Statutes intended to protect one group of citizens can sometimes be applied to another group. Title IX, for example, is a federal statute that was designed to promote gender equality by protecting women. However, in one recent lawsuit against Columbia University, a male student is suing the university for discrimination under Title IX.
At issue is an evening in which the student had sex with a female freshman at the university. He says it was consensual. She says otherwise. The university suspended him for one year, an outcome that he claims was unjust.
He hired Andrew Miltenberg, a Manhattan attorney who has taken on the cases of the accused in numerous instances of alleged sexual assault. Despite the fact that representing the accused in such a situation is far from popular, Miltenberg insists that those accused are not always given access to the rights under the law. According to Miltenberg, as a defendant in one of these cases, “You got factual statements made that you’re not necessarily allowed to review and you’re certainly now allowed to have copies of. … You may or may not be able to present your witnesses. You probably don’t have the chance to cross-examine.”
There’s no doubt that this is a very delicate issue and remaining fair to all parties involved can be extremely difficult. After decades of women accusing colleges and universities of not being harsh enough on those who commit sexual assault, now there are groups saying they have gone too far in the other direction and have begun discriminating against men.
According to the attorneys who deal with these cases, this started to be a problem for those accused of sexual assault in 2011, when the Education Department said colleges needed to take accusations of sexual assault more seriously. This was followed by a White House task force issuing new guidelines and the Office of Civil Rights releasing the names of more than 85 schools that were under investigation for not doing enough.
Understandably, the schools felt pressure to act accordingly, but some people are saying they have gone too far in the other direction. The student who recently sued Columbia for discrimination says that his suspension was nothing more than “a rush to judgment, pandering to the political climate on campus” and pressure from women’s groups. Columbia is asking for the court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that it does not prove anti-male bias. The college also points out that the lawsuit “proceeds from both a misapprehension about the nature of university disciplinary proceedings – which are not criminal prosecutions – and a misunderstanding about Columbia’s definition of sexual misconduct – which is intended to protect students not only from forcible rape, but also from unreasonable pressure to accede to sexual advances.”
Miltenberg said he is not always looking to have judgments on his clients overturned. Instead, he says he usually is “looking to seal the records or have this redacted upon graduation so it doesn’t follow them around for the rest of their lives.”
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