Mr. McLeod, 24 years old, is suing Duke for his diploma, arguing the university unjustly made him an example to show a get-tough approach. “I believe that I’m wrongfully accused,” he says. “I believe that it was an unfair process and I believe I had something I earned taken away from me.”
His case is part of a broad and rapid change in how U.S. colleges and universities deal with sexual-assault allegations. Campuses have rewritten policies to lower the burden of proof for finding a student culpable of assault, increasing penalties—sometimes recommending expulsion. In the process, schools find themselves in legal minefields as they try to balance the rights of accuser and accused.
Mr. McLeod’s suit is one of more than 30 that men have brought against U.S. campuses since January 2014 alleging due-process violations in sexual-assault cases, says A Voice for Male Students, an advocacy group. . . .
In the past five months, court filings show, St. Joseph’s University, Amherst College and Swarthmore College have reached sealed settlements with former students who were accused of sexual misconduct and sued in federal court. The Education Department says it doesn’t track how many accused students have brought Title IX complaints.
A judge in Mr. McLeod’s case last year granted an injunction preventing Duke from categorizing him as expelled, saying Mr. McLeod “demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits” of his arguments at a trial now scheduled for February 2016.
Mr. McLeod has a pending Wall Street job offer that requires a diploma, according to his suit. An Australian citizen, he now attends the University of Sydney to complete his degree. “I didn’t want to speak out, I just wanted my degree,” he says. “I loved Duke.”
The woman who accused Mr. McLeod didn’t respond to email inquiries. Duke says her advocate at the Duke Women’s Center, who helped represent her before the disciplinary panel, declines to comment. . . .
“I find it staggering, absolutely staggering, that these parallel judicial systems have been built up in universities,” the elder Mr. McLeod says. “They have considerable power to destroy a person’s life.”
A judge in January allowed the younger Mr. McLeod to add defendants, including the psychologist who conducted his and other Duke Title IX sexual-misconduct investigations—and whom North Carolina later barred from such investigations, citing evidence she wasn’t properly licensed. The psychologist didn’t respond to inquiries.
It’s a debacle. Thanks, Obama.