New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

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Sexual Misconduct – Employment; Title IX; Faculty & Staff; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

FaÏza Harbri v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Walter Lewin (D. Mass. September 1, 2017)

Memorandum and Order granting in part and denying in part Defendant’s motion to dismiss. Plaintiff, a French national enrolled in online courses with Defendant, a professor teaching an online course through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), alleged a violation of Title IX against MIT, as well as state law claims of negligence, negligent infliction of emotion distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, breach of contract, and a violation of Massachusetts sexual harassment law against the professor and MIT.  Plaintiff sued following online receipt of sexually explicit messages and nude photographs from the professor, as well as witnessing him commit sexual acts through video calls on Skype. The court dismissed the Title IX claim, finding that Title IX’s jurisdiction did not include conduct committed in the United States that was then transmitted over the Internet to an individual physically living abroad. The court also dismissed the breach of contract claim, finding that no valid contract existed. However, the court found that the case could proceed under the state law claims of sexual harassment, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Sexual Misconduct – Employment; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Sexual Misconduct – Employment; Faculty & Staff

Irrera v. Humpherys (2d Cir. June 15, 2017)

Opinion and Order affirming-in-part and vacating-in-part the district court’s order. A graduate piano student at the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester alleged that the Chair of the Piano Department made unwanted sexual advances toward him and threatened to “make his life a living hell” if he reported the misconduct. He filed a retaliation claim against the Chair and the University, claiming that the Chair gave negative references to potential employers and prevented him from finding employment after graduation, all because Plaintiff rejected the Chair’s advances. Concluding that his claim was grounded in speculation, the district court dismissed Plaintiff’s suit. The Second Circuit reversed, finding that, although it was “not impossible that all 28 schools to which he applied for open teaching positions deemed his credentials insufficient to warrant an interview, it is plausible that these schools received negative references from the chairman.” Moreover, because colleges and employers rarely disclose the content of the references they receive, the absence of direct evidence regarding the alleged negative references was reasonable at this stage in the litigation.