Title IX Claims Plausibly Alleged Against Columbia University

In Doe v. Columbia Univ., No. 15-1536, 2016 WL 4056034 (2d Cir. July 29, 2016), the court held that the plaintiff adequately pled facts that plausibly support a minimal inference of sex bias.

Plaintiff, a male Columbia University student, alleges that Columbia violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. and state law, by acting with sex bias in investigating him and suspending him for an alleged sexual assault.

From the opinion:

[A] complaint under Title IX, alleging that the plaintiff was subjected to discrimination on account of sex in the imposition of university discipline, is sufficient with respect to the element of discriminatory intent, like a complaint under Title VII, if it pleads specific facts that support a minimal plausible inference of such discrimination. Because Littlejohn was not decided until after the district court made its decision in this case, and it had not yet been decided that the Title VII McDonnell–Douglas framework applies to Title IX complaints, the district court might not have anticipated that McDonnell–Douglas’s temporary presumption in a plaintiff’s favor reduces the plaintiff’s pleading burden, so that the alleged facts need support only a minimal inference of bias.

Plaintiff’s Complaint pleads sufficient specific facts giving at least the necessary minimal support to a plausible inference of sex discrimination to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, if Title IX’s other requirements are met. It alleges that Columbia’s hearing panel (which erroneously imposed discipline on the Plaintiff), its Dean (who rejected his appeal), and its Title IX investigator (who influenced the panel and the Dean by her report and recommendation), were all motivated in those actions by pro-female, anti-male bias. Those alleged biased attitudes were, at least in part, adopted to refute criticisms circulating in the student body and in the public press that Columbia was turning a blind eye to female students’ charges of sexual assaults by male students.Among the Complaint’s allegations that support the inference of sex discrimination are the following. Both the investigator and the panel declined to seek out potential witnesses Plaintiff had identified as sources of information favorable to him.10 The investigator and the panel failed to act in accordance with University procedures designed to protect accused students. The investigator, the panel, and the reviewing Dean, furthermore, reached conclusions that were incorrect and contrary to the weight of the evidence.

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