Last month, a jury awarded former Boston College student John Doe $100,000 for how the college mishandled sexual assault allegations against him. The case, Doe v. Trustees of Boston College, is the first of its kind to reach a jury since 2011, when Obama-era rules began to govern campus sexual misconduct claims. It joins a long line of other such cases claiming that Title IX offices are breaking the law.
Title IX is the federal law banning sex discrimination at schools receiving federal funds. Since 2011, when the Obama Education Department issued a “Dear Colleague” letter declaring sexual violence a form of sex discrimination, colleges and universities have expanded their Title IX offices to process sexual misconduct complaints as potential discriminatory acts. Title IX “coordinators,” “investigators,” and “adjudicators” now act as police, jury, and judge for such accusations, which often result in suspension, expulsion, or summary ejection off campus for the accused.
Title IX officials rarely have formal legal training, however, and frequently abridge basic principles of justice, including those informing due process. Those principles include the accused’s presumption of innocence, the right of all parties to call and cross-examine witnesses, and — particularly relevant for this case — the right of all parties to see evidence, especially evidence that exonerates the accused or points to another suspect. In the case of John Doe at Boston College, the college not only ignored the obvious other suspect, but seemed not to care if it had the wrong guy.
Doe was a senior in 2012 when he went on a student-sponsored cruise for the school newspaper. With more than 600 passengers on board, the cruise dance floor was crowded. According to court papers, as Doe made his way across the floor, a female student, “AB,” started screaming at him. Doe’s acquaintance, “JK,” who had been walking in front of him, turned to him to say, “Sorry dude, that was my bad.”