To the Editor:
I read with interest your recent article, “Under Biden’s Education Dept., Sexual-Violence Investigations Drag On” (The Chronicle, November 17). As an attorney who chairs my firm’s Title IX, Due Process and Campus Discipline practice where we have represented hundreds of students in Title IX related matters, I was heartened to see an article addressing the serious issue of inordinate delays by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in investigating and resolving complaints against universities for mishandling the investigation and adjudication of sexual assault allegations. I was disappointed, however, that the article focused entirely on delays regarding complaints by victims of sexual assault.
As someone who represents accused students who have filed Title IX complaints at OCR regarding their universities’ mishandling of investigations regarding allegations of sexual assault against them, I can say that inexcusable delays occur across the board. As just one example, we represent a young man who was wrongly expelled from the University of Denver. His complaint was filed in 2014 regarding events in 2013, and was accepted (after 10 months!) for investigation in 2015. It is still pending. Other matters have been pending for more than three years, and one complaint was filed sixteen months ago and the OCR has yet to inform our client whether their complaint will even be investigated.
In my experience, these delays are caused by a combination of an under resourced OCR and a Department of Education that keeps shifting its priorities, and the universities that exploit those vulnerabilities by hiring outside law firms who outmatch and overburden OCR, knowing that delay is an effective strategy to avoid being compelled to remedy wrongs. The losers in this process are students who turn to OCR for effective and timely relief and get neither.
Patricia M. Hamill