Judge rules in favor of college in second Title IX lawsuit

by Allison Hagan / Beacon Staff and Max Reyes / Beacon Staff • October 5, 2017

A federal judge in the District of Massachusetts ruled in favor of the college in the 2014 “Jillian Doherty v. Emerson College” Title IX lawsuit on Tuesday, in which Doherty claimed the college was negligent in the investigation of her claims of sexual assault.

The college filed a motion for summary judgment, which according to Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, is a legal action in which one party asserts there are no facts in dispute and therefore the case can be settled without a trial. Judge Leo T. Sorokin granted Emerson’s motion in all four counts Doherty made against it.

Doherty, who withdrew from the college after her August 2014 suit, claimed the college violated Title IX policies by failing to educate students about resources to educate students about sexual assault and substance use. She also accused both the college and former Director of Community Standards and Student Conduct Michael Arno of negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

These claims were made against Arno as an individual and as a Title IX investigator.

Sorokin concluded these claims did not bear weight and that Emerson did not violate Title IX by failing to educate students about sexual assault. He ruled that the college responded to Doherty’s claims in a timely manner and took appropriate action against the assailant.

A written statement from the college read: “The College is pleased with the Court’s determination that it acted appropriately under the law.  At the same time, the College reminds the community that the issue of sexual assault remains a persistent and troubling issue on college campuses and in society as a whole.”

In 2014, the Obama administration released a list of 223 colleges and universities, including Emerson, under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for their handling of sexual assault cases.

Last week, the Beacon reported a judge also granted a motion for summary judgement for the 2014 “Jane Doe v. Emerson College” Title IX lawsuit, where a student claimed the college was “deliberately indifferent” to her 2012-2013 reports of alleged sexual assault and harassment.


Vice President and General Counsel Christine Hughes said the timing of the case decisions is a coincidence. The lawsuits were filed within four months of each other, so the close timing can partially explain why the cases came back in tandem, she said.