Seventh Circuit Review


The rise in sexual misconduct awareness campaigns, particularly on college campuses, has brought a traditionally-taboo subject to the fore of national discourse. Accordingly, the federal government has required public institutions of higher education to respond aggressively to accusations of sexual misconduct by expanding the reach of Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination and relaxing adjudicative procedures. To enforce these changes, the U.S. Department of Education threatened to withdraw federal funding from institutions that failed to comply with its mandates after engaging in public investigations, therefore resulting in financial and reputational ruin. This aggressive practice has resulted in a systematic and nationwide disregard for a significant, yet underappreciated, group of students: students accused of that misconduct. The Seventh Circuit recently joined a growing, albeit still small, trend toward recognizing the devastating effects of these Title IX practices in Doe v. Purdue University. There, the court properly recognized that Title IX’s aggressive approach to adjudicating sexual misconduct cases on college and university campuses poses grave constitutional and statutory concerns. Specifically, the procedures that Purdue University implemented to find a male student responsible for sexual misconduct failed to protect the rights of the accused student. The impact on the accused male student, according to the court, is significant and problematic; he is often deprived of his education, and perhaps his future endeavors, without the process to which he is constitutionally and statutorily due. But the Seventh Circuit should have gone further. Recognizing that Purdue’s particular response to sexual misconduct allegations could have violated the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX, the court stopped well short of addressing the broader issue: whether the federal government’s financial incentive to conform educational institutions’ policies to ones that target male students itself violates Title IX. This Comment discusses why the federal government effectively put a gun to the head of every covered school and violated Title IX by threatening to pull the trigger unless schools discriminated against male students in sexual misconduct proceedings.

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