DOE Office of Civil Rights investigates College’s alleged Title IX violation in discipline case

Nicholas Goldrosen

The United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) opened an investigation on June 19 into the College for alleged violations of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex by those institutions receiving federal funding. OCR opened the investigation in response to a complaint filed on Jan. 28, 2018, that alleges that the College discriminated against a male respondent in a sexual misconduct discipline case by treating him more harshly than a female respondent against whom he had also cross-filed a complaint. 

The complaint, filed under the pseudonym John Doe and obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, describes several actions on the College’s part that allegedly constitute discrimination. Doe writes that he was, “continually and systematically denied his civil rights in a joint-sexual assault case that Williams brought forth under the auspices of a Title IX investigation.”  

General Counsel Jamie Art ’93 noted the College’s desire to fully work with OCR to ensure compliance with federal law. “While our concern for student privacy prevents the College from commenting on the substance of this complaint, we are responding to OCR’s request for information,” he said. “The College works hard to ensure its sexual misconduct policies and procedures are fair and equitable for all involved and will work with OCR to ensure they fully comply with Title IX’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex.” 

The document first alleges that the complainants who brought forward complaints of sexual misconduct against Doe were coerced or otherwise coached by College employees or agents to bring forth those accusations. The complaint continues, alleging that the College has exhibited a pattern of anti-male discrimination in sexual misconduct discipline, referencing the College being sued in federal court. The lawsuit in question is redacted in the complaint. However, the College is involved in active litigation, Doe v. Williams, in the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, in which a male respondent in a sexual misconduct case who had cross-filed misconduct allegations against the female complainant is also alleging discriminatory treatment on the basis of gender.  

The complaint then alleges that the College enforced a joint no-contact order (NCO) between Doe and the female party in the misconduct case in a discriminatory manner. “When the female complaint (sic) violated the order in the exact same way [as Doe], [REDACTED] ‘justified’ her actions as inconsequential.” In an apparently unconnected OCR investigation, the College signed a resolution agreement on Jan. 16, 2018, regarding reforming its Title IX procedures to make them more equitable and fair prior to a disciplinary finding. In that agreement, signed by Interim President Protik Majumder, the College agrees that, “The College will develop an equitable procedure for handling No Contact Orders (NCOs) that are issued pursuant to an incident or situation implicating Title IX.” 

The complaint also goes on to allege that administrators in the College’s Title IX discipline process had conflicts of interest that unfairly prejudiced Doe, and that Doe was often not granted accommodations that he requested, such as extra time to prepare for a disciplinary hearing.  

Finally, the complaint alleges that the College’s Title IX hearing procedures are unfair. Many of these procedures may be affected by forthcoming Department of Education regulations on Title IX that Secretary Betsy Devos is expected to release soon. For example, Doe cites the lack of cross-examination and a live hearing as impediments to a fair process.  

OCR did not release any investigative documents in response to the Record’s request; at this point, the complaint remains solely an allegation and OCR has made no findings of fact regarding it.