District Justice Eugene Faughnan ruled that Cornell’s Title IX Office must “immediately process and investigate” a student’s discrimination complaint against a Title IX investigator in his ruling released Friday afternoon.
In a victory for Attorney Alan Sash and his client “John Doe,” Sixth Judicial District Supreme Court Justice Faughnan said delaying the investigation of the discrimination complaint caused Doe to suffer “actual harm.”
Doe’s discrimination complaint alleges that Cornell’s Title IX Coordinator, Sarah Affel, was biased against him when he and another student, identified as Jane Roe, accused each other of sexual assault.
When Doe told the Title IX Office that he was filing a complaint against the investigator, he was told “Cornell would not investigate or pursue” his claim until his previous complaint was resolved.
Justice Faughnan said the decision to defer investigation of the discrimination complaint was “arbitrary and capricious and without a rational basis” and “directly contradicted” Cornell’s Policy 6.4. The legislation contains guidelines for discrimination, harassment and sexual assault and violence investigations.
In response to Cornell’s claim that delaying the investigation allowed for a faster ruling on all pending cases, Faughnan said this deferral placed Doe in a “more vulnerable position.”
The justice said forcing Doe to both pursue his own claim and defend himself “denied [him] the opportunity to have his complaint promptly investigated and adjudicated on its own merits.”
Citing Policy 6.4, Justice Faughnan also said “the more the time that lapses, the more difficult” it is to conduct a proper investigation.
In response to Cornell’s claim that it was entitled to the “interpretation of its own rules,” Justice Faughnan said there was “no provision in Policy 6.4 to defer an investigation,” adding that any such reading had no “rational basis.”
Cornell has been under pressure for its Policy 6.4 guidelines after numerous Title IX investigations were filed by the Department of Education. An increasing number of lawsuits have criticized the policy, even after it was revised in August.