Title IX Legal Update

By: Sally Roller

Recently, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) announced the resolution of a sexual harassment investigation of Arcadia University in Pennsylvania.[1]  OCR found that Arcadia University mishandled complainants regarding a professor sexually harassing students in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”).  OCR found that several students and faculty reported to the university from 2018 to 2021 that the professor repeatedly engaged in sexual harassment of female students.  OCR also found evidence that students reported the professor’s sexually harassing conduct in the professor’s student evaluations.  “For example, a student stated that ‘[t]he professor made many sexual inappropriate comments on a regular basis. Everyone felt uncomfortable,’” the department said in a news release.

Arcadia University did not open an investigation until 2021, when it received a formal complaint, despite the dean and chief of human resources previously receiving reports of the professor’s alleged misconduct.  Arcadia University stopped its investigation when the professor retired instead of facing a Title IX hearing on the allegations of possible sexual harassment.  OCR concluded that Arcadia University violated Title IX because it failed to satisfy its obligation to address any effects of sexual harassment on impacted students, notwithstanding the professor’s resignation.

The Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said,

Arcadia University first ignored repeated notice that a professor serially harassed university students and then compounded the discriminatory harm – in violation of Title IX – when it ended its investigation based on the professor’s resignation, without determining whether university students needed action to end and redress a hostile environment resulting from multiyear sexual harassment . . .

Title IX requires more than Arcadia University provided here, and I appreciate the university’s commitment now to address that wrong and ensure that students learn in the university environment free from sex discrimination.

The resolution agreement requires Arcadia University to take several steps including hiring a third party complete its investigation of the formal complaint against the professor, conduct its own investigation of the professor’s actions from 2018 till his resignation, conduct a review of all Title IX complaints for the past three years, and conduct a climate survey with students among other requirements.[2]


[1] U.S. Dept of Educ., U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Reaches Agreement to Resolve Sexual Harassment Investigation of Arcadia University in Pennsylvania (Oct. 31, 2023), available at: https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-educations-office-civil-rights-reaches-agreement-resolve-sexual-harassment-investigation-arcadia-university-pennsylvania.

[2] U.S. Dept of Educ., Letter to Arcadia University (Oct. 31, 2023), https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/investigations/more/03222075-a.pdf?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=; see Resolution Agreement Arcadia University, available at: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/investigations/more/03222075-b.pdf?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=