Amid widespread fear that large crowds would help spread COVID-19, colleges nationwide resorted, in the Fall of 2020, to mandated quarantines and online-only classes. This resulted in many benefits for some students, who were able to be more confident about their safety while continuing their education.
For other students, mandated quarantine quickly became a nightmarish situation - and, potentially, an unsafe one. As one MN college noted, “Learning remotely and living off-campus brings numerous challenges and can also exacerbate unsafe living environments.”
In the wake of COVID-19, there has been a second, silent pandemic - a rise in domestic violence. Harvard noted that ‘safer at home' may not apply to everyone, and it would seem that, for many, sheltering at home (or in collegiate dorms) has had an unintended effect.
Domestic and Dating Violence Spikes on College Campuses Amid 2020 Pandemic Precautions
BU Today, the newspaper of Boston University, reported in September that there had been a dramatic increase in the number of students who contacted their Sexual Assault Response and Prevention center to report an incident.
This is consistent with numbers seen all across the country. The president of RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, said, “Remote learning doesn't mean sexual violence stops,” before encouraging students to feel comfortable contacting their campus Title IX coordinator for assistance if anything untoward happened.
Increased encouragement for reporting combined with the constant atmosphere of collegiate anxiety has caused confusion regarding the way colleges adjudicate these types of allegations. Some colleges face the decision to defer investigations, hold risky in-person hearings, or mete out disciplinary action after brief meetings held via videoconference or over the phone (a practice potentially disadvantageous to the accused student).
Students, too, who are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety, may be more likely to call in an accusation - even if nothing out of line has happened. This year, especially, when an accusation of sexual misconduct might (when joined with an accusation of improper social distancing) result in a quick disciplinary hearing without a proper investigation, it's vital to ensure that you or your student knows what to do in the event of a sexual misconduct allegation.
Protect Your Rights and Your Future: Work with a Smart, Seasoned Student Defense Advisor
If you stand accused of sexual violence amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, you need to make sure that the increased atmosphere of paranoia doesn't negatively impact your rights during your school's investigation.
You may find yourself in a place where you need to fight or appeal punitive measures that your university recommends. You may also simply wonder how best to navigate due process at your school at a time when all usual processes and procedures are different due to the global pandemic.
At the Lento Law Firm, we can provide guidance to help you work towards a successful outcome. Call Joseph D. Lento today for more information about our services at 888.535.3686.
This week, we're taking a look at the most impactful student defense stories and updates from 2020. Check back here for the next installment in this series.