Case name: Harbi v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, et al., No. 16‐12394 (D. Mass. 09/01/17).Ruling: The U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts dismissed a suit against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.What it means: Title IX doesn't protect a foreign citizen who doesn't reside in the United States but takes an online course from a U.S. university.Summary: In 2013, 31‐year‐old French resident Faïza Harbi registered with the Massachusetts Institute for Technology for an online physics course taught by Walter Lewin.In November, Lewin and Harbi began an electronic correspondence that lasted for a few months. They communicated by email, Facebook pages, and eventually by Skype. At all times, Lewin was in the United States and Harbi was in France. The two never met in person.Many of the communications between Lewin and Harbi were explicitly sexual in nature. According to Harbi, Lewin implied that her successful completion of the course was conditioned on their continuing correspondence.In October 2014, Harbi finally reported Lewin to MIT. An ensuing university investigation concluded Lewin had violated multiple policies and procedures, and MIT promptly severed ties with him.Harbi filed a suit asserting several claims against MIT. One of them asserted violations of Title IX. The university filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the statute only applied to students who resided in the United States.The district judge said the plain language of the statute extended its protections only to “persons in the United States.”Notwithstanding that language, Harbi correctly noted the statute's purposes were to: (1) avoid the use of federal resources to support discriminatory practices and (2) provide protection against those practices. She argued the act should apply extraterritorially to ensure those purposes were achieved.But the judge said Harbi's approach would simply ignore the statutory language. He said courts weren't empowered to fix statutes, no matter how worthy the goal. The judge dismissed the claim, explaining that only Congress could rewrite Title IX.
Campus Legal Advisor – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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