In prosecuting sexual misconduct cases, universities often act quickly – and this expedient process can sometimes be detrimental to the defendant. This year the United States Department of Education announced new rules regarding sexual misconduct that change the definition of sexual harassment and limit the types of complaints schools can consider.
According to the original text of Title IX, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." The policy did not mention sexual harassment or sexual assault.
But based on various interpretations of the law over the years, sexual misconduct in all of its forms – sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape – became considered gender-based discrimination. This required federally funded schools to investigate complaints of sexual misconduct and conduct hearings to find out whether an alleged perpetrator was guilty.
Definition of Sexual Misconduct
The Department of Education requires universities to investigate all forms of sexual misconduct to ensure students can pursue an education free of discrimination. The new law requires schools to address individual cases of serious sexual misconduct, redefines what constitutes sexual harassment, and requires live hearings allowing cross-examination when adjudicating sexual misconduct complaints.
As an example of how law changes will impact students, let's look at policies that are being adopted or considered by many prominent institutions. To comply with the Department of Education's new regulations, some university Title IX policies no longer apply to any conduct that occurs outside of the United States or in any location where the university does not exercise "substantial control over the respondent."
Additionally, due to more limited federal definitions, what is considered "improper conduct related to sex" and "sexual exploitation" also now fall outside of Title IX, no matter where issues occur or the circumstances of the offenses. "Quid pro quo" sexual harassment and "severe and pervasive" sexual harassment still fall under Title IX, but "severe or pervasive" harassment does not.
Instead, these occurrences are now encompassed by a new sexual misconduct policy, which "will include conduct associated with university-sponsored activities outside of the U.S.; conduct involving the use of university computing, network resources, and email accounts; and sexual misconduct that occurs within eating clubs or elsewhere in the local vicinity."
New Changes to Investigations
Based on early reactions among colleges and universities, it seems likely that most institutions will take an approach similar to many other prominent schools, including schools in Michigan. According to new sexual misconduct policies, conduct that was prohibited previously will remain prohibited, meaning the law change will not discourage the school's enforcement, it will simply be done differently.
Therefore, in many sexual misconduct cases, Title IX will no longer apply. However, students still may need a lawyer to protect their rights, especially since the Department of Education has required that Title IX investigations include live hearings and live cross-examinations of witnesses. According to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, this guarantees "due process" to accused students.
Sexual Misconduct Laws in Michigan
Michigan's two largest universities, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, have adopted revised Title IX policies that change how sexual misconduct allegations are investigated. Both schools instituted the changes to comply with federal regulations.
At the University of Michigan, the sexual and gender-based misconduct policy will include "common definitions for prohibited activity," according to a spokesperson. It will also entail separate procedures to address allegations against students as opposed to those against employees or other third parties.
At Michigan State University, the new policy defines activities that are "in alignment with community expectations as to what constitutes relationship violence, sexual misconduct and stalking as well as prohibited conduct under Title IX." The revised policy "makes clear that Title XI regulations apply to complaints brought by or against employees and are not limited to complaints involving students." The policy also "sets expectations for university faculty, staff, and academic staff on reporting misconduct."
The Benefits of Choosing an Experienced Attorney
When facing sexual misconduct or sexual assault charges, it's important to choose an attorney who has experience in Title IX and other similar code of conduct cases. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has handled hundreds of sexual misconduct cases under Title IX. Sexual misconduct cases falling under new policies are different only in name, meaning Mr. Lento already knows how to navigate this complex legal environment. Other benefits of selecting a skilled advisor include:
Attorneys have acquired trial experience and legal expertise that will be extremely useful to you as an accused student. They will help you find and interview witnesses and draft a statement that is consistent with your account of events.
You could choose anyone to assist you throughout these processes, but none of them are less likely to disclose confidential information than a lawyer. If they haven't already, school authorities will recommend a Title IX advisor that supposedly has extensive training in the school's policy and processes – but keep in mind that the school employs this individual. Though they are supposed to represent you, their loyalty lies with their employer, and the information you disclose could be used against you in a hearing or even a criminal trial. You won't have to worry about an attorney turning on you. Their primary duty is to ensure that your rights are protected.
Michigan Sexual Misconduct Advisor
If you attend a Michigan college or university and have been accused of sexual misconduct, you must speak with an attorney. Contact skilled sexual misconduct advisor and legal professional Joseph D. Lento today for assistance at 888-535-3686.
