It should not come as a surprise that sexual assault on college campuses has been a major area of concern in the past decade. In 2011, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released the “Dear Colleague Letter” (the Letter) to all colleges and universities that receive federal aid. The Letter laid out in detail OCR’s interpretation of Title IX and how universities should handle sexual misconduct allegations. Title IX states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Included as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, Title IX strengthened protections against sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities.
The Letter proposed guidelines to university administrators for evidence standards, adjudication procedures, and notice requirements to the accused under Title IX for sexual misconduct allegations on campus. The Letter also repeatedly reminded universities that failure to comply with OCR’s interpretation of Title IX could result in forfeiture of federal financial aid assistance. In response to the Letter, some universities intensified their stance on sexual misconduct prevention at least in part out of fear of having their federal funding reduced or taken away completely. The culmination of the Letter, universities’ responses to it, and a heightened societal intolerance for sexual misconduct have inadvertently increased “reverse discrimination” claims against universities in which male students claim they were unfairly suspended following sexual misconduct accusations by female students.
Thomas Campbell, Note, Suspended for Sexual Assault, Now What?—The Sixth Circuit Splits from the Second on a Pleading Standard for Reverse Title IX Actions, 73 SMU L. Rev. F. 17 (2020).
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