Miltenberg: “Coronavirus Created Title IX Obstacles,” Inside Higher Ed


The coronavirus pandemic is presenting barriers to conducting “prompt and equitable” investigations of sexual misconduct on college campuses, as required by law. College administrators weigh whether to continue investigations or put things on hold. The coronavirus pandemic has created immense uncertainty about how colleges and universities can and should proceed with open investigations of sexual assault or harassment complaints. Some colleges are finding it impossible to hold in-person hearings with campus closures and “stay at home” orders issued by state and local governments. On one hand, victims of alleged sexual misconduct on campuses will endure prolonged trauma if investigations are delayed and may never see their cases resolved, advocates for survivors argue. At the same time, students accused of such misconduct could be put at a disadvantage if cases were to proceed through telephone or video conferences, said Andrew Miltenberg, an attorney whose firm, Nesenoff & Miltenberg LLP, currently represents about 50 students accused of misconduct at institutions across the United States. Miltenberg sent letters to his clients’ colleges when they began closing their campuses, asking their Title IX officials that handle sexual misconduct and harassment cases to postpone interviews and hearings. He said he contacted Syracuse University, Purdue University and Loyola University of Chicago, among others, and a “great majority” of them decided to proceed with the hearings after no more than a week of delay. If investigative meetings with his clients or witnesses are to take place virtually, investigators will not be able to effectively judge their credibility through nonverbal cues, which would prove “detrimental” to accused students, Miltenberg said. Anna Rozenich, director of communications for Loyola Chicago, said the university could not comment publicly on individual cases, but it “remains absolutely committed to providing a fair and equitable process for all students even in the face of unprecedented challenges that COVID-19 transmission presents.”

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