Miltenberg: “How COVID-19 Is Affecting Title IX Hearings With College Campuses Deserted,” NJBIZ


Andrew Miltenberg spent his morning on the phone with a Princeton University father. His son had been accused of sexual assault—wrongly, he believed—and was the respondent in a Title IX matter on campus. The hearing was coming up, and the father was concerned: What if the Title IX panel, made up of school faculty, didn’t believe his son? What if his side of the story wasn’t really heard? If he’s not heard, and if he gets sanctioned, what happens to med school? It was a typical call for the Bergen County-based lawyer, whose Manhattan office handles around 75 of these cases at a time. But this isn’t a typical time, students across the state and country are off campus due to the COVID-19 health crisis, and these Title IX hearings are happening the same way as every other meeting: Zoom or conference call. “For someone who is already accused, to not be able to be in person and connect with the panel, and for the panel to not be able to seize upon certain credibility markers—nonverbal cues, things we pick up speaking to someone that help us determine if someone is or isn’t telling the truth—isn’t fair,” Miltenberg said. “Credibility is so critical, because the right to openly confront your accuser is so critical, and to hear what an accuser says about you in person, and the ability to face the person making decisions is so critical.” Miltenberg has handled hearings at colleges across New Jersey and around the country. By the end of this week, he’ll have attended 20 Zoom meetings between investigative interviews and the hearings themselves, from the University of Maine to Providence College to Virginia Polytechnic. For many of the hearings going on now, the complainant and all the complainant’s witnesses were interviewed in person before school closed, and the respondent and respondent’s witnesses are being interviewed by phone or video chat. “Have you been on a seven or eight person Zoom call? Like any conference call, someone’s speaking, their voice gets cut off, someone else interrupts,” Miltenberg said. “It’s much harder than an in-person conversation. Right now, there’s an unlevel playing field. If it was your kid, you’d want the benefit from every possible tool and inferences we have as human beings.” New Title IX regulations are expected to be announced any day now. The rules reportedly will raise the standard of evidence or allow schools to make that change on their own, and they may allow some type of real-time cross examination, Miltenberg said.

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