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Information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. If you have a legal problem, consult your institutional counsel or an attorney licensed to practice law in your state. Information and views presented in this blog are solely those of the individual contributors and not their employers.

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Article On Motivations For State Campus Speech Law In The Conversation

I wrote about my view on the continuing trend of proposed and enacted legislation around campus speech laws for The Conversation. The article is available here.


Eighteen State Attorneys General Oppose Due Process Protections in Title IX Proceedings that They Must Observe in Every Other Civil or Criminal Proceeding

The following guest post is from Michael Thad Allen. He is a former university professor and left a tenured position at a major research university (the Georgia Institute of Technology) to earn a law degree at Yale Law school. As a university professor, Michael Allen dedicated his scholarship to social justice, researching and writing about the Holocaust and civil rights. His book, The Business of Genocide (University of North Carolina Press) received the 2002 German Studies Association best book award. He is now the principal of Allen Law, LLC and represents both accused students as well as victims in student misconduct hearings at universities and in federal court. Turning to a career in Student Rights Law has enabled Attorney Allen not just to study civil rights but to defend them.

The Attorneys General of 18 states collectively submitted an extensive 72-page commentopposing rules proposed by the Department of Education for Title IX.  

Led by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Josh Shapiro), California (Xavier Becerra), and New Jersey (Gurbir S. Grewal), these chief legal officers of their respective states have gone on record attacking some of the most fundamental due process protections that are otherwise the norm for defendants in the civil and criminal justice system.

The practical effect of the position they advocate would be to create a unique space -- college campuses -- and a unique class of alleged victims and accused – students in higher education -- to whom tried and true procedures for deciding guilt in cases of serious allegations do not apply.  

The Attorneys General would do away with the presumption of innocence, as Connor Friedersdorf of the Atlantichas pointed out.  This maxim is written into the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 11).  The Attorneys General consider it expendable for Title IX.  

It is not uncommon for activists to take such positions.  It is very unusual to hear it coming from the chief legal officers of states that account for almost 40% of the United States’ population.  

At least for university Title IX actions, these Attorneys General would dispense with several other fundamental principles that apply everywhere else in the US justice system.  

They argue that schools should not have to provide evidence to accused students that the school deems “irrelevant.”  

They oppose cross-examination because it might prove too expensive to implement and on the grounds that it may “harass[] the respondent, retraumatiz[e] the complainant, and further deter[] survivors from filing formal complaints.”  

No doubt, few ever find cross-examination pleasant.  Yet our civil and administrative justice system provides for cross-examination in every other analogous context, including K-12 education.  

For example, no similar movement is gathering steam to cancel due process rights in state expulsion statutes.  Laws have long protected K-12 students who face expulsion, and they generally include at least some form of cross examine right, the right to notice, the right to evidence, and the right to an attorney.  This is not controversial.[1]  

The National School Boards Association also submitted a comment to the proposed Title IX rules. School Boards argue for flexibility to adapt cross examinations to the K-12 setting, but they do not categorically condemn its application.  One reason may be that cross examination in K-12 expulsion hearings is already required by statutes such as the laws of Pennsylvania, California, and New Jersey, whose Attorneys General now oppose cross examination rights in the Title IX context.[2]  

Title IX is also universally compared to Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in which due process rights are not generally controversial.  These laws prevent discrimination by employers (VII) and by recipients of federal funding (VI).

The Attorneys General take the reasonable position that the preponderance of evidence standard holds for these civil-rights laws, so why not Title IX?  Under “preponderance,” it is enough that proof of guilt is only 50.001% convincing or “more likely than not.” 

But the Attorneys General go further.  They argue that the Department of Education “has no authority to depart from the usual allocation of risk between parties to grievance proceedings” in other kinds of civil rights disputes.  They are silent as to why this objection does not apply to the presumption of innocence, cross examination, or other due process rights in grievance proceedings that protect the civil rights of Americans.

It is a fair argument that Title IX standards should not be more lax than standards used to enforce Title VI and VII.  Yet when other civil rights are in jeopardy, institutions like the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission do not jettison cross-examinationor other fundamental due process protections. 

Many young women or men enter the workforce directly after high school.  Title VII (making discrimination by employers illegal) does not view them to be too harassed or traumatized to withstand cross-examination; but the Attorneys General and other advocates would bestow such status on college students of the same age.

