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Not Content Punishing its Own Students, RPI Goes After a Visitor

School fails to make Obama-era Title IX rules stick to the former boyfriend of a student.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) has a growing reputation for sanctioning its student protesters, but the private New York college really overstepped its authority in a recent Title IX investigation.

RPI attempted to hold a student accountable for allegedly violating their sexual misconduct policy. The kicker? He doesn't attend the school.

RPI found John Doe, a graduate student from an unaffiliated university, guilty in a Title IX complaint alleging he raped and abused an RPI student in a year-long relationship that ended in the summer of 2016.

The school applied the Title IX guidelines outlined in the Obama administration's 2011 Dear Colleague letter using a preponderance of evidence, which requires a lower burden of proof for investigators when adjudicating sexual misconduct cases.

On November 22, 2016, RPI issued John Doe a "persona non grata" letter banning him from campus. Universities—both public and private—can and have banned people from their campuses for a variety of reasons ranging from something as serious as sexual misconduct to being labeled disruptive.

RPI is limited in how they can punish a student from a different school, but they did inform the accuser that she could file a complaint with John Doe's school or local law enforcement.

John Doe sued RPI for violating his due process rights the following month, an increasingly common outcome of Title IX investigations. But on November 6 of this year, the court ruled the university did not have jurisdiction, not surprising since Doe doesn't attend RPI.

Presiding Judge Raymond J. Elliott III, contends the university would have been right to investigate, whether the incident took place on campus or at an RPI sanctioned or sponsored event, but neither were the case.

Even had the university had jurisdiction, Elliott said, "the procedure followed by RPI in this case was arbitrary, capricious, and in clear violation of [the] Petitioner's rights."

According to court documents, there was a possible language barrier between John Doe and the Title IX investigators. The university requested a meeting with John Doe without informing him that he was under investigation. It wasn't until he arrived at the meeting that he was told he was the subject of a sexual misconduct complaint. His Title IX inquisitors gave him only a few minutes to review documents pertaining to the charge before questioning him. Without counsel.

The court ordered RPI's findings overturned and the statements John Doe gave to RPI purged from the record.

"The court has spoken, and actions taken by universities without jurisdiction and in excess of their sexual misconduct policies and Title IX will not be tolerated," Brent French, one of John Doe's attorneys, told the Times Union.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has repeatedly criticized RPI for its violation of its own students' rights. RPI has earned a red light under FIRE's free speech rating system for policies threatening students' First Amendment rights. RPI also earned a F grade in FIRE's report on due process protections at universities.

FIRE described RPI's move to hold a student from a different school accountable for violating their sexual misconduct policy as an "attempt to make the Star Chamber look like a bastion of due process."

Title IX investigations, as outlined by the Obama administration, exponentially increased opportunities for universities to trample over students' civil liberties. Spanish Inquisition-style investigations and kangaroo courts have since plagued a number of universities across the country.

While the current U.S. Department of Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, has withdrawn the Obama era guidelines, the damage may already be done. Several universities, from the University of Colorado to Stanford University, have reaffirmed their commitment to the 2011 era Title IX guidelines.

Photo Credit: Philip Scalia/Ambient Images/Newscom

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  • Get To Da Chippah||

    While the current U.S. Department of Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, has withdrawn the Obama era guidelines, the damage may already be done. Several universities, from the University of Colorado to Stanford University, have reaffirmed their commitment to the 2011 era Title IX guidelines.

    Withhold any and all federal funding to schools such as these, and deny any federal student loans or grants to students who attend these schools.

  • Hank Stamper||

    Withhold any and all federal funding to schools.

    Fixed that for you.

  • ||

    ^ This.

  • Finrod||

    Indeed. Amen to that.

  • jagjr||

    love it.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    I'm sure they can find an Obama judge to issue an injunction.

  • Old Mexican's Speedos||

    RPI attempted to hold a student accountable for allegedly violating their sexual misconduct policy. The kicker? He doesn't attend the school.


    "In Russia, schools prosecute you!"
    "So too in America, it would seem!"

  • Paloma||

    This is how the whole country would be if progressives had their way.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    No. If the Progressives had their way the whole country would quickly descend into the anarchy that is Venezuela, which would make this bullsh*t look excessively organized.

  • ||

    the anarchy that is Venezuela

    I would argue that there's chaos in Venezuela but there's no stinkin' anarchy as they have an archos in the person of Comrade Maduro.

  • ||

    Several universities, from the University of Colorado to Stanford University, have reaffirmed their commitment to the 2011 era Title IX guidelines.

    Considering that they will be adjudicating what essentially amounts to domestic disputes at a financial loss no matter the I *think* this will be short-lived.

