Title IX of the Education Amendments is a gender discrimination law that requires colleges to internally adjudicate claims of sexual assault and harassment on campus. The Department of Education provides clear guidelines for how these matters are to be resolved, serving as a blueprint to maintain a sense of uniformity amongst federally funded institutions. But in many aspects of the process, schools are rendered a great deal of flexibility.
Whom institutions choose to oversee sexual misconduct hearings is a crucial decision. And it's one that people who bring charges (complainants) and people who respond to them (respondents) claim that many schools are getting wrong. Whether distinct employees are designated to the task, or outside judges and mediators are appointed, students involved in the process continue to report that impartiality is rampant in hearing decisions.
Years back, two football players sued the University of Maine after being found responsible for sexual misconduct. The lawsuit detailed that the chair of the hearing committee was biased because she dedicated much of her free time serving on a Rape Response board. The judge, however, disagreed, writing that the chairman is entitled to a presumption of honesty and integrity in her role, despite how she spends her off time. This sentiment has been reflected across the board in hundreds of lawsuits. Many of the students' concerns are being written off as speculation in the eyes of the courts and institutions.
Realistically, you can't put complex, perceptive human beings into these positions and expect them to always maintain complete objectivity. In fact, it's impossible. We all have biases. Underestimating people's ability to give in to bias - whether consciously or subconsciously - will greatly compromise integrity in the process. But what distinguishes responsible hearing officers or panel members from the others is the ability to recognize and understand what biases they have, and refuse to let them impact investigations and resolutions.
Recognizing, neutralizing and possibly overcoming bias in Title IX matters starts at the institution. Only when schools make efforts to employ people who have a developed sense of cultural competency, humility, and empathy, will we see a drastic increase in integrity. Some schools have begun thoroughly examining their Title IX investigation and hearing processes to make better hearing decisions. But until mechanisms are put in place to ensure better decisions are made, we will continue to see lawsuits in response to inequitable processes increase.
Nationwide Title IX Advisor
The only way to make sure your voice is heard and your rights are upheld is to retain a student defense attorney. For respondents, especially, the assistance of an attorney advisor is invaluable in the Title IX process. National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skill, experience, and expertise to help you preserve your entitled rights under Title IX and your school's policy. For a case evaluation or more information about his representation, contact him online or give him a call at 888-535-3686 today.