Education Law

Athlete wins reinstatement of suit claiming anti-male bias motivated school's sex-assault finding

  • Print.

Columbia University

Columbia University.

A federal appeals court has reinstated a suit against Columbia University by a former athlete who claimed his suspension for an alleged sexual assault was motivated by anti-male bias.

The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled (PDF) on Friday, the Washington Post reports.

The athlete identified in court documents as “John Doe” had claimed the sex was consensual. A university report found it was nonconsensual because the athlete had “coercively pressured’ the alleged victim to have sex for weeks before the sexual encounter, according to the athlete’s lawsuit.

The athlete claimed the university conducted a substandard investigation and did not advise him of procedural protections. He claimed the university suspended him to protect itself from criticism that it wasn’t taking sexual assault complaints seriously.

A desire to avoid bad publicity does not excuse sex discrimination under Title IX, even if there is no ingrained bias against a particular sex, the appeals court said in a footnote. The athlete’s complaint adequately pleaded allegations to support a Title IX claim, the appeals court court found.

The court cautioned that its decision isn’t intended to signal its support of the accuracy of the athlete’s allegations. “We recognize that the facts may appear in a very different light once defendant Columbia has had the opportunity to contest the plaintiff’s allegations and present its own version,” the court said.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.