Michigan colleges and universities where Joseph D. Lento can help as your or your student's college sexual misconduct advisor during investigations, hearings, and appeals include, but are not limited to, the following schools:
- Adrian College
- Albion College
- Alma College
- Alpena Community College
- Andrews University
- Aquinas College
- Baker College Center for Graduate Studies
- Baker College of Allen Park
- Baker College of Auburn Hills
- Baker College of Cadillac
- Baker College of Clinton Township
- Baker College of Flint
- Baker College of Jackson
- Baker College of Muskegon
- Baker College of Owosso
- Baker College of Port Huron
- Bay de Noc Community College
- Bay Mills Community College
- Calvin College
- Central Michigan University
- Cleary University
- College for Creative Studies
- Compass College of Cinematic Arts
- Concordia University Ann Arbor
- Cornerstone University
- Davenport University
- Delta College
- DeVry University Michigan
- Eastern Michigan University
- Ferris State University
- Finlandia University
- Glen Oaks Community College
- Gogebic Community College
- Grace Bible College
- Grand Rapids Community College
- Grand Valley State University
- Great Lakes Christian College
- Henry Ford Community College
- Hope College
- International Academy of Design and Technology Troy
- ITT Technical Institute Canton
- ITT Technical Institute Dearborn
- ITT Technical Institute Swartz Creek
- ITT Technical Institute Troy
- ITT Technical Institute Wyoming
- Jackson Community College
- Kalamazoo College
- Kalamazoo Valley Community College
- Kellogg Community College
- Kettering University
- Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College
- Kirtland Community College
- Kuyper College
- Lake Michigan College
- Lake Superior State University
- Lansing Community College
- Lawrence Technological University
- Macomb Community College
- Madonna University
- Marygrove College
- Michigan Jewish Institute
- Michigan State University
- Michigan Technological University
- Mid Michigan Community College
- Monroe County Community College
- Montcalm Community College
- Mott Community College
- Muskegon Community College
- North Central Michigan College
- Northern Michigan University
- Northwestern Michigan College
- Northwood University Michigan
- Oakland Community College
- Oakland University
- Olivet College
- Rochester College
- Sacred Heart Major Seminary
- Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College
- Saginaw Valley State University
- Sanford Brown College Dearborn
- Sanford Brown College Grand Rapids
- Schoolcraft College
- Siena Heights University
- South University Novi
- Southwestern Michigan College
- Spring Arbor University
- St Clair County Community College
- The Art Institute of Michigan
- University of Detroit Mercy
- University of Michigan Ann Arbor
- University of Michigan Dearborn
- University of Michigan Flint
- University of Phoenix Metro Detroit Campus
- University of Phoenix West Michigan Campus
- Washtenaw Community College
- Wayne County Community College District
- Wayne State University
- West Shore Community College
- Western Michigan University
- Yeshiva Gedolah of Greater Detroit
It is critical to make certain the college sexual misconduct investigation at your Michigan school is handled properly and that the accused student's interests are protected from as early as possible during the sexual misconduct investigative process. One major reason is because even at colleges and universities where a finding of responsibility for sexual misconduct charges is made at a hearing, the investigation will set the stage for what the hearing panel is provided prior to a hearing (and what the hearing panel will in large part rely on at a hearing), and at schools where the finding of responsibility is made solely through the investigative process, what takes place during the investigation itself will determine whether the accused is found responsible or not responsible for college sexual misconduct charges.
Unfortunately, some students, families, and college employees make the mistake of not taking the necessary precautions as soon as possible when accused of sexual misconduct at college. Some people will mistakenly believe that if they "just explain what happened," their college or university will be fair and impartial and will arrive at the truth. In a perfect world this may be the case, but in a perfect world, sexual misconduct cases would not exist.
Fighting passionately for the future of his clients at universities and colleges throughout the nation for many years, Joseph D. Lento knows how important it is to mount the strongest defense because he understands that an accused's academic and professional future is on the line. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph Lento is a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted as an attorney pro hac vice in state and federal court if needed when representing clients nationwide, and serves as a college sexual misconduct advisor to students and others in academia facing sexual misconduct investigations and Title IX disciplinary cases in Michigan and throughout the nation. Make certain your or your student's interests are protected - Contact National College Sexual Misconduct Attorney Joseph D. Lento today at 888-535-3686 or by completing our online form.