    I suppose it's a question of whether it will last until free tuition happens.

  • ||

    You have to figure in the expense of dealing with shrieking graduate students holding sit-ins in the lobby to your office. Might be a wash, in the end.

  • Ragoftag||

    Why can't we upvote? And what part of the Constitution even mentions education?

  • Cloudbuster||

    what part of the Constitution even mentions education?

    No part at all. All federal education regulation and spending is blatantly unconstitutional. As if that means something, anymore.

  • Ragoftag||

    As to the shrieking graduate students, gift them all with the "persona non grata" letter and jail time if they persist. And purge their time at the school for criminal mischief, etc.

    Personally, I approve of the payouts imposed upon the 'schools' and would include a public notification that tuition increases are due to administration malfeasance and cupidity. That might get actual students ire up.

  • BYODB||


    I suppose it's a question of whether it will last until free tuition happens.

    Of course, 'free tuition' is a pipe dream but that isn't stopping some havens of Progressive idiots from trying it out.

    The most bizarre thing is that no one at all seems interested in how something that everyone agrees costs 'too much' can just be dictated to be free, but I guess those same people have never heard of taxes before.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Wanna bet that anyone with a penis will not be eligible for free tuition? (Or maybe even access to campus)

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    John Doe sued RPI for violating his due process rights the following month, an increasingly common outcome of Title IX investigations. But on November 6 of this year, the court ruled the university did not have jurisdiction, not surprising since Doe doesn't attend RPI.

    So, dude is just chillin' in his house, going through the mail, and he finds a letter telling him he's under investigation for sexual assault from an organization he has no connection to?

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Article says they did NOT inform him prior to his arrival.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    On November 22, 2016, RPI issued John Doe a "persona non grata" letter banning him from campus.

    I admit I'm hella confused on timelines here.

  • Brandybuck||

    Doesn't matter if he was not attending RPI. The investigation must continue until it expels him!

  • Stormy Dragon||

    The university requested a meeting with John Doe without informing him that he was under investigation. It wasn't until he arrived at the meeting that he was told he was the subject of a sexual misconduct complaint.

    If a university you don't attend suddenly invited you to a meeting without specifying the purpose, why would you go?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    that's what I'm trying to wrap my head around.

    "Dear Diane Reynolds, you are hereby under investigation for Sexual Assault. You shall appear before the board of directors for the Center for Wooden Boats on December 14th. Failure to do so will result in your being banned from Pier 22."

  • Hank Stamper||

    They probably told him to show up because he won a free boat.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    If I was a graduate student, maybe. I'd probably assume it was something related to research.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    His Title IX inquisitors gave him only a few minutes to review documents pertaining to the charge before questioning him. Without counsel.

    At which point, if you had gone, why wouldn't you walk out? After snapping pics of the documents, that is.

  • ApoxOnBothTheirHouses||

    "After snapping pics of the documents, that is."

    They would't let you do that. It would violate the accuser's right to a guilty verdict.

  • Ken Hagler||

    If some random university called me and asked me to a meeting, I'd just assume it was a telemarketer and hang up.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Some people are just super "do what authorities tell you"-oriented. I've met people like that. "Important people told me to do it! I had to!"

  • Cro's Innumerous Basterds||

    I am an RPI alum, Class of '88. This, along with the hockey team's bottom-dweller status, is simply more evidence of Shirley Jackson's raging incompetence.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    You know who else had raging incontinence?

  • ||

    Depends.

  • jagjr||

    so I'm not the only alum that isn't a huge fan of Dr. J?? heh.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I keep waiting for alumni organizations to tell these coleges "Stop setting yourselves up for expensive lawsuits or we stop donating." It probably wouldn't do a lot, but it is still an overdue gesture.

  • Longtobefree||

    The way to stop this is to sue the individuals involved in the conspiracy to violate your rights, not the deep pocket university. Sue each person in the room by name as an individual. Assuming there were two or more, you have a conspiracy to violate federal constitutional rights.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    University bureaucrats need to stay busy.

  • IceTrey||

    How can you violate the due process rights of someone you have no jurisdiction over? If the guy was dumb enough to answer their questions in what was basically a consensual conversation that's his problem.

  • Mike d||

    Since he's not even a student there, I wonder if the school will put him on double secret probation.

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  • jagjr||

    congratulations for correctly referring to the Tute as RPI, vice the administration's Renesselaer branding. I grow increasingly embarrassed to hold a degree from this institution. I was once quite proud to attend and graduate from RPI, but the idiocy that has taken hold in the last 15 or 20 years is outrageous. please go back to being an outstanding engineering school, RPI.

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