Prof: Title IX harms both students and teachers
- A University of Missouri professor who was subjected to nearly a year-long Title IX investigation after getting in a "heated exchange" via email with a female colleague is now speaking out.
- Professor J. Martin Rochester, who admitted only to using "uncivil language," was cleared of all allegations, though wasn't informed of the outcome until months after the Title IX office reached its conclusion.
A University Of Missouri-St. Louis professor claims that that Title IX procedures are not only harmful to students falsely accused of sexual assault, but professors as well.
In a recent article published by the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, Professor J. Martin Rochester describes his own experiences with an unfounded Title IX investigation that lasted nearly a year.
“In my case, I received a three-sentence email from the UM-St. Louis deputy Title IX coordinator on August 23, 2016, informing me that ‘a complaint has been filed with the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity which you [sic] as the accused,’” the professor reveals, adding that the email “indicated that an investigation of the allegations was underway.”
While Rochester was uncertain of who had accused him of the alleged transgression, he speculates that the complaint was sparked by a “professional disagreement” that turned into a “heated exchange” with two of his female colleagues some months prior.
Despite admitting to using “uncivil language” during a contentious email exchange, Rochester maintains that “at no time did I use derogatory language of a sexual nature or raise any issues relating to gender” toward his colleagues.
“Some rather nasty words were exchanged starting with my castigating one female colleague for her persistent use of email...followed by another female colleague coming to her defense by attacking me out of the blue as a serial sexual harasser,” he writes.
In September 2016, Rochester was called into the Title IX office, and informed of the “general nature of the complaint,” while being given an opportunity to explain his side of the case.
While the Title IX office pursued the investigation, Rochester claims that he “was never allowed to confront my accusers,” and that he still had no knowledge regarding the exact nature of the complaint.
“Months went by...with zero communication from the Title IX folks regarding the status of the investigation. The wheels of justice can grind very slowly in Title IX matters,” Rochester adds.
After a nine-month investigation, the Title IX office finally closed the sexual harassment probe, and issued no charges against him, though, at the time, Rochester was not informed of his innocence.
“It turns out that the case had reached closure in May 2017, but I had never been informed of the outcome,” he writes, noting that his accuser had the privilege of learning the outcome of the case months prior.
“Only on the first day of the fall 2017 semester, August 21, did I receive an email from the Title IX Coordinator reporting that a meeting had been held with the provost to discuss the case and the case had been ‘closed.’ The accuser had been notified of the meeting and outcome in the spring, but I had not,” Rochester elaborates.
While Rochester says that he is “appreciative of the Title IX coordinator’s apology for failing to keep me in the loop,” he also notes that he never received “any specifics regarding the final report.”
Rochester then acknowledges that while Title IX “has a legitimate and important role to play in addressing gender-related problems, [it] needs to be reexamined and retooled if it is to serve that purpose.”
“I was left with an unanswered question,” the professor states. “Is it possible any longer in the current climate for one professor to have words with another professor of the opposite sex without it constituting ‘sexual harassment’ or at least triggering a sexual harassment investigation?”
“Free speech, academic freedom, due process, and just plain common sense are at stake here,” Rochester concludes.
Campus Reform reached out to Rochester, but he declined an interview because he had wanted to “publish the one piece just to get things off my chest.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen