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The Title IX Balancing Act

Protecting Students from Sexual Assaults while also Protecting the Civil Rights of the Accused. 

For way too many years, sexual assaults against young women on college campuses were swept under the rug or treated as minor indiscretions.  Universities seemed to adopt a “boys will be boys” philosophy and blame the victims of sexual assaults for being in the wrong place, drinking too much, or dressing too provocatively.  In 2011, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights demanded that universities Title IX Balancing Act - Atlizer Lawenforce Title IX laws, which prohibit gender discrimination by any school which receives federal funds.  In essence, universities were told that if they did not take appropriate actions in response to allegations of sexual assaults, they could lose their federal funding.  As a result, colleges and universities established sexual misconduct policies, initiated education programs on the prevention of sexual assault, and radically changed their responses to allegations of sexual assault.

Five years later, some are saying that colleges and universities have gone too far in making sure that they are enforcing Title IX laws.  In the last five years, over 170 lawsuits have been filed by male students who claim that they have been discriminated against by colleges and universities after allegations of a sexual assault have been made against them.  Some courts are beginning to agree that the pendulum has swung too far toward protecting victims.

In one recent case, “John Doe” claimed that Columbia University did not advise him of his rights and that they ignored evidence which was in his favor.  The lower court dismissed his claim, but the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed that decision and allowed John Doe’s case to go forward.  Judge Pierre N. Leval wrote,

{I}t is entirely plausible that the University’s decision-makers and its

investigator were motivated to favor the accusing female over the

accused male, so as to protect themselves and the University from

accusations that they had failed to protect female students from sexual


As male students begin to prevail in this new type of gender discrimination action, colleges and universities are faced with the difficult task of protecting students from sexual assaults while also protecting the civil rights of the accused.  In our legal system, one is innocent until proven guilty, but the victims of sexual crimes should always be stringently protected.  Colleges and universities must strike a delicate balance to enforce Title IX laws in a neutral manner.