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Students tell the feds Cornell is botching sexual-assault investigations at rare Title IX meeting

Cornell University is the subject of six Title IX investigations by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, at least one of which concerns whether it committed sex bias against a party in a sexual-assault investigation (possibly this case).

Against that backdrop, regional lawyers from OCR held two “open focus groups” on campus this week, and learned that no one trusts Cornell to do a competent investigation, according to The Cornell Daily Sun, which sat in on one focus group.

Some who attended said the university tried to keep complaints “internal and quiet” and failed to tell complainants (accusers) their full range of options, while “several” called the investigations “slow and unresponsive.” The Title IX office was accused of waiting a month to even respond.

Allegations of unfair treatment of accused students also “drew a few nods of agreement,” the Sun said:

The discussion was ignited when a Cornell parent, who asked The Sun to identify her as ‘Judy,’ reported that a lawyer experienced in sexual assault matters cautioned her against sending her son to Cornell based on the University’s reputation for treating students accused of sexual assault unfairly.

When the OCR attorneys asked for specifics on how the University might treat accused students unfairly, attendees quickly responded with a list of grievances: respondents have no ability to examine or confront accusers or to question witnesses or be represented by an attorney, and they, like complainants, are unaware of the investigation’s timeline, according to the attendees.

Another area of broad agreement: No one likes how Cornell implements no-contact orders. Some saying they are impossible to enforce and others said they “presumed guilt and were prejudicial,” not to mention unilateral:

These orders are imposed by the Judicial Administrator, who can issue the order “after making a reasonable effort to meet with the accused if appropriate to do so,” according to the Campus Code of Conduct.

Following up on earlier Sun reporting, one student said she couldn’t understand Cornell’s sexual-misconduct policy, known as 6.4. “[T]he attorneys took note” of that.

Read the story, which is a rare look into how a controversial and powerful federal office does its work on campus.

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