UPDATE! Second Cir. Rejects Cornell’s Effort to Deny Due Process Rights
from Faculty in Title IX Hearing

Vengalattore v. Cornell University

Former Cornell faculty member Dr. Mukund Vengalattore will finally get his day in district court after being subjected to Title IX Kangaroo Courts at Cornell University. The disciplinary process at Cornell in this case was not only biased, discriminatory, and fundamentally unfair, but it also lacked due process. Dr. Vengalattore alleges that Cornell believed his accuser by virtue of her being a woman, therefore, discriminating on the basis of sex.

On June 2, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the district court’s opinion that faculty can bring private lawsuits against educational institutions that discriminate on the basis of sex  under Title IX. The majority and concurring judicial opinions expressed shock at the lack of due process and general treatment of Dr. Mukund Vengalattore by Cornell University.

“Vengalattore’s allegations, if supported by evidence, provide one such example of the brutish overreach of university administrators at the expense of due process and simple fairness. His allegations, if corroborated, would reveal a grotesque miscarriage of justice at Cornell University.”
– Judge José Cabranes, Second Cir. Judge

NCLA Is Standing up Against Due Process Violations in Cornell University’s Title IX Campus “Kangaroo Court” Proceedings

If you study or work at Cornell University 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. Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, had the highest number of reported sexual assault incidents out of every university and college in the Empire State in 2018. Cornell far outnumbered peer institutions with 282 reports that year. This abnormally high level of reported incidents has led to scores of people being falsely accused of sexual misconduct at Cornell. These individuals are now fighting back, bringing over 200 lawsuits against the universities to clear their names. The high volume of cases focusing on the institution’s mishandling of these Title IX complaints has occurred because Cornell often denies the accused parties their right to due process.


The lawsuits are not limited to accused students. College professors are also fighting back. Professors like Dr. Mukund Vengalattore, one of the nation’s leading experts in atomic, molecular, and optical physics, who taught at Cornell. Dr. Vengalattore was on track for tenure when in 2014, a graduate student who was dismissed from his lab for academic reasons retaliated by falsely accusing him of inappropriate sexual activity that simply never occurred.
Cornell’s “kangaroo court” system applied a very low standard of proof—a mere preponderance of the evidence—for a proceeding implicating life-altering career consequences. Cornell structured its Title IX hearings based on a series of U.S. Department of Education (ED) “guidance documents” designed to enhance the likelihood that accused parties would face discipline, whether or not they were guilty, on pain of losing federal funding.


“We’ve arrived at a time where university campuses investigate, adjudicate, and punish people on the basis of ambiguous Title IX accusations. And those accused of wrongdoing have lost their right to due process” Dr. Mukund Vengalattore, Plaintiff, Vengalattore v. Cornell, et al.

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to descrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title IX Education Amendments of June 23, 1972

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 these 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.

In the case of Dr. Vengalattore, Cornell reshaped its disciplinary system to guarantee that he never had a full and fair opportunity to challenge the validity of the charges against him.

Investigators refused to tell Dr. Vengalattore what charges he was facing, yet they applied a presumption of guilt and demanded that he prove his innocence. These investigators invented accusations of a year-long consensual relationship which neither party alleged.

Although male and female professors and students supported Dr. Vengalattore’s testimony, the investigators refused to interview defense witnesses. Instead, they credited testimony of the charging party despite credible indications that she was filing the charge to settle a score.

The investigators even helped the charging party modify her accusations when they failed to line up with the evidence. In the end, with ED’s blessing, the charging party was allowed to weaponize Title IX even though she was no longer a student at Cornell.

“For some reason, these schools have made the determination that in Title IX proceedings, they’re not going to follow those very basic due process dictates. That’s what’s happened here. They violated our client’s constitutional rights. They had what I would call a ‘kangaroo-type’ proceeding, and our client has suffered immensely as a result of it.” Harriet Hageman, Senior Litigation Counsel, NCLA

NCLA argues that the disciplinary procedures used in the Title IX hearing of Dr. Vengalattore violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Cornell tried to deny Dr. Vengalattore his day in court by wrongly interpreting Title IX to allow only students and not faculty a right to sue under the statute. The overwhelming majority of federal appeals courts have rejected this restrictive reading of Title IX in the past, as it is inconsistent with Supreme Court Title IX case law.

Title IX states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” which is broad enough language to encompass students and faculty.

“The appeals court recognized that the facts NCLA alleges make out a compelling case of sex discrimination against a distinguished physics professor who was denied any semblance of a fair hearing. We look forward to proving our case at trial.” 

— Rich Samp, Senior Litigation Counsel, NCLA

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.

The vendetta against Dr. Vengalattore was directly enabled by the Department of Education’s Title IX “guidance” that unlawfully coerced Cornell into removing critical due process protections. It is not mere “speculation” that Cornell adopted Policy 6.4 regarding sexual misconduct in response to ED’s 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter. Cornell officials who sponsored the adoption of the new policies expressly stated that the change was necessary to bring Cornell into compliance with the letter.

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.

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Dr. Vengalattore’s case against Cornell and ED addresses the problems associated with university-led investigations of alleged sexual misconduct, including the serious lack of due process in these hearings that leads to terrible reputational injuries. Many federal courts are conscientiously recognizing that due process must be restored for defendants on campus. NCLA is thrilled that the Second Circuit has  joined them and reversed the erroneous and unjust dismissal. For more information visit the case page here.

In the news

Cornell Sun: Vengalattore v. Cornell: A Timeline


Bloomberg Law: Cornell to Face Former Faculty Member’s Title IX Bias Claims


Reason: Second Circuit Allows Title IX Claim by Professor Who Alleged Biased Sexual Misconduct Investigation


Law 360: 2nd Circ. Says Title IX Supports Workplace Sex Bias Suits


We visited the grounds of Cornell University to provide information about NCLA’s legal action against Cornell University’s on-campus Title IX kangaroo court proceedings that violate basic due process rights against the accused. Students, parents, faculty, and staff were shocked to learn that the Department of Education would force Cornell to adopt such an unfair process.

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