NCLA Is Standing up Against Due Process Violations in Cornell University’s Title IX Campus “Kangaroo Court” Proceedings
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.
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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.
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.
Cornell is trying hard 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, 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.
NCLA is currently seeking to reverse the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, which dismissed the case against Cornell and the Dept. of Education without ruling on the substance of the claims presented by Dr. Vengalattore.
“Title IX says nothing about disciplinary process. Title IX says nothing about what colleges should do when people are accused of misconduct. Title IX simply says that schools should not discriminate on the basis of sex. And unfortunately, what’s happening is colleges and universities have used these disciplinary proceedings as a way to discriminate.”
— Caleb Kruckenberg, 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
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.