Alyssa Reid began her professional career in the summer of 2012 when James Madison University (JMU) hired her as the Assistant Director of the “Individual Events Team” in the School of Communication. Reid was passionate about education and teaching. She felt especially compelled to help her students craft their own voices to advocate for those things that were important to them, whether it be the arts, politics, LGBTQ issues, or interpersonal relationships. Reid was a well-respected member of the JMU community. JMU students even recognized Reid as the “Best Campus Advisor,” awarding her with a “Dolley Award” in 2017.
In December 2018, JMU and her ex-girlfriend changed Reid’s life forever. Reid’s ex-girlfriend, a fellow employee at JMU, lodged an unfounded and ambiguous “Title IX Statement” against her with the university. Her ex did not allege that Reid violated any of JMU’s policies, that she had engaged in sexual misconduct, nor that she violated Title IX. The ex instead expressed concern about how their relationship began three years earlier (2015), with the 2018 complaint being filed after a fairly nasty breakup between the two.
“When you’re accused of sexual misconduct, it’s fundamentally different; it’s something that critiques the nature of who you are to your core,” said Reid in a new NCLA video. “That sticks with you forever.”
“The breakup was very difficult. We lived together. We shared pets together. I was her date to her sister’s wedding. I was very enmeshed with her life and vice versa. She filed a complaint saying that we were in a relationship. The only information I received from JMU in December 2018 was that it was a nonconsensual relationship. I was very confused by what nonconsensual relationship even meant, but I was even more perplexed about how it applied to my relationship.”
An accusation alone can be devastating. But it was the university’s treatment of Reid that was especially egregious in light of JMU’s own written policies for intaking, investigating, and responding to Title IX complaints. JMU’s Title IX officer and other staff members did not just become advocates for Reid’s ex, they literally wrote her “complaint” for her in order to shoe-horn her accusations into an actionable claim to allow them to proceed under a policy that never existed at the time of the alleged offending conduct. In short, Reid’s ex had not filed a valid or viable Title IX complaint against Reid; JMU crafted one out of whole cloth.
“I was not given information by JMU what the allegations were until three months after my Title IX case started,” Reid explained. “I wasn’t given information on what the actual case against me was until I had already been suspended by the university for teaching.”
The university’s approach ensured that Reid did not have fair notice of the accusations against her, which prevented her from fully defending herself and exposing the fact that her ex-girlfriend’s complaint was simply a continuation of her harassment and abuse. JMU’s Title IX office violated every tenet of fair play and due process to which Reid was entitled. During the trial, Reid was even deprived of the right to confront and cross-examine her accuser.
“Something was fundamentally wrong in the due process I was being given by James Madison University,” said Reid. “I eventually had a hearing. It was traumatic to say the least. First of all, at the hearing [my ex] was not present. Neither were any of her witnesses. I was not allowed to cross-examine. I was not allowed to question her. JMU did not provide me with due process. They provided me the illusion of due process. They provided me with paperwork that said they would follow certain procedures and then all of the procedures were explicitly designed to help them and in no way provide a fair hearing for me.”
By accepting and moving forward with the “complaint,” the university employees weaponized Title IX to destroy Reid’s life while shielding her ex from having to make even the most rudimentary effort to defend her claims or present any evidence to support them. The Title IX investigation has wreaked havoc on Reid’s career, destroying her personal reputation and ability to continue working for JMU. Reid was entitled to due process.
Reid was a dedicated teacher and advocate on behalf of her students. For her, teaching extended well beyond being merely a vocation and into an intrinsic aspect of her identity.
“This hearing has ruined my life. This hearing ruined my dream. I have helped students find their place in the world and the irony now is that I’m lost.”
JMU used Title IX to silence Reid’s voice and destroy her career at the university. Those people involved with this travesty of justice must be held accountable.