Judge George Daniels of the Southern District Court of New York dismissed Amelia Roskin-Frazee’s (CC’19) lawsuit against Columbia University on the 20th of February, arguing that Roskin-Frazee failed to demonstrate that Columbia acted in an unreasonable manner after receiving knowledge of her multiple sexual assaults. Last year, Amelia Roskin-Frazee sued Columbia University for “deliberate indifference to [her] initial rape” in October 2015, “failing to investigate [said] first rape,” failing to provide her with prompt, “reasonable accommodations,” and being “grossly negligent in failing to take any steps to protect” her, leading to her subsequent rape in December 2015 and sexual harassment. Furthermore, Roskin-Frazee argued that the culture of sexual violence that Columbia allegedly “actively created and was deliberately indifferent to” led to her sexual assaults.
In filing a motion to dismiss, Columbia focused on its responsibility to investigate and provide accommodations. Columbia argued that since Roskin-Frazee “made clear to Columbia her desire not to report the assaults, to maintain her confidentiality, and not to start an investigation,” Columbia did not investigate. When Roskin-Frazee did tell Columbia that she wanted an investigation in August 2016, Columbia argued it “commenced an investigation within approximately one month.” While she pointed out that “the investigators had not interviewed anybody, did not review the swipe logs for her dormitory building for the nights of her respective sexual assaults, and could not review any security camera footage” due to the passage of time, Columbia argued that it did what it could from when she initiated their investigation process. Columbia also argued that Roskin-Frazee could not identify “any specific allegations regarding an accommodation that [she] requested that the University failed to provide.”
In granting the motion, Judge Daniels dismissed Roskin-Frazee’s claim that Columbia “actively created” a sexually hostile environment. Daniels writes that “Courts generally have refused to impose Title IX liability based on a university’s official policy.” He writes that in previous cases, universities were found responsible based on sexual assault that occurred through “school-sanctioned” programs, or based on the possession and failure to act on actual knowledge of a specific “perpetrator’s history of past sexual harassment at other colleges.” Daniels wrote that Columbia could not “be held liable for its failure to purge its school of all actionable peer harassment.”
Judge Daniels also agreed with Columbia in that the University was not unreasonable in granting accommodations or conducting an investigation. In his judgment, as long as the university had no actual knowledge of the rapes, “there is no plausible basis for concluding that [Columbia] responded to [her] requests for academic accommodations with deliberate indifference.” Daniels writes that within a month of Columbia receiving actual knowledge in December of Roskin-Frazee’s October rape, Columbia reached out to her and she “decided not to proceed with an investigation.” By not conducting an investigation, Columbia “complied with its Sexual Misconduct Policy and the [Department of Education] Guidelines.” Roskin-Frazee argued that Columbia had knowledge of her rape much earlier, nine days after her initial rape, when she, “without explicitly saying that she was raped…strongly alluded to [her advisor that she] had been raped.” Daniels seemed dismissive of this point during oral arguments, when he called it a “insufficient allegation” and compared it to “saying, ‘I went into McDonald’s and without saying I wanted french fries, I strongly alluded to the fact that I wanted french fries.’” Roskin-Frazee argued that throughout the process, Columbia-affiliated officials failed to inform her of rights granted by Title IX. Daniels wrote that “such violation alone would be insufficient to establish deliberate indifference.”
Daniels stood with the University in saying that given the “dearth of information” after Roskin-Frazee proceeded with an investigation, Columbia could reasonably conclude “that the process of identifying and interviewing individuals…would have been futile” and would have “unduly exposed Plaintiff to additional unwanted attention or embarrassment.” While Roskin-Frazee raised a number of claims under state law, Daniels did not rule on these, declining as a federal court “to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law and common law claims at this early stage in the litigation.”
When asked for a statement on the lawsuit and whether she would be appealing the decision, Roskin-Frazee gave no comment. We will provide updates as the situation develops.