Austin Van Overdam, the Texas A&M swimmer found responsible for sexual abuse by a Title IX investigation, is launching his own Title IX lawsuit at the school, alleging that the school discriminates against male students in sexual misconduct investigations.
Van Overdam rose into the public eye last week when fellow Texas A&M student Hannah Shaw went public on social and news media with criticism of Texas A&M for allowing Van Overdam to return to school and the swim team after finding him responsible for abuse in 2016: a case in which she was the accuser. Shaw tweeted out official documents from Texas A&M’s investigation finding Van Overdam responsible on one sexual abuse charge and not responsible on three other charges. Van Overdam was suspended from school for the fall 2016 semester and was listed on the swim & dive roster as a redshirt. He returned this past season to compete with the Aggies, competing at the NCAA Championships in March.
Van Overdam’s attorney, Gaines West, announced Monday that Van Overdam had filed a Title IX lawsuit against the school for engaging in “gender bias” in the way it investigated Shaw’s claims. West included a copy of the suit, which was filed in a federal court in Houston. In West’s announcement, he claims Van Overdam was “wrongfully disciplined” and criticized Shaw’s claims.
The suit says that the hearing conducted by Texas A&M included testimony from only Van Overdam and Shaw, with no other witnesses. But Van Overdam’s suit says that despite the two giving contradictory testimony, the school accepted Shaw’s testimony and found Van Overdam responsible for one of the sexual abuse charges. Van Overdam did appeal the ruling, but the decision was upheld, according to Van Overdam’s suit. Directly from the suit:
“In the manner in which it approaches the investigation, adjudication, and appeal of allegations of sexual misconduct, Texas A&M University creates an environment in which male students accused of sexual misconduct are nearly assured of a finding of responsibility,” the suit says. “This denies the accused his fundamental due process rights and deprives these male students of educational opportunities solely on the basis of their sex.”
The lawsuit goes on to allege that Shaw was immediately cast as a victim in the hearing and that “Van Overdam’s testimony was totally discounted while Shaw’s contradictory testimony was deemed more reliable without reason or explanation.” The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the school, claiming that its finding Van Overdam responsible has caused him “denial of educational opportunities, loss of scholarship funds, inability to transfer to other educational institutions, reputational damages” and a loss of career opportunities and earning potential, among other things.
West’s announcement says that Van Overdam originally accepted the school’s punishment “instead of spending his family’s life savings fighting Shaw and A&M.” The announcement also says Van Overdam “filed a retaliation allegation with A&M against Shaw, but that the school “denied it so as not to appear being juxtaposed against the #MeToo movement.”
You can read the full Van Overdam lawsuit here.