In a narrow, but nonetheless positive decision in the area of public safety at Massachusetts colleges and universities, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) recently issue a ruling that clarifies and confirms a University’s legal obligations to intoxicated students. Previous to this ruling, colleges and universities almost universally took the attitude that they had no legal duty to safeguard their students from harm caused or aggravated by intoxication.
A brief background on the case history:
A Northeastern University student attended a campus party and became visibly intoxicated, even vomiting at the party location. She was escorted back to her dorm by another male student, and the two were seen kissing en route to the dorm. When at the alleged victim’s dorm room, the two students engaged in sex, which the plaintiff alleged was initiated by the male student. The next day, the plaintiff told her roommate about the encounter, stating that if she had not been drunk, she would not have had sex with the other student. The roommate then told the dorm RA of the incident, which caused the University to undertake an investigation as to whether a rape or other non-consensual sex occurred between the two students. The University found insufficient evidence to charge the other student.