Mass. District Court Dismisses Student’s Suit Alleging Harvard Discriminated Against Him in Title IX Case


A federal court last month dismissed a civil suit filed by an unnamed student alleging that Harvard discriminated against him on the basis of race and gender in its handling of a Title IX complaint accusing him of sexual misconduct.

The May 24 dismissal came after the plaintiff filed a stipulation of dismissal on May 21 signed by the plaintiff’s and defendants’ attorneys.

The lawsuit, filed in 2018 in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, alleged that Harvard mishandled a Title IX investigation and discriminated against the plaintiff because he is an “African-American male.”

The suit details sexual activity between the plaintiff — referred to as “John Doe” in the case — and an unnamed female undergraduate that allegedly took place in April 2017. A month later, then-Harvard Title IX Coordinator Brigid Harrington informed Doe that he was the subject of an Office for Dispute Resolution investigation related to the April encounter, per the lawsuit.


The plaintiff accused Harvard of demonstrating racial and gender bias against him throughout its investigation, failing to offer him the presumption of innocence, and depriving him of a “meaningful opportunity” to respond to the charges against him. The suit named the University, the Board of Overseers, the President and Fellows of Harvard College, and Harrington as defendants.

The suit also alleged that Harvard “failed to perform a thorough and impartial investigation” into the Title IX complaint and that ODR Director William D. McCants twice declined the plaintiff and his accuser’s joint requests for informal resolution.

In November 2017, the College’s Administrative Board, which imposes sanctions based on ODR’s findings, determined that plaintiff must withdraw from Harvard for four semesters, per the suit.

The suit further argued that Harvard’s sanction was “unwarranted and disproportionate in light of the circumstances.” It added that Doe had “sustained damages to his future education and career prospects as a result of the Decision and Sanction.”

College spokesperson Rachael Dane and Tara J. Davis, an attorney for the plaintiff, declined to comment on the suit’s dismissal.

—Staff writer Alex M. Koller can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @alexmkoller.

—Staff writer Taylor C. Peterman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @taylorcpeterman.