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PR: Slow Learner? Grinnell College Continues Pattern of Title IX Sex Discrimination, Gets Schooled by Circuit Court Judge

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Rebecca Stewart: 513-479-3335


Slow Learner? Grinnell College Continues Pattern of Title IX Sex Discrimination, Gets Schooled by Circuit Court Judge

WASHINGTON / August 26, 2021 – Circuit Court Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger handed down a Title IX ruling against Grinnell College on Monday, denying the college’s motion for summary judgment on Moe’s Title IX and breach of contract claims. (1)  The recent decision echoes similar sex bias findings from a 2019 ruling by the same judge also involving Grinnell College.

In a 2015 case that did not involve Moe, a Grinnell female student accused another female student of non-consensual sexual contact, with the college ultimately finding the female respondent to be responsible. In the recent decision, the judge began by analyzing how Grinnell investigated the 2015 complaint, compared to the current Moe v. Grinnell case:

“[I]n the 2015 case opinion, the adjudicator did not address whether the initial sexual contact between the parties was consensual. [In the current case], the adjudicator considered whether the initial sexual contact between Moe and Complainant 1 was consensual. Also, unlike Moe’s case, the adjudicator did not make findings regarding the uncharged conduct of nonconsensual sexual contact in the 2015 case. Finally, in the 2015 case opinion, the adjudicator credited the female respondent’s testimony that the complainant ‘was an active participant in their sexual activities.’ The adjudicator did not credit similar testimony by Moe.” (Page 22)

On the basis of the different treatment of respondents in these two cases, Judge Goodgame Ebinger concluded:

“In light of differential treatment between Moe and the female respondent identified above, a jury could find the adjudicator’s assessment about Moe’s credibility was based on biased notions as to men’s sexual intent….The adjudicator relied in part on the inferences she drew about the intent behind Moe’s physical actions to assess his credibility.” (Pages 23-24)

Monday’s decision against Grinnell College has a similar fact pattern as a third case that was resolved in 2019, in which Judge Goodgame Ebinger had ruled,

“Doe claims the determination in Complainant #1’s case arbitrarily found Complainant #1’s side of the story more credible and made unwarranted assumptions about Complainant #1 being naïve and sexually inexperienced….The Court concludes Doe has presented sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could deduce the determinations of responsibility relied upon by Grinnell to dismiss Doe were based on a biased perspective regarding the behavior of women during sexual encounters.” (2)

Grinnell College has been stoutly criticized for retaining Marsha Ternus to act as its Title IX adjudicator. Scott Greenfield opined in a recent column (3):

“Why, one might reasonably wonder, would Grinnell College, the party school of Iowa, pick someone to be the Title IX sex adjudicator who they knew was flagrantly biased against male students? On the one hand, that’s apparently exactly what they wanted from their adjudicator, a person who would adeptly make sure that the guy would come out guilty. On the other hand, it was almost as if the college was handed someone so impervious to criticism that she was above reproach. So Grinnell College made a big bet by retaining Marsha Ternus, former chief judge of the Iowa Supreme Court, to serve as their Title IX adjudicator.”

SAVE urges college president Anne F. Harris to order a top-to-bottom review of its Title IX policies, procedures, and practices. Given its pattern of illegal sex bias, SAVE calls on Iowa lawmakers to make necessary reductions in its annual budgetary appropriations to Grinnell College.


  1. 4:20-cv-00058-RGE-SBJ (S.D. Iowa Aug. 23, 2021.
  2. 473 F. Supp. 3d 909 (S.D. Iowa July 9, 2019) Page 927.