Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

November 16, 2016

Lawsuit Alleges Bias in University Sexual Assault Investigation

Print More

This post has been updated with a comment from the Senior Director of Media Relations

Already in the midst of five open Title IX investigations, Cornell is now facing a lawsuit alleging that the University’s Title IX coordinator, Sarah Affel, neglected to investigate a complaint by a student who was involved in a sexual assault.

The lawsuit states that two students — referred to as John Doe and Jane Roe — accused each other of sexual assault and says the University opened investigations into both complaints.

However, according to the lawyer behind the suit, Alan Sash, Cornell’s investigators only considered Roe’s complaint and ignored Doe’s on the basis of his gender.

He said that Cornell violated its own policy 6.4 — the University’s guidelines for investigating discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault and violence — which was revised in August in order to be more fair to both parties involved in assault investigations.

The suit claims that, among other infractions, the investigator refused to properly handle Doe’s complaint, conducted biased interviews against Doe in favor of Roe and presented as evidence an unrecorded interview that could not be fact checked by Doe.

In addition, the suit alleges that Doe was mistreated during the investigation, saying investigators denied him opportunities to speak with his lawyer before answering certain questions and refused to request that Roe preserve certain pieces of evidence that she possessed.

After the initial sexual assault investigation, the suit says that Doe sent a 17 page letter to Affel detailing how he was discriminated against during the investigation, and Affel responded by recommending that he meet with Deputy Title IX coordinator, Laurie Johnston, to file a complaint.

However, after not responding to inquiries about the status of the investigation, Doe realized that his next claim was also not being conducted as he had expected.

After his lawyer reached out to Johnston, the coordinator allegedly presented Doe with a complaint form for his signature 10 days after she was supposed to. However, Johnston said that until his first policy 6.4 complaint was resolved, she would not investigate the second one.

Sash noted that, although he understands that sexual assault is prevalent problem on college campuses, cases must be handled fairly for all parties involved.

“Cornell has given us a revolving door of excuses as to why it won’t investigate our complaint,” Sash said. “That’s unacceptable. If Cornell is serious about tackling sex discrimination, then it must investigate all complaints even if it means investigating people on the payroll.”

Since this is an active case, the University did not comment other than to say that it will “vigorously defend against this litigation,” according to Senior Director of Media Relations John Carberry.

  • la

    So true. Sexual assault on college campuses are unacceptable, but that doesn’t mean you expel or slander every student who has been accused without a FAIR and PROPER investigation.

  • Pingback: LAWSUIT: Cornell refused to investigate rape alleged by male against female sex partner - The College Fix()

  • Melissa

    It’s not surprising. Title IX coordinators get training seeped in the assumptions that men the aggressors. A classic example was a Duke administrator’s statement that if both man and women are drunk, it’s incumbent only on the male to get consent.

    All of this speaks to the lack of professionalism and protections hard wired into these processes. The college is already included to minimize bad press and will do whatever it takes. Fairness and truth is not a consideration.

    • Melissa

      One other point on the School refusing to investigate his complaint until hers was resolved. In the criminal system, the police and the DA would look at all the facts before going to trial. Not so at Cornell – the investigation is effectively the trial and as such refuses to consider alternative theories or facts when raised.

      This is the definition of “railroading”.

    • James Uberman

      It is the Title IX Coordinators who need to be investigated. One in my town was just on the local PBS station going on, and on about Rape Culture, Toxic Masculinity and the Patriarchy. Anyone that has been indoctrinated into this type of mythology can’t fairly and without bias, represent all students.

      I’m thinking that the majority of Title IX Coordinators across the US don’t even believe that one of our sons can be sexually assaulted.

      • John Mackie

        Very true. The default condition is that the fox (or vixens in this case) are effectively guarding the chicken coop. All those feminist Title (s need to go.

  • Pingback: “Lawsuit Alleges Bias in University Sexual Assault Investigation” | inversionsuicide()

  • Michael Steane

    Universities should not be trying students for sexual assault, or any other crime. These are matters for the police and the judiciary and no one else.

  • anonymous

    I just want to bring attention to the fact that the university is using their bias/microagression reporting system to silence people who speak out against these kind of kangaroo courts and students/faculty with conservative opinions. Accused persons are privately coerced to go to some kind of social justice re-education program through the center for intercultural dialogue or else face severe consequences. This is not some crazy conspiracy theory, it is happening right now on this campus.


    Ask yourself – why is Cornell University, which leads the nation in so many ways, also a leader in alleged Title IX violations? Is it because Cornell has so many more bad students? Is Cornell’s process in some way worse than other comparable universities – unlikely. The answer is the cancer that makes up the people that Cornell keeps to “adjudicate” Title IX complaints on campus. In the most sensitive areas of the Cornell disciplinary system Cornell has managed to staff with people with strong, strong anti-male agendas which manifests itself in the kind of things called out in this lawsuit and others. Putting Sarah Awful in charge of the system is like giving the keys to the candy store to a young child. Along with her team of Jody Kunk, Christina Liang, Liz McGrath and all her devout members of the Review/Hearing Panel pool, no male student stands a chance of surviving what WPLR, courtesy of Alan Mittman, also part of the Policy 6.4 machine, calls an “investigation”. “Unbiased Investigation” is the code word for “prosecution” of these cases. There is no interest in truth, only in getting to the weak, weak threshold of “preponderance of the evidence” at any cost. See the JCC report from 2014 here (https://www.scribd.com/doc/291944786/JCC-Annual-Report-for-Academic-Year-2013-14 ) – nothing has changed here except the process. The core people are the same and that is what drives the system. Cornell should be embarrassed by this team, which struggles to put together coherent sentences in writing and is empowered by the university to violate civil rights at will and deny due process to any accused male student. For one of the greatest universities in the world to have to be embarrassed by this group of thugs is shameful and we call on the Cornell Council on Sexual Violence Prevention to demand the school clean house and start over.

  • Pingback: Male Cornell student’s accusation of sexual assault, discrimination ignored - Watchdog.org()

  • Pingback: Male Cornell student’s accusation of sexual assault, discrimination ignored – USSA News | The Tea Party's Front Page()