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Duke soccer player’s lawsuit over sexual misconduct policy is resolved

A statue of James Buchanan "Buck" Duke greets visitors to West Campus at Duke University.
A statue of James Buchanan "Buck" Duke greets visitors to West Campus at Duke University. Durham Herald-Sun

A breach-of-contract lawsuit brought by a men’s soccer player against Duke University has been resolved, months after the student won a victory in court involving the university’s sexual misconduct disciplinary procedures.

In February, Durham Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson issued a permanent injunction preventing Duke from punishing the soccer player, Ciaran McKenna, with a six-semester suspension.

The parties appeared at the Durham County courthouse Monday to end the case. Neither side would discuss the terms of any settlement between Duke and McKenna.

One of the student’s attorneys, Emilia Beskind, said only that he is a student at Duke in good standing, with no disciplinary record. He expects to graduate in December, Beskind said.

McKenna had been accused of sexual misconduct by another student and had been found responsible in an internal disciplinary process at Duke. The case revolved around a 2015 encounter between the two students after they met at a nightclub in Durham and later had intercourse.

The lawsuit revolved less around the facts of the case than the way Duke handled the disciplinary proceedings. McKenna went through two campus hearings on the case, after an appeals panel found an error in the initial hearing. The university’s Office of Student Conduct then launched a second hearing process.

That went against Duke’s written procedures in 2015-16, which called for the appeals panel to finish the case unless new testimony warranted an additional hearing.

McKenna’s lawyers used his signed letter-of-intent and scholarship letter to claim that the university broke its agreement with the player. The aid award specifically referred to Duke’s “regular” student discipline rules, and the player’s lawyers effectively argued that Duke didn’t follow its own stated procedures, which violated the contract between the university and the player.

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill
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