Title IX College Kangaroo Courts Ruin Lives

If you study or work at a government-funded college and you are on the receiving end of a Title IX complaint, don’t expect justice to be served. Especially if you’ve been wrongfully accused. The New Civil Liberties Alliance is fighting for full and fair opportunity for the accused to challenge the validity of the charges filed against them. NCLA is suing these universities for violations of due process, and also has sued the Department of Education for forcing these universities to adopt such an unfair process. NCLA currently represents former faculty members Alyssa Reid against James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Dr. Mukund Vengalattore against Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Reid v. James Madison University, et al.

Alyssa Reid was a nationally recognized debater and a full-time faculty member at James Madison University. She was on track to obtain her dream job as head coach of the Individual Events Team when an ex-girlfriend and fellow JMU coach lodged an unfounded and ambiguous “Title IX Statement” with the school. What ensued was a series of violations to Ms. Reid’s rights to due process.

JMU failed to provide Ms. Reid with accurate information about the accusations against her, punished her prior to the hearing, did not require her accuser to attend the hearing in person, prohibited Ms. Reid from cross-examining or otherwise confronting her accuser, and violated Ms. Reid’s constitutional right to a fair hearing.

JMU structured its Title IX hearings based on ED’s guidance, often referred to as the 2011 “Dear Colleague Letter”, which was designed to enhance the likelihood that anyone accused of sexual harassment or misconduct would face discipline—regardless of guilt or innocence. As a result, Ms. Reid never had a full and fair opportunity to challenge the validity of the charges against her, with the JMU defendants applying standards that not only flouted due process, but that were not even in place at the time of the relationship.

Despite withdrawing its offending and infamous “Dear Colleague Letter,” the Department of Education has simultaneously sought to avoid responsibility for the harms its unlawful prior guidance has caused students and faculty subjected to these Title IX College Kangaroo Courts.

Visit Case Page

Vengalattore v. Cornell University, et al.

Dr. Vengalattore was a tenure-track professor of physics at Cornell University with an impressive history of conducting ground-breaking research. After a graduate student left his program for academic reasons, the student falsely accused Dr. Vengalattore of sexual harassment.

Following mandatory “guidance” from the U.S. Department of Education, Cornell had set up a campus disciplinary process that dispensed with every fundamental notion of due process. Dr. Vengalattore was not allowed to see the accusations against him, much less challenge the “evidence” collected by the college, provide evidence of his innocence, confront his accuser, or even defend himself at a hearing.

Unable to prove his innocence in this unfair process, Dr. Vengalattore was denied tenure, disciplined by Cornell, and faced the loss of his promising career.

He was finally vindicated, on June 2, 2022, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that university discrimination against faculty on the basis of sex is subject to suit under Title IX. The majority and concurring opinions expressed shock at the lack of due process and general treatment of Dr. Mukund Vengalattore by Cornell University.

NCLA applauds the Second Circuit for strongly condemning the threats to due process and academic freedom embodied by Title IX College Kangaroo Courts. Everyone is entitled to a full and fair hearing.

Visit Case Page

Justice for Survivors Should Not Be in Tension with Fair Procedural Protections for the Accused 

Under the direction of the U.S. Dept. of Ed, schools are allowed to appoint kangaroo courts consisting of Title IX coordinators and school administrators. The panels partially block or completely exclude lawyers for the accused. Decisions are usually rendered in the form of an order without a transparent, detailed opinion. In many of these cases, the investigator is also the prosecutor. Many times, witnesses for the defense are not interviewed and witnesses for the accuser are never subjected to confrontation or cross-examination. NCLA believes that justice for accusers should not be in tension with fair procedural protections for the accused. 

Under President Biden’s Title IX Policies the Mere False Allegation of Sexual Misconduct Could Result in Life-Altering Consequences for Those Falsely Accused

On March 2, 2021, International Women’s Day, President Biden issued an Executive Order related to Title IX, but ironically, the order will do little to reduce gender discrimination in educational settings. NCLA believes the real focus of such “review” is to find a way to either circumvent or repeal the Title IX regulations issued in May 2020 by Secretary Betsy DeVos in the prior administration entitled “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance.” These regulations adopted by ED brought clarity and certainty to what Title IX means, how it should be enforced, and how to balance competing interests when accusations of sexual misconduct in the educational context are made.

Biden’s most recent effort is not only misguided but unlawful and will do little to promote the interests of girls and women. It is also a direct attack on one of the most sacred protections that we have as citizens of this country—the right to due process when accused of wrongdoing, the right to cross-examine your accuser, and the presumption of innocence. For the wrongly accused, President Biden’s Title IX order signals a return to the Obama-Biden national policy whereby the mere false allegation of sexual harassment or misconduct will suffice to destroy the educational opportunities and careers of accused students and professors alike.

ED’s Title IX Guidance is Unlawful and Unenforceable

Although President Biden’s executive orders do not have the force and effect of law, his Title IX executive orders instruct the Department of Education to bring lawsuits against those schools that do not comply with his interpretation of Title IX, despite the fact that his interpretation is incorrect, unlawful, and unconstitutional. Title IX, originally passed to protect the civil rights and entitlements of girls and women, is now too often a vehicle to pursue outcomes that were neither contemplated nor sanctioned by Congress in 1972 and that directly violate what this statute was designed to do.

Stay informed. Sign up. Share.