The Attorneys General add their considerable authority to social movements advocating for a rollback of due process rights in Title IX.  On close inspection, the only practical effect would be to roll back protections for college and university students in higher education.

Federal courts are increasingly rejecting these rollbacks as students seek the help of attorneys and challenge universities and colleges in court.  The reason is that they compromise victims no less than accused students.


[1]See for example, Connecticut law on expulsion hearings, which guarantees the right to cross examination and places the burden of proof on the school to prove guilt, that is, presumes the student innocent until proven guilty.

[2]For Pennsylvania, 22 PA Code 12.8,;
for California, Cal. EDC 49818,;
for New Jersey, NJAC 6A:16-7.3


Guest Post: New Regulations Dial Back Regulation of Higher Education but Increase Role of Counsel in Campus Title IX Procedures

The following guest post is from Michael Thad Allen. He is a former university professor and left a tenured position at a major research university (the Georgia Institute of Technology) to earn a law degree at Yale Law school. As a university professor, Michael Allen dedicated his scholarship to social justice, researching and writing about the Holocaust and civil rights. His book, The Business of Genocide (University of North Carolina Press) received the 2002 German Studies Association best book award. He is now the principal of Allen Law, LLC and represents both accused students as well as victims in student misconduct hearings at universities and in federal court. Turning to a career in Student Rights Law has enabled Attorney Allen not just to study civil rights but to defend them.

The Friday before most college students headed home for Thanksgiving break (November 16, 2018), the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education released new regulations governing Title IX.[1] A draft of the proposed regulations had been released at the end of August, and bits and pieces of their substance had been leaked over the course of the following weeks.[2]

Many of the new rules address due process requirements and are meant to make Title IX proceedings more reliable. This is controversial, but one would think it would be welcomed by both the advocates of victims and the advocates for the rights of the accused. 

The proposed rules will make it mandatory for colleges and universities to allow cross-examination in sexual misconduct cases. This is a cornerstone of the new regulations. Colleges and universities must now permit “each party to ask the other party or any witnesses all relevant questions and follow-up questions, including those challenging credibility.” The rule permits cross-examination through the parties’ advisors, who may be attorneys, but not by the parties directly. This is intended to avoid direct confrontation between the student making an accusation and their alleged attacker. The common practice of separating parties in different rooms during Title IX proceedings will also remain in place. 

The need for legal counsel in higher education will undoubtedly increase. Previously, campuses had the discretion to receive proposed questions submitted by students. They had no obligation to actually ask them and could disallow cross-examination entirely. Advisors supporting students (including attorneys) were not allowed to speak or pose questions of any kind.

As with all things Title IX, the proposed rules instantly ignited controversy. Congressman Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts was prompted to exclaim that it was “absolutely sickening” to allow cross-examination by an “accused sexual abuser.”[3] Legal counsel to the Victim Rights Law Center condemned cross examination as “a horrible idea” that somehow gives rapists control over their victims.[4]

In addition to the cross-examination requirement, another long-standing flashpoint for controversy is the standard of proof. The new regulations leave in place a school’s discretion to decide Title IX cases under the “preponderance of the evidence” standard (i.e., whether it is “more likely than not” that the alleged conduct occurred). The Department of Education previously imposed this standard as a requirement in its Dear Colleague Letter of April 4, 2011. That was revoked in September 2017, and it will now stay revoked. But there is no new requirement to impose a higher burden of proof (like “clear and convincing evidence” or “beyond a reasonable doubt”).

In practice, however, this is unlikely to affect what happens during misconduct hearings.  Most colleges already used “preponderance” before, during, and after the 2011 guidance that required it. Few are likely to change now.

Victims-rights advocates have attacked the OCR for permitting the use higher standards of proof.[5] Advocates of “preponderance” argue that it is the right standard, because—if properly applied—it does not tip the scales to either party, whereas higher burdens of proof benefit only the accused.

The champions of “preponderance” have a point: Preponderance is the standard used in cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other forms of discrimination throughout the civil justice system. Employers and their employees acting in an official capacity, including universities, can be sued in federal court under multiple anti-discrimination laws, including Title VI or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.[6] What justifies deciding such cases under preponderance, but protecting accused students with a higher standard of proof?

