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Title IX: A Professor’s Premonition Becomes a Disastrous Reality

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Title IX: A Professor’s Premonition Becomes a Disastrous Reality

By Paul Falanga, MSN, RN

March 26, 2021

I am a recently retired faculty member at the Montefiore School of Nursing (MSON). I worked there for three years, and had an excellent work record and rapport with nursing students. Two months before my retirement in April 2019, I was accused of sexual harassment. After an eight-month nightmare, the criminal court adjudicated the case in my favor. Besides the economic hardships, the emotional toll affected my physical health. I still suffer from the trauma of the experience.

Here’s my story….

One afternoon I was instructed to attend a meeting with the Human Resource department. The HR representative officiously read the Title IX sexual harassment and assault clauses from the school catalog. But oddly, she provided no explanation why I had been called in. I could not imagine what this was all about

That evening, I taught my last class. The next day was informed via email to not return to campus or speak to any students or fellow faculty members

About a week later, I was asked to give a statement to security staff. I cooperated fully, despite still not having received a copy of the allegation or having any recollection of a harassment incident. Despite my good faith efforts to cooperate, I was not allowed to ask any direct questions, even to the Title IX investigator.

As the questions were asked, I was finally able to deduce that a 50-year-old female student alleged I had grabbed her breast while in a classroom with 19 other students present. As a married gay man, the accusation seemed highly implausible on the face of it.

Under the questionable pretext of protecting the student who filed the charge, I was then forbidden to contact the students who were potential witnesses on my behalf.

As the case unfolded, I became acutely aware that not even my counsel had the right to interview the many students who were present during the alleged incident. Nor was my personal representative allowed to ask questions to the accuser, even through a third party.

Approximately one week later, the Mt. Vernon (NY) police came to my home and asked me to accompany them to the police station to give a statement. There, I was finally given the redacted copy of the allegations. I was in shock.

I was then arrested on a sexual harassment misdemeanor charge and incarcerated. My bail was set at $2,500. I quickly hired a defense attorney. Now with a criminal record, I was dismissed from an additional adjunct teaching position that I held.

Eventually I was found innocent of the charges. I had the case sealed to clear my record for employment.

Afterwards, many students reached out to me expressing their sympathy and concern. I was told that the woman had bragged about the accusation and continued to slander me, even after the case was resolved.

In retrospect, it became apparent that the accusation had been made for purposes of financial gain, as the school provided a financial settlement for the student.

The negative impact caused by false allegations has had a direct effect on my physical and mental health. I feel personally violated as my personal integrity was also assaulted. This personal violation is still a burden to me.

MSON employs five full-time instructors with approximately 120 students. As faculty members, we had been briefed on Title IX procedures via a short seminar. I recalled thinking that if a complaint were to be filed, what a daunting task it would be for our small faculty, given our lack of legal expertise. We discussed among ourselves how we all thought it would be unfair to ask a faculty member to play the role of investigator, jury, and judge. We all concurred that our group lacked the necessary expertise.

In my case, that uneasy premonition became a disastrous reality. This is why President Biden should be working to strengthen campus due process, not remove it.