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April 11, 2017

Cornell Faces New Lawsuit Alleging Gender Bias in Title IX Investigation Process

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An updated version of this post is here.

Cornell University is again being sued by a male student who claims he was mistreated while being investigated for sexual misconduct.

The suit — which was filed in a federal district court on Wednesday, according to The Ithaca Journal — comes nearly four months after Cornell lost a similar case in January. In that case, a New York judge ruled that the University was “arbitrary” and “capricious” in refusing to investigate a male student’s claim of sexual misconduct against a female student who had in turn accused him of the same offense.

This decisive court loss was not the end of Cornell’s complicated relationship with Title IX — federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

In early February, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights opened its nation-leading sixth Title IX investigation against the University. A month later, in early March, participants in an open forum held by OCR investigators railed the University for its handling of sexual misconduct complaints.

In the new suit, the unidentified male complainant alleges that the University wrongfully suspended him, failed to give him due process in its investigation and improperly refused to investigate his own sexual misconduct allegations against the same woman who accused him of sexual misconduct, according to The Journal.

The complainant says that the University’s alleged mistreatment caused emotional distress and his grades to drop.

The suit also names as a defendant Jody Kunk-Czaplicki, according to The Journal. Kunk-Czaplicki was the University’s acting Judicial Administrator when the events that led to the suit took place, but she is no longer a staff member in the JA’s office, according to the JA’s website.

The suit singles out Kunk-Czaplicki in part because she issued a “non-negotiable temporary suspension” and a no-contact order against the male complainant without ever talking to him or informing him of the charges against him, according to The Journal.

Kunk-Czaplicki’s issue of temporary suspension was reversed on appeal, but her judgment was soon vindicated: University Title IX investigator Elizabeth McGrath recommended that the male student be suspended for at least a year, according to The Journal. The student complains in the suit that this decision was made “without any cross-examination,” The Journal reported.