Unfortunately, few seem to apply the same reasoning to the cross-examination requirement. Cross examination is a bedrock right for defendants (and plaintiffs) in anti-discrimination cases of all kinds, without exception, whether or not accusations involve sexual assault, harassment, or other horrendous behavior. Why should it be “absolutely sickening” to ensure a cross-examination right in campus Title IX proceedings (to both parties)? Why should we put alleged victims on college campuses beyond the reach of cross examination?  Our justice system does not allow victims’ allegations to go without scrutiny in any other context.

There are other important due process changes: the OCR emphasizes that the burden of proof rests squarely on the school, not on students. It is neither the victim’s responsibility to prove that a perpetrator committed a sexual assault, nor is it accused students’ burden to prove their innocence. The rules state explicitly that the accused, as is the norm throughout American jurisprudence, is presumed not responsible until shown otherwise.

Other proposed due process rules simply incorporate what had long been promulgated in the 2014 Obama-era implementing regulations to the Clery Act at 34 C.F.R. 688.46(k). Where those regulations merely imposed a reporting requirement, however, the new rules will hold colleges and universities to account for acting in conformity with them. Examples include the right to timely notice of any meeting or hearing and the requirement that schools provide the accused with evidence that will be used against him in advance, including exculpatory evidence.  See 34 C.F.R. 688.46(k)(3)(i)(B)(2-3).

Another important change is the OCR’s restricted definition of sexual harassment. The Obama-era Dear Colleague Letter defined sexual harassment broadly, as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” The OCR now adopts the judge-made standard developed in cases in which victims sued their schools under Title IX for “deliberate indifference.” Going forward, OCR will respond to victims’ complaints only where they allege sexual harassment that is “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient’s education program or activity.”  In addition, the OCR will continue to investigate allegations of sexual assault (as defined under the implementing regulations of the Clery Act (see 34 C.F.R. 688.46(a))).

In keeping with the trend toward dialing back federal oversight, the rules limit the scope of Title IX to campus activities or those “in a location or in a context where the recipient [of federal funds] owned the premises; exercised oversight, supervision, or discipline; or funded, sponsored, promoted, or endorsed the event or circumstance.” So, for example, fraternities and sororities will undoubtedly remain subject to Title IX. The OCR favorably cites a District of Kansas case finding that a Kansas State University fraternity was a university organization for the purposes of Title IX.[7] But student relationships in an off-campus bar or over summer vacation probably will not. Nor will assaults on campus by students against non-students or against students of other colleges.[8]

Nothing will prohibit colleges and universities from acting on such allegations, however, even if they are taken out of Title IX enforcement by the OCR. Universities such as Yale have already announced that they will continue to enforce their student sexual misconduct codes.[9] Student groups at Georgetown have demanded their university “denounce” Secretary DeVos and the new regulations.[10] Social movements and student pressure have been a driving force of stepped up prosecution of sexual misconduct on campus. This is another area in which, despite heated controversy over the proposed rules, little may change in practice—other than diminished recourse to the OCR. Institutions of higher education may prove to be unique in opposing the deregulation of their own industry.

The rules have been submitted to the Federal Register for publication. Once published in the Federal Registry, the proposed rules will be open for comment for 60 days, after which they will be promulgated with the force of law at 34 C.F.R. 106.





[5] what


[7] Farmer v. Kansas State Univ., 2017 WL 980460, at * 8 (D. Kan. Mar. 14, 2017)

[8] See OCR’s proposed rules citing Doe v. Brown Univ., 896 F.3d 127, 132-33 (1st Cir. 2018)




College Basketball's Latest Black Eye

College basketball is no stranger to public controversy. In fact, an episode of a currently-airing ESPN docu-series, "Basketball: A Love Story," retells the story of the 1950s point-shaving scandal involving multiple players on 7 college basketball teams. Point-shaving schemes in the basketball programs at Boston College, Tulane, and Northwestern in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, respectively, would eventually lead to federal investigations, legal proceedings, and jail sentences for those involved. 

Although pernicious, and even pervasive at an earlier time, point-shaving has become a remote concern in modern college basketball. The greatest concern in college basketball today is the legitimacy of the recruitment process, which has long been suspected of violating the NCAA's requirement of amateur status for college athletes. A window into the rampant corruption in the recruitment process--including large sums of money transferred to recruits by a shoe company--was blown open when federal prosecutors and the FBI investigated Adidas' under-the-table deals with college basketball recruits.

