The media coverage of a Title IX lawsuit against Oberlin College – which claims that the school convicts 100% of students accused of sexual misconduct on campus – has been very selective. The outlets covering the case are just one sign of many that show how political Title IX law has become.
Lawsuit Claims Oberlin College Convicts Everyone Accused of Title IX Violations
We covered the lawsuit in our last blog post. In it, the student – a male – claims that his expulsion was an instance of gender discrimination against men. One of the ways he supported this argument was to point to a report by Oberlin's Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. That Report said that all Title IX accusations that went through the formal adjudication process at the school in the 2015-16 school year led to convictions on at least one charge.
He said those numbers threw doubt on his expulsion for having non-consensual sex.
The trial court hearing the lawsuit, though, broke down the numbers in the Report to find that only around 10 of the more than 100 Title IX allegations went through a full hearing. The numbers, according to the court, could not be “viewed as supporting gender bias” and dismissed the case.
Who in the Media is Covering the Case?
The lawsuit has not gotten much in the way of media attention. Major outlets have not mentioned it, probably because the “big story” from the lawsuit – that Oberlin convicts everyone accused of a Title IX violation – was a claim that relied on a pretty flimsy reading of the statistics, a reading that was largely put to rest by the court's opinion.
However, a couple of major right-wing blogs and alternative media outlets, including Washington Times and Legal Insurrection, have made a point of covering the lawsuit and reminding readers that no one else was doing it.
Skewing the Facts for Clickbait and a Politically-Inflammatory Headline
What media coverage there has been has had one thing in common: The stories emphasize the claim that Oberlin College has a “100% conviction rate” for students accused under Title IX.
The problem is that figure comes from the accused student's complaint. The whole point of the complaint in a lawsuit is to advance the plaintiff's case in its entirety. It uses all arguments available and pulls any fact or apparent fact that could support those arguments.
The complaint is where you use your claims, or you lose them.
In this case, one of those supporting facts was a selective reading of one of the college's own reports about how many accused students get found responsible for sexual misconduct. By ignoring the facts that it only included about 10 cases and didn't look at any case that didn't go through the formal hearing process – a process often reserved for the strongest cases of a violation – the plaintiff tried supporting one of his claims that his expulsion was gender discrimination.
The court saw through the selective reading of the stats.
News outlets, however, have doubled-down because the reading provides a succinct and inflammatory headline that caters to their readership.
Title IX Defense With Joseph D. Lento
The result is unfortunate: when political points can be scored in a process that is already notorious for struggling to identify the facts of a case, the reliability of the outcome is further eroded.