New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Court dismisses claims in alum’s Title IX suit over Tisch ‘blacklist’

A Tisch alum accused of sexual misconduct on an anonymous “blacklist” sued NYU over how the university addressed his concerns. The court dismissed his federal claims earlier this month.
Kiran Komanduri
(Kiran Komanduri for WSN)

Over a year after an anonymous list accusing film students of misconduct emerged in the Tisch School of the Arts, the court dismissed claims in an alumnus’ lawsuit that NYU violated federal discrimination law in its handling of the incident. The 2022 lawsuit, filed by an anonymous alum accused of sexual misconduct on the online “blacklist,” could still be pursued at the state level due to separate claims of human rights law violations, “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and “breach of contract” under New York law.  

The plaintiff, referred to in the suit as John Doe, was accused of being a “rapist” and a “narcissist” on the list, which also included anonymous misconduct claims against other film students. The list, a Google spreadsheet that was shared among students in March 2022, circulated through a QR code in a Tisch bathroom. 

In the suit, Doe claimed that NYU committed sex discrimination against him “by not identifying and disciplining the individuals behind the anonymous allegations.” He also argued that the university was “indifferent” to the harassment he endured and responsible for the “hostile environment” he faced at NYU. 

The court found that Doe failed to meet the requirements for a peer harassment claim under Title IX — which requires evidence that the harassment was based on sex and that an institution was deliberately indifferent to the discrimination. In a recent opinion, the court determined that NYU’s “refusal” to identify the list’s creators or take disciplinary action against them was not “clearly unreasonable” on grounds of free speech, and that Doe failed to prove that “NYU exercised substantial control over the harassment.”

Doe also said that NYU’s alleged “failure to promptly and adequately” respond to his complaints qualified the university as a hostile environment under Title IX, according to the court’s opinion. The court determined Doe did not sufficiently plead that the university had failed to properly respond.

In April 2022, Doe had emailed Craig Jolley — the director of the division of student affairs in the Office of Student Conduct and a defendant alongside NYU — to offer assistance in investigating the origin of the spreadsheet, but Jolley informed him that “NYU had no intention of pursuing disciplinary action against the creators of the spreadsheet.” 

Doe had also attempted to meet with Ezra Sacks, another defendant in the case and the chair of Tisch’s undergraduate Film & Television Department, but said Sacks “refused to meet with him in his official capacity” and instead offered Doe a space to express his frustrations.

After attempting to reach out to the list’s creators in April to request that the entries about him be removed, Doe reported the spreadsheet to university faculty and staff, as well as Campus Safety, who informed him that there was nothing that could be done to shut down the page, according to the court’s opinion. The university directed Doe to access “mental health assistance and victim’s support services” as well as “academic accommodations.” 

Later that month, the spreadsheet was taken down due to claims that some of the listed allegations were untrue. After Doe graduated, the university gave him a letter that stated he “had never been the subject of a Title IX investigation at the school.”

In the suit, Doe argued that the university “effectively sponsored” the list and the harassment he faced as a result because it did not take action against the creators of the spreadsheet. 

Doe claimed that during his last weeks as an NYU student, he endured “bullying, harassment, and ostracism” from peers, who were “pretending not to hear him when he spoke, ignoring his messages, changing seats if he sat near them and walking the other way to avoid him.” He also said the list cost him work opportunities and that he was “no longer booked to work on professional gigs” in his last few weeks of school. 

David Bloomfield, a professor of education leadership, law and policy at Brooklyn College and The City University of New York Graduate Center, said that Doe’s state-law claims could be more successful in court than the claims he brought under Title IX.

“The case was brought in federal court under Title IX which forbids discrimination based on sex,” Bloomfield wrote in a statement to WSN. “The breadth of relief plaintiff requests from multiple state law claims probably stands a better chance of success than the single Title IX claim and money damages remain a possibility.” 

A university spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

Contact Aashna Miharia at [email protected]

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About the Contributor
Aashna Miharia
Aashna Miharia, Deputy News Editor
Aashna Miharia is a first-year studying journalism and public policy with a minor in business studies. She’s from the Boston area and a novelist, coffee enthusiast and lover of independent bookstores. You can usually find her listening to an audiobook while wandering around New York City or on Instagram @aashnamiharia.

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