This week, a jury found that two Adidas executives and a sports agent were guilty of wire-fraud. Interestingly, the argument employed by the prosecution, was that the defendants "not only deceived universities into issuing scholarships under false pretenses, they deprived the universities of their economic rights and tarnished an ideal which makes college sports a beloved tradition by so many fans all over the world.”[1]

While it is hard to imagine how universities with sports programs that were at least complicit with these practices could have been victimized, it is absolutely true that the economic rights of the seven universities with basketball programs under investigation (Arizona, Auburn, Louisville, North Carolina State, Miami, Oklahoma State, and Southern California) were hindered as a result of the unscrupulous actions of individuals within the basketball program, a reminder that college sports programs exist because of universities, and not the other way around.

It remains to be seen how the NCAA will penalize the programs involved in the scandal, as they hold off on their investigation while the federal investigation is still playing out. What is certain is that the result will have lasting impacts on how the future of the sport, the first of which may well be the death knell of the one-and-done rule when the NBA announced last week that the best high school prospects could forgo one year in college to receive a $125,000 salary by entering the NBA’s developmental G-league. Perhaps, with this blanket rule impacting all college basketball programs, college basketball can begin to repair its image by cleaning up its act.


[1]Marc Tracy, Three Found Guilty in N.C.A.A. Basketball Recruiting Scheme, New York Times, Oct. 24, 2018,


Guest Post: Sexual Harassment Allegations Against NYU Feminist Scholar

The following guest post is from Michael Thad Allen.  He is a former university professor and left a tenured position at a major research university (the Georgia Institute of Technology) to earn a law degree at Yale Law school.  As a university professor, Michael Allen dedicated his scholarship to social justice, researching and writing about the Holocaust and civil rights.  His book, The Business of Genocide (University of North Carolina Press) received the 2002 German Studies Association best book award.  He is now the principal of Allen Law, LLC and represents both accused students as well as victims in student misconduct hearings at universities and in federal court.  Turning to a career in Student Rights Law has enabled Attorney Allen not just to study civil rights but to defend them.

In August, an unusual legal scandal prompted soul searching among proponents of the #MeToo movement and advocates of Title IX.  

New York University found that a prominent feminist scholar, Avital Ronell, age 66, had sexually harassed her male graduate student, Nimrod Reitman, half her age (who is gay and has since married a man). Given that Professor Ronell also identifies herself as queer, the story brought enough titillation and hypocrisy to light to make a spring in the moral imagination of almost anyone go “boing-oing-oing.”  

In July of the previous year, Reitman filed his Title IX complaint alleging sexual harassment, stalking, and sexual assault over the course of the three years he had pursued his PhD as Ronell’s advisee.[1]  He claimed, among other things, that she contacted him at all hours, forced him to read to her in bed, kissed him, engaged in “spooning” by pushing her buttocks into his groin, and placed his hands on her breasts.[2]  But after an 11-month investigation, NYU found Ronell responsible only for sexual harassment but absolved her of sexual assault and stalking.

In June 2018, a confidential petition of Ronell’s supporters to the President and Provost of NYU surfaced in the blog of Chicago law professor Brian Leiter.  It had circulated confidentially since May among her colleagues throughout academia.[3]

The letter was authored by President Elect of the Modern Language Association, Judith Butler, a fellow feminist academic luminary. She and numerous other signatories made clear that, in the stratospheric layer of contemporary academic feminists, this Title IX action against one of their own was a legal “nightmare.”  Among other things, they announced, should NYU find Professor Ronell responsible and terminate her, “the injustice would be widely recognized and opposed.”  

Out of one side of their mouths, Ronell’s supporters assassinated Reitman’s character.  Shockingly, the letter admitted to knowing nothing about the facts of the case, but the professors nevertheless accused Reitman of “malicious intention.”  Out of the other side of their mouths, they vouched for the “grace, the keen wit, and the intellectual commitment of Professor Ronell.”  Some, such as University of Texas Professor Diane Davis, also declared the entire matter to pervert Title IX (Davis has since equivocated about this statement).[4]

