Another major university has paid a huge sum of money to settle a Title IX case. In this one, though, the money is going to a handful of women who accused the school of not doing enough to keep faculty members from harassing them.
Dartmouth Faces Title IX Lawsuit for Allegedly Allowing Gender Discrimination
Dartmouth had been facing a Title IX lawsuit brought by a handful of women who claimed the school's psychology department had been run with an “Animal House” atmosphere since at least 2002. According to the lawsuit, Dartmouth had received reports of faculty members in the department harassing women, objectifying them, and coercing them into drinking heavily, but the school did nothing about it.
Several women eventually contacted Dartmouth's Title IX office to complain. The subsequent investigation ended up including 27 complainants and led to the resignations of two professors in the department and the retirement of a third.
Demanding more, 7 of the women filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court against Dartmouth for allowing the harassment to continue. They demanded $70 million in damages.
After Dartmouth Demands to Know Who Is Suing, Lawsuit Settles for $14 Million
The most recent development in the case had been a motion from Dartmouth demanding to know who the women were in the lawsuit. Several of them had disclosed their real name, but others had chosen not to under Title IX's unique rules.
Rather than disclose their identities, the class action against Dartmouth settled for $14 million.
Dartmouth's Decision to Settle the Beginning of an Unsettling Trend
Dartmouth's settlement comes hard on the heels of an earlier settlement – that one by Michigan State University for $1.2 million to settle a botched Title IX investigation.
There are numerous differences between the two settlements, of course. MSU's settlement offered money to a student who had been accused of sexual misconduct and who went through a kangaroo court process that found him guilty. Dartmouth's, on the other hand, offered money to students making a Title IX accusation against a school that allegedly ignored years of complaints.
However, both show a new trend in Title IX law: A new interest and willingness by schools to pay vast sums of money to make both sexual misconduct allegations and claims of biased investigations go away.
For students and faculty members who have been accused of Title IX violations, this trend is disconcerting because it attracts weaker claims to be filed and makes nefarious actors think they can take advantage of a broken system for their own gain. Especially as news of Dartmouth's huge payout gains traction, it seems safe to assume that more people will come forward with sexual misconduct allegations purely to pressure their school into settling their empty claims.
Title IX Defense Attorney and Advisor Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento is a Title IX defense lawyer and national Title IX advisor who protect people who have been accused of sexual misconduct on college campuses. Contact him online or call his law office at (888) 535-3686 for help.