry violated the Kansas Open Records Act.
The court focused specifically on Registry’s bid to prevent the amended complaint, finding that it was faulty.
“If indeed plaintiff’s amended complaint does not materially change his claims against Registry, Registry will not sustain prejudice,” wrote the court. “Registry will have an opportunity to challenge the sufficiency of plaintiff’s claims in a renewed motion to dismiss, one that may not require many modifications from its currently pending motion.”
Wade Robinson v. Wichita State University, et al.; D. Kan.; Case No. 16-cv-2138-DDC-GLR, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26509; 2/24/17
Attorneys of Record: (for plaintiff) Daniel G. Curry, Sarah A. Brown, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Brown & Curry, LLC, Kansas City, MO. (for defendants) Boyd A. Byers, LEAD ATTORNEY, Foulston Siefkin LLP – Wichita, Wichita, KS; David H. Moses, Molly I. Gordon, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS; Toby Crouse, LEAD ATTORNEY, Foulston Siefkin LLP – OP, Overland Park, KS. Kevin D. Case, Patric S. Linden, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Case Linden, PC, Kansas City, MO.


Articles in Current Issue