Davis was not alone in speculating whether a complaint brought by a man against an avowed feminist was hijacking Title IX “in a way that hurt women.”[5]  But to their credit, others, such as the founder of the victim-side advocacy organization Know Your Title IX, Dana Bolger, robustly defended Title IX as a civil rights statute that protects everyone from discrimination on the basis of sex—including men like Reitman.  They have also pointed out the parallels between defenses mounted on behalf of the likes of Harvey Weinstein and the apologetics and victim blaming that Ronell’s supporters are mobilizing in her defense.[6]

The next act in this drama came in mid-August. Reitman filed suit in New York state court against Professor Ronell and NYU.  The facts of Reitman’s case are well pleaded, and the Complaint contains a wealth of assertions that had not previously come to light.  Excerpts from contemporaneous emails flesh out allegations of sexual assault and stalking.[7]  

Predictably, one of Professor Ronell’s defenses has been that all her interactions with Reitman were consensual.  Theirs was, so Ronell, a harmless discourse between “a gay man and a queer woman, [with] a penchant for florid and campy communications.”[8]  Before the Complaint, the media had quoted only a few snippets from these communications. The sheer volume of direct quotations in the Complaint and their earnest sappiness cast more than a little doubt on Ronell’s proffered explanation.  They don’t seem “campy.”  They seem mawkish.

Ronell is apparently an inexhaustible fountain of pet names and pillow talk.  To quote just a few examples, she calls Reitman “sweet companion-Prince,” “my astounding and beautiful Nimrod … sweet kisses & champagne.” She pines for him: “Planting kisses firmly, holding you throughout in gentle accompaniment.” She asks, “my special one … are you in the afterglow of our enchanted visit…” “I feel you with me and you’re preparing already my bubblebath …”[9]  These kinds of statements go on and on, paragraph after quoted paragraph. 

Contemporaneous communications between Reitman and others also show that he complained about Ronell’s behavior and anguished about how to extricate himself from her domination.  

At least at the pleadings stage, this evidence tells a consistent story.  NYU and Ronell will have a chance to tell their version of events, but the volume of facts in the 58-page complaint begs the question how NYU could have absolved Professor Ronell of charges of sexual assault and stalking.  

To date, however, no one has analyzed the legal aspects of the case.  One question jumps out at anyone who has practiced in the Title IX field: namely, why Reitman’s legal team limited his Complaint to state-law claims only. There is no Title IX claim against NYU.

Title IX provides a private right of action against the university, at the very least on a theory of hostile environment.  Reitman appears to have a good retaliation claim as well.  Multiple NYU professors signed the Butler letter, impugning Reitman’s “malicious” motivation and threatening to oppose sanctions against Ronell—at least one being a former NYU Dean of the Graduate School.[19]  

And Reitman does include well-pleaded claims for hostile environment, retaliation, and other theories of discrimination.[20]  Curiously, he does so only under the municipal code of New York City (under the city’s Human Rights Law, NYC Administrative Code § 8-107).  

He also pleads tort claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligence in hiring, supervision, and retention, but no breach of contract—which should also be available given that the policies and handbooks of the university constitute a binding contract under New York law.

There are good reasons why an experienced plaintiff’s attorney might want to avoid a federal Title IX claim.  Reitman’s case as now pleaded will stay in state court and avoid removal to the Southern District of New York.  This may be a conscious attempt to maintain a “home-field advantage” in the state court system.  

It is also possible that Reitman’s attorney is not familiar with potential claims and defenses under Title IX.  Perhaps tellingly, the Complaint asserts that Professor Ronell was the subject of a prior Title IX investigation for raciallydiscriminating against another NYU student.[21]  But Title IX does not cover race discrimination.  (Although such discrimination is clearly actionable under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964).  

Reitman’s lead attorney, Donald Kravet, is an experienced New York civil litigator.  His practice appears to concentrate chiefly on state-court commercial cases.[22]  But he is clearly no stranger to federal court.  At this stage, he also has plenty of time to amend the Complaint.  The progress of Reitman’s case will continue to be interesting, not only because of contemporary debates over sexual harassment and Title IX but also from a procedural standpoint.

[1]See Complaint, ¶ 123.

[2]Complaint, ¶¶ 31, 32, 71. 







[9]Complaint, ¶ 44.   

[10]See Complaint, ¶ 123.

[11]Complaint, ¶¶ 31, 32, 71. 







[18]Complaint, ¶ 44.   


[20]Complaint, First through Fifth Cause of Action.

[21]Complaint, ¶ 101.