College Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Defense at West Virginia University

West Virginia University, founded in 1867, is a public land grant research university whose main campus is located in Morgantown, PA. There are two other satellite campuses, as well as a second clinical campus.

Chances are, if you are attending WVU, you have worked hard for your admission to the school. The last thing you need is to have allegations of college sexual misconduct or Title IX violations impact all the time, energy, and money that you've poured into your higher education.

In this article, we'll examine some basic information about what you can expect and how West Virginia University addresses these allegations. If you or a loved one is facing allegations of college sexual misconduct or Title IX violations, it's very important that you act immediately and speak with an experienced advisor before you're in over your head. With so much at stake, it's very likely that you or your loved one would greatly benefit from the assistance of an attorney-advisor solely dedicated to your cause.

What is the Difference Between Title IX and College Sexual Misconduct at West Virginia University?

At West Virginia University, the most current guidance is that provided by the BOG Rule 1.6. This guidance covers both Title IX violations and anything that falls outside of Title IX but within sexual misconduct at the school.

Title IX refers to an amendment from the 1970s (the Education Amendment of 1972), which was designed to protect students from sex-based discrimination. Over the years, various administrations' Department of Educations have interpreted this amendment and offered guidance as to how institutions should enforce and read the guidelines. The most recent of these—from the DeVos DoE—narrowed the scope of what constituted a Title IX violation. Subsequently, many colleges and universities (including WVU) amended their regulations. West Virginia University made the decision to move what had been covered under Title IX into the jurisdiction of the school rather than under federal guidance.

Section 3.1.1.1-2 of the rule differentiates between the two jurisdictions in this way:

  1. “Formal Complaints of ‘Sexual Harassment (Quid Pro Quo)', ‘Sexual Harassment (Hostile Environment)', ‘Sexual Assault', ‘Domestic Misconduct', and ‘Stalking' that occur in a University Education Program or Activity on the basis of sex and within the United States will be covered by Title IX jurisdiction and subject to the grievance procedures discussed below in Section 6.3. Those instances are referred to as ‘Title IX Sexual Harassment.'”
  2. “All other complaints of Prohibited Conduct will be within the University's jurisdiction if the behavior (a) occurs on University premises; (b) occurs off-campus and would unreasonable interfere with the educational or orderly operation of the University community, its mission, or its objectives determined by a reasonable person; or (c) occurs off-campus and in light of all of the facts and circumstances, would endanger the health and safety of the University community.”

Some examples of prohibited behavior include sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, sexual exploitation, dating violence, and domestic violence.

One important factor of note is that students are responsible for adherence to the code of conduct from the moment they are accepted until the moment they receive their final degree (5.2, Campus Student Code).

What to Expect From an Investigation and Hearing at WVU

West Virginia University offers both a visual overview of the investigation and hearing process (for both Title IX and non-Title IX cases). Additionally, they offer a downloadable document. This brief guide reiterates that “the university's policies are not all that different than before – the same types of offenses are still against university policy – but the procedures for resolution of complaints are substantially changed.”

There are two main processes: Process A, for Title IX violations and Process B, for non-Title IX sexual harassment or misconduct. Each process has the same first four stages, and then there is some nuanced divergence. Generally, however, there will be an investigation, the option of an informal resolution, a formal hearing, and then an appeal, if applicable.

The standard of evidence for allegations is a preponderance of evidence—this means that evidence shows it is more likely than not that the action took place. It is a lesser standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

At the hearing, students are allowed to have advisors, and these advisors are the ones who ask questions when the time for asking questions arises. However, before the advisor asks the question, the Hearing Adjudicator will determine if the question may be asked, so it is critical that your advisor have signficant experience with such proceedings, and also be willing to appropriately push back if your rights or opportunity to assert defenses at your hearing are abridged. Despite the procedural protections afforded under Title IX and school policies, all bets can be off at hearing and a respondent needs an advisor in their corner who will remain steadfast to the cause.

What are Possible Consequences of College Sexual Misconduct?

There are various possible consequences of sexual misconduct or Title IX violations—first of all, there are the immediate consequences at the school, which can include interim restrictions on respondent based merely on the allegations alone

If a respondent is found responsible, however, WVU will determine their sanction by “what is fair under the circumstances.” In cases of sexual misconduct, this is generally at minimum suspension, and quite frequently, expulsion.

Long-term consequences, however, can be even more serious. If the circumstances are covered by the media, your name and face may be forever linked to the process and the allegations. Thankfully this concern does not arise often, but when it does, you need a strong team to take appropriate action. Fallout among friends, classmates, and other on campus, however, is often a more immediate and far-reaching concern which also requires an appropriate response.

Additionally, if found responsible, suspension can impact your financial aid (adding extra financial burden), your ability to transfer or apply to another school, and even your future employment. Expulsion, however, can effectively be the end of your academic career.

Because of what is at stake, professional help will best serve your interests and can potentially avoid the various negative consequences that can come of sexual misconduct allegations or a finding of responsibility.

Does WVU Have an Appeal Process?

It is possible to appeal a decision at WVU. There are specific circumstances within which this is allowed. According to the policy in 12.10.2, “the bases for appeal are: (a) procedural irregularity that affected the outcome of the matter; (b) new evidence that was not reasonably available at the time the determination regarding responsibility or dismissal was made, that could affect the outcome of the matter; and (c) the Title IX Coordinator, investigator(s), or Decision-Maker had a conflict of interest or bias for or against complainants or respondents generally or the individual complainant or respondent that affected the outcome of the matter.” Students have five business days after receiving notice of a decision to submit their written request to appeal.

The Best WVU Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Attorney-Advisor

When you or your student is facing these serious accusations, you should never face them alone. Take the necessary steps to protect your future. Speak with an attorney-advisor who has helped hundreds of students nationwide navigate similar circumstances. Sanctions may follow you beyond your college career, into your graduate studies, or future employment. Don't risk everything you've worked so hard for. Call attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm to discuss your case today: 888.535.3686. If you prefer, you can also reach out online.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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