Sauce for the gander!

A federal appeals court has ruled  that a male student can sue Columbia University under the federal Title IX statute for alleged anti-male bias in the way the university handled a sexual-assault charge brought against him by a female student in 2013.

This is an amazing victory, because Title IX, a 1972 law forbidding sex discrimination by educational institutions receiving federal funds has heretofore been almost exclusively used by female students alleging that school displinary proceedings make it too easy for male sexual assailants to escape punishment. The Obama administration's Education Department has encouraged such actions, launching inevestigations against dozens of institutions and requiring college disciplinary boards to use a loose "preponderance of evidence" standard of proof  and otherwise bypass the legal protections–such as contronting their accuser in court– that ordinary criminal defendants accused of sexual assault enjoy.

When they've challenged some of these procedural deficiencies, especially at public institutions that are bound by the U.S. Constitution, male students have won an impressive series of court rulings in their favor recently. But when they've tried to use Title IX itself, an important legal weapon agaisnt private universities, to allege that these blatantly unfair rules have constituted discrimination against them as men, lower courts have mostly thrown out their cases.

But all this may have now changed, according to Inside Higher Education:

There have been some other wins for male students, but this one comes from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and thus sets a precedent in that circuit and could be influential elsewhere.

"The decision will encourage many more courts not to dismiss comparable Title IX complaints at early stages. That means more litigation, more discovery and more settlements," Gary Pavela, editor of the Association of Student Conduct Administration's Law and Policy Report and former president of the International Center for Academic Integrity, said via email. "More settlements are likely because not many university defendants (or their insurance companies) want juries deciding these matters, especially when standards for consent are so broadly and vaguely written."

The Second Circuit case, involving a Columbia student known only as John Doe, has yet to go to trial (a lower court had earlier dismissed it). But the facts that his lawsuit alleges are hair-raising. Columbia found him guilty of forcing unwanted sexual intercourse upon a female student known only as Jane Doe. He was suspended from Columbia for a year–or actually a year and a half, since he lost credit for the semester in which the charges arose. Here is what the Second Circuit said John Doe's lawsuit alleged:

  • On the night they had sex, Jane Doe suggested a place (her suite's bathroom) and left John Doe there while she went to her room to get a condom, suggesting that the interaction was consensual, he says.
  • Columbia didn't interview multiple witnesses suggested by John Doe to verify that he didn't force himself on Jane Doe.
  • Columbia said it didn't need to interview those witnesses because John Doe wasn't found guilty of forcing himself on her on the night of the alleged assault, but of having "coercively pressured" Jane Doe over a period of weeks. (The court said that this was no reason not to have interviewed his suggested witnesses, who he said could have helped the university understand what happened during those weeks and on the night of the alleged assault.)
  • Columbia failed to inform John Doe of his rights during the review process, he says. For example, he was not informed that the hearing would start by asking him to make a statement until the hearing itself.
  • Many at Columbia criticized the university at the time of this investigation, saying that Columbia in the past had failed to properly investigate sexual assaults. Many at Columbia were concerned about this criticism and the negative publicity it was bringing on the university.

In other words, according to John Doe , Columbia apparently fearful of either Education Department pressure or  pressure from the the Columbia feminists who lionized Emma Sulkowicz and her mattress (the university had failed to find Sulkowicz's alleged assailant gulilty of anything)  took Jane Doe's complaint at face value without bothering to investigate John Doe's claim that the sex was strictly consensual.

So it's good to know that two sexes can now play the Title IX game. If John Doe can prove his allegations at a trial, Columbia could end up owing him hefty damages plus attorney's fees.