University faces sexual assault lawsuit

A lawsuit filed in federal court claims UNA helped cover up the sexual assault of an unnamed student by former marketing professor David Dickerson.

The plaintiff argues UNA failed to protect her before the sexual assault since it did not perform a background check on Dickerson before he was employed.

After the incident, the plaintiff discovered that Dickerson had been charged with rape and assault before his employment at UNA.

Jane Doe took Dickerson’s sales class in the fall semester of 2015, according to a complaint filed by the plaintiff.

Jane Doe and three other students were selected from the class to attend a UNA sponsored intern sales competition in Orlando, Florida.

After the sales competition, the plaintiff went for a swim at the hotel pool when Dickerson allegedly began touching the plaintiff and eventually tried to pull her into his lap. Jane Doe resisted as Dickerson tried to kiss her.

The complaint also claims that two male students on the trip could see the events unfolding at the pool from their hotel room. The students allegedly took photos of the encounter at the pool.

Later that evening, Dickerson took Jane Doe and her roommate out for dinner where he bought them alcoholic beverages. After the plaintiff’s roommate left the restaurant, the plaintiff allegedly remembers being escorted by Dickerson back to the hotel while slipping out of consciousness. According to the complaint, she remembers being undressed by Dickerson and not having the physical strength to resist. The plaintiff woke up naked and immediately left the hotel room.

The two male students on the trip reported the incident to professor Jerome Gafford when they arrived home. He took the information to Jana Beaver, chair of the department of management and marketing.

Allegedly, Beaver instructed the plaintiff to keep quiet about the incident and to stay off campus. She also instructed Jane Doe to stay away from the downtown Florence area because Dickerson was known to spend time there.

No one ever took a written statement from the plaintiff or reported the sexual assault to police, according to the complaint filed by Jane Doe.

The plaintiff was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and did not return to school. Although her medical state granted a medical leave, Dr. David Shields, Vice President of Student Affairs deemed the leave academic.

Dickerson was allowed to finish his contract with UNA after the alleged sexual assault.

The plaintiff claims Dickerson e-mailed her after the assault. Dickerson told Jane Doe they were “friends forever.”

Director of Communications and Marketing Bryan Rachal said the university does not comment on pending legal matters and has no comments at this time.