Expelled student appeals in Title IX lawsuit
A student expelled for alleged sexual assault is fighting the University at Albany for the release of recordings he claims prove that the Title IX Coordinator was biased against him.
The Student Conduct Board found then-sophomore Alexander Sakolish guilty in fall 2017 of Sexual Assault I, Sexual Assault II, and Sexual Harassment. Sakolish denies that he committed the violations.
He began a lawsuit against UAlbany last summer, and is now in the process of appealing a court decision to the Appellate Court of Albany.
Leading up to his hearing with the Board, Sakolish met several times with former UAlbany Title IX Coordinator Chantelle Cleary.
The university has fought Sakolish’s attempt to present the video recording of one pivotal meeting on October 30, 2017.
In February, New York’s Supreme Court sided with the university, stating Sakolish’s claims about inspector bias were “based on speculation.”
Sakolish’s lawyer Marybeth Sydor alleged Cleary evaluated the evidence and concluded on her own that the Reporting Individual was unable to consent. She argues that, as a Title IX Coordinator, this was not Cleary’s job.
Unless the Albany Appellate Court grants Sakolish’s motion to discover the recording, what happened in that meeting remains a mystery.
CONDUCT HEARING COMPLAINTS
Sakolish is also suing over several issues he experienced in the Student Conduct hearing.
During the hearing, Sakolish represented himself. His lawyer, though present, was not permitted to speak on his behalf.
Sakolish complained to the Board that he was denied witness testimony at the hearing, something that in his appeal he claimed was a guaranteed right by federal education law.
UAlbany’s Title IX procedures have come under fire in the past.
A 2013 review by the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights found that UAlbany’s hearing process had multiple procedural “concerns.” These included failures in “giv[ing] the parties the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses,” and “promptly provid[ing] written notice of the outcome of an investigation to the parties.”
Sakolish’s case is currently being appealed to the Appellate Court of Albany, Third District. This includes an appeal for discovery of the October 30 recordings.
“UAlbany is confident in its process to fully and fairly investigate and adjudicate all student conduct matters, including those involving Title IX,” said Jordan Carleo-Evangelist, the University’s Community Relations Officer.
Chantelle Cleary left her position at UAlbany last year, becoming the Title IX Coordinator at Cornell University in June 2018.