Title IX’s 50th Anniversary Is a Dark Day for Due Process on Campus
It’s been nearly a decade since Damilare Sonoiki graduated from Harvard University, but the institution still has yet to award him a degree.
That’s because Sonoiki, a native of Nigeria who immigrated to the U.S. at age 6, was accused of sexual misconduct by two women just days before the graduation ceremony in May 2013. Sonoiki served as president of the university’s Black Men’s Forum, received the Association of Black Harvard Women’s Annual Senior Award, and gave a speech at the festivities prior to commencement.
Sonoiki had separate sexual encounters with the two women: He maintains that they were consensual. Initially, the second accuser did not wish to bring a formal complaint, but Sarah Rankin, director of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, persuaded her to do so.
In the course of investigating and then adjudicating the allegations, Harvard breached its contract with Sonoiki while violating basic principles of due process in numerous ways, the ex-student argued in his 2019 lawsuit. That suit was dismissed in 2020. But last week, a full 16 months later, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals partly reversed the dismissal, asserting that Sonoiki plausibly alleged procedural wrongdoing.
“We are pleased with the result,” Sonoiki’s attorneys told Reason.
The case will now return to the lower court, where Sonoiki will continue his efforts to hold Harvard accountable for denying him the opportunity to argue his innocence. In his lawsuit, Sonoiki maintains the sexual encounters were consensual, and that they only became formally disputed issues because Harvard’s administrators pushed the women to make accusations. This escalation, in other words, arguably resulted from Harvard’s fealty to Title IX, the federal statute that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education. Title IX became law 50 years ago today.
The original purpose of Title IX was to ensure that women had equal access to educational opportunities and extracurricular activities, like clubs and sports. How well it accomplished that is a matter of debate; Reason‘s Natalie Dowzicky writes that “Title IX did remove barriers for women and girls to participate in sports, but the implementation has be
Article from Reason.com