New Title IX Rules Retroactive: Doe v. Rensselaer Polytechnic University

The new Title IX rules instituted on August 14, 2020 guarantee more due process rights to both the accused and to accusers.  Still, colleges and universities that fought the new regulations tooth and nail, wish to keep applying their old rules as long as they can.  Recently, the United States District Court, Northern District of New York told RPI that it could not do so.  The court granted a preliminary injunction in Doe v. Rensselaer Polytechnic University after the school refused to apply the new regulations because the campus complaint predated the effective date of the regulations.  


College students John Doe and Jane Roe had intercourse, while intoxicated, several times one night in early January 2020. After the encounter, both alleged that the other assaulted them. 

Both Doe and Roe filed Title IX complaints with RPI. Doe alleged that Roe coerced him into sex without a condom several times while he was too drunk to fully consent.  Roe alleged that Doe coerced her into sex, squeezed her neck during an argument, rubbed his genitals on her while sleeping and filmed her getting dressed in the morning. 

The school interviewed both parties as part of their Title IX procedures. They then found that Roe’s claim could go forward but dismissed Doe’s complaint against Roe. 

Doe appealed but was denied once more. He then filed a complaint alleging discrimination in the way the school used a previous version of its Title IX rules to adjudicate Doe and Roe’s claims. 

He requested a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop RPI from applying its policy that predated the new regulations.

Applying The New Title IX Rules

The new Title IX rules guarantee the accused and the accuser the right to hear, challenge, and cross-examine witnesses against them and the right to evidence gathered in the school’s investigation.

Judge David N. Hurd pointed out that, whatever version of RPI’s Title IX rules should apply, allowing Roe’s case to proceed while Doe’s was dismissed highlighted several “bizarre” gender discrimination issues. 

The fact that the students were mutually intoxicated, yet Doe’s claim was dismissed while Roe’s was upheld, seemed to apply a different standard to the accused. That is, when “the “female’s complaint is accepted, flaws and all, while the male’s complaint is rejected for having similar flaws, that discrepancy lends force to the conclusion that the difference is traceable to gender discrimination.”

Then however, Judge Hurd turned to RPI’s insistence on applying outdated rules to Doe despite having adopted a new Title IX policy to comply with the August 14, 2020 effective date for the new regulations.  Judge Hurd noted that RPI’s choice to apply 2018 standards to the case—preventing Doe from cross-examining witnesses, for example—was not only an “administrative headache” but appeared specifically calculated to unfairly disadvantage John Doe.  Given the administrative burden of maintaining two separate policies, simply to make sure that the more rigorous 2020 standards remain beyond the reach of some students, the court found RPI’s “prospective non-discriminatory reason for nor not proceeding … under the 2020 rules” unconvincing.

The Doe v. RPI indicates that students should insist on the new Title IX rules, whatever excuse schools make to put off their implementation.