Campus Reform | Mizzou admin: Men who ask out smaller women could violate Title IX

Mizzou admin: Men who ask out smaller women could violate Title IX

The assistant vice chancellor of civil rights and Title IX at the University of Missouri said in a recent deposition that a man's physical size could constitute a Title IX violation.

The Mizzou administrator said that a "person of authority" could include a teacher, boss, or even a man who is physically larger than a woman.

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The University of Missouri assistant vice chancellor said in a recent legal deposition that the mere physical size of a man could constitute a Title IX violation. 

Andy Hayes, the current assistant vice chancellor of civil rights and Title IX at the University of Missouri, agreed with her predecessor's statement in a Dec. 24 deposition involving a male student who asked a female student out on a date in 2016. The deposition comes as the Trump administration considers changes to Title IX, which it says would strengthen due process rights for students accused of sexual misconduct. 

"So, let me ask you what unwanted sexual advance means. Is that - is a request for a date an unwanted sexual advance, if it's unwanted. I mean, if someone asks you out that you don't want to go out with, is that an unwanted sexual advance?" Hayes' predecessor Cathy Scroggs, who retired in 2017, was asked in the legal questioning. 

"Probably not the first time, no," Scroggs replied. "But the second time it would be?" the defendant asked. "If I keep turning him down and he keeps asking, I would consider that unwanted," Scroggs said. "The allegations against [defendant] Jeremy Rowles, do you believe that they've satisfied subsection 1 of sexual harassment?" Scroggs was later asked. "I think he was perceived as having power over her," Scroggs replied.

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"And what was the nature of his power over her? Was it just his size?" the questioner followed up. Scroggs responded, "his physical size." The questioner then asked what exactly constitutes a "person of authority." 

"Okay. So, this part 1 doesn't require him to be a teacher. When it says person of authority, it doesn't mean, like, teacher or boss?" the questioner asked Scroggs.

"Well, I suppose it could; but in this case, no, I didn't interpret it that way," Scroggs said.  Hayes, when asked her interpretation of the Title IX section, said that she agrees with Scroggs. 

"Would you agree with me that that section only applies to situations in which the accused has some position of authority over the accuser?" Hayes was asked in the deposition.

"Or power," Hayes added. "What's the difference between those things?" the questioner followed up.

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"Well, I think in certain situations that a man could have power over a woman, even if there wasn't an authority situation. I think there could be a feeling of that just by the nature of your gender," Hayes said. "So subpart one could apply to any situation with any man and any woman?" the questioner asked. "It could," Hayes said.

The male student referenced in the deposition sued the University of Missouri in July after the college suspended him from all four of its campuses for four years. The student previously tried to appeal his suspension. The college eventually shortened the suspension from four years to two years. The suspension, however, involved more variables than simply the male student asking the female out on a date. In fact, the university has alleged it received word that the male student acted inappropriately toward three other women, none of whom filed formal complaints. 

"Multiple complaints and concerns were expressed by at least four female students, and they provide important contextual information about this situation," a Mizzou spokesman told KDNL-TV in St. Louis.

The July court filing noted that the male student alleged in his appeal that he "had been treated more harshly because he is an African-American male." The female student named in the most recent court filing is white. 

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more information about the case. 

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