Heightened awareness of students’ rights and colleges’ obligations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination, has led to a wave of protests.With increasing frequency, women are filing federal complaints against colleges accused of failing to address sexual assault.
Now, InsideHigher Ed reports that “two men who left two different colleges after being accused of sexual assault have filed their own lawsuits alleging that administrators violated their due process by mishandling the investigations and campus judicial proceedings that led to their expulsion and withdrawal. It’s an unusual (but not unprecedented) legal approach, utilizing a federal statute designed to protect the people who historically have been victimized by institutional discrimination. To make a successful case under Title IX, the men must demonstrate that they were discriminated against based on their status as males.
“Lawyers and Title IX experts say that’s unlikely.
“Title IX protects the victim because it was put in place to do that – because there aren’t other sorts of protection,” said Erin Buzuvis, a professor at Western New England School of Law and founder of the Title IX Blog. “Neither of these students have prevailed in demonstrating what happened to them was sex discrimination.”
“However, they might have cases for violation of due process – just not necessarily under Title IX. Separately, the students are also arguing negligence and breach of contract, saying campus officials conducted cursory investigations, allowed the accuser special treatment at disciplinary hearings, and ignored evidence, including Facebook messages exchanged after the alleged assault.
“Most of the women who have filed Title IX complaints against a handful of colleges over the past couple of years have said they were raped by fellow students, and administrators did not effectively respond to their complaints. Campuses including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Occidental College, Swarthmore College and theUniversity of Southern California are all under federal investigation stemming from complaints students filed with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. In April 2011, OCR laid out its expectations for how colleges should prevent sexual assault and respond to complaints, including having effective policies for investigations and judicial proceedings. The women who file those complaints are often said to have been “re-victimized” by inadequate administrative response. In contrast, the men who filed complaints last month against Saint Joseph’s University and Vassar College are alleged perpetrators who are in effect claiming they were victimized by a system set up against them.”