Power Differentials: Why an (Outside) Title IX Advisor for College Professors Accused of Sexual Harassment is Critical in the Wake of Harvey Weinstein November 1, 2017

By Susan C. Stone and Kristina W. Supler

The role of a Title IX advisor in an academic setting is more important than ever in the wake of the news surrounding Harvey Weinstein. Reports about the movie mogul’s behavior in the entertainment industry have already begun to elicit parallels to Title IX sexual misconduct complaints in the academic setting. In particular, students may reconsider past encounters with professors and view the encounters as violative of Title IX and an abuse of the power dynamic between the parties rather than as what could have previously been labeled as benign mentoring.

Harvey Weinstein’s scandal may now encourage students who were previously silent to raise sexual harassment claims against professors. When this happens, academic institutions will find themselves in the difficult position of balancing competing and important interests: swift responsiveness vs. due process. Even though institutions will seek to maintain an appearance of fairness and impartiality, the pressure to appear intolerant of a professor’s alleged betrayal of a student’s trust can jeopardize the accused professor’s due process rights.

College professors—facing a potential loss of their livelihood—will need an effective advocate to ensure that their rights are not sacrificed to an institution’s fear of bad publicity for mishandling a student’s report of sexual harassment to the Title IX office. Further, an outside Title IX advisor is important for purposes of protecting an accused professor from litigation that could lead to civil and criminal liability

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