Another story is circulating about the limitations and problems that are inherent in the Title IX investigation system at U.S. schools. This one highlights both the uncertainty that schools have with the process, as well as the distressingly low bar for what could amount to sexual discrimination that could violate federal law when it happens on campus.
Hearsay Leads to Year-Long Title IX Investigation
This instance comes from Webster University just outside of St. Louis, Missouri.
A student there learned from a friend that one of her professors was claiming that she was flirting with him. The professor, Joshua Yates, is the head of the school's game design program. Apparently, he was bragging to students and other professors that the student was trying to seduce him.
So she filed a Title IX sexual misconduct claim with the university.
Apparently, the student filing the report had never been directly accosted by Professor Yates, and none of his statements were directed at her or made in her presence. It is also unclear if there was any flirtatious conduct that led to the rumors that would have potentially made them true. The only claims made in her Title IX allegation of sexual misconduct was that Professor Yates was telling others that she was flirting with him.
That claim was made with Webster University's Title IX office more than a year ago, but the Title IX staff claim they are barely halfway done with their investigation – an investigation that involves 20 steps.
The student who filed the complaint recently graduated with her class.
Students Want a Faster Resolution
While Webster University's Title IX office claims that it aims to finish its investigations within 60 days, they are under no obligation to do so. Students in this particular case have found themselves frustrated because the system is not working quickly enough to satisfy their interests.
Insinuated in this claim is that there is enough evidence to oust the accused professor with little else. While a handful of other students, as well as several professors and school staffers, who have apparently recounted incidents of alleged sexual and professional misconduct involving Professor Yates, none of them seem to involve any physical conduct. Most of them focus on statements and conversation with Professor Yates that they found inappropriate.
A Vague Idea of Where Sexual Discrimination Begins
The situation brings into the limelight the important problem of where to draw the line of sexual discrimination. While there are courses of conduct that are clearly sexually discriminatory and harassing, like unwanted touching, this incident falls far short of that.
The dilemma is possibly the reason why the investigation is taking so long – it forces Title IX officers at Webster University to deal with the fact that what is or is not sexual misconduct is contextual, vague, and subjective.
Title IX Defense and Advising with Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento is a Title IX defense lawyer who also serves as a national Title IX advisor. If you have been accused of sexual misconduct and are the subject of a Title IX investigation, give attorney Lento a call at (888) 535-3686 or contact him online.