You have worked so hard to get into college at the University of Mississippi, and to have that dream on the brink of disappearance because of a sexual misconduct allegation can feel extremely overwhelming. You may not know what to expect next or where you can turn to for help. But don't fret, the Lento Law Firm is here to help. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have years of experience helping students across the country who are accused of sexual misconduct, or other Title IX violation, preserve not only their place on campus but their reputation as well. If you or someone you love has been accused of sexual misconduct, call the Lento Law Firm today.
What is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal regulation that creates a specific standard that all federally funded colleges and universities must uphold when managing sexual discrimination and sexual violence on their campus. These standards include:
- Clear and immediate procedures for sexual misconduct allegations
- Designated personnel to handle instances of sexual violence
- In Title IX hearings, the standard of evidence should be “more likely than not” or “preponderance of evidence”
- Both parties involved should have access to the same procedures – advisors, appeals, and presentation of the evidence
- Retaliation protection
The University of Mississippi is dedicated to developing an academic environment that prohibits sex-based discrimination, sexual harassment, and other unwelcome sexual conduct and interpersonal violence. As such, they follow strict guidelines that provide an equitable, effective, and fair process for investigation and adjudicating formal complaints so that the faculty, staff, and students' civil and constitutional rights are upheld.
What Happens After an Allegation of Sexual Misconduct at the University of Mississippi?
The university follows two distinct paths when an allegation of sexual misconduct is made. If the allegation falls under Title IX, the Title IX Investigator will be made aware and promptly begin an investigation into the accusation, notifying the accused student as well. The Title IX Investigator will review the complaint and interview both the complainant and the accused student. At this point, both parties can provide the Title IX Investigator with fact and expert witnesses, as well as inculpatory and exculpatory evidence.
Either party will be allowed to inspect the witnesses and evidence of the other and present those findings to the Title IX Investigator. Having an attorney-advisor to help navigate these proceedings is incredibly important. They will help you find relevant evidence and witnesses to advocate on your behalf, preventing you from being ill-prepared.
Once the Title IX Investigator has reviewed all the evidence and materials, they will deliver the investigative report to the parties. This report will include the summary of the investigation and all relevant documents submitted by the parties, as well as their decision on the matter. The Title IX Investigator may decide that the matter be referred to a formal hearing.
If the Title IX Investigator believes a formal hearing is necessary, they will notify all parties and their advisors. The hearing process will require an Independent Decision Maker to preside over the matter. Both parties will have an opportunity to speak, present relevant evidence, and question witnesses. They will also have a chance to reply to the other side's statements and cross-examine their witnesses. At the conclusion of the proceedings, the Independent Decision Maker will decide if, by a preponderance of the evidence, the accused student did, in fact, commit a Title IX violation and what sanctions should be imposed.
Informal Resolution Process
Some students may opt for mediation instead of a formal hearing. This informal resolution process will not include a full investigation or a formal adjudication of the complainant's allegations. During the informal resolution process, the parties will have the opportunity to discuss the incidence and come to a decision together. This process is not available for university employees accused of sexually harassing a student, and either party can remove themselves from the process at any time. If they decide not to continue, the matter will be referred to the formal hearing process.
Now, if the conduct does not fall within the scope of Title IX, but is some other act of sexual misconduct, the Assistant Director of Equal Opportunity & Regulatory Compliance (EORC) will follow the same steps as the Title IX Investigator, including the option for an informal resolution process and the hearing proceedings. Additionally, the sanctions imposed may vary but might include an oral or written reprimand, community service, loss of privileges on campus, suspension, expulsion, or some combination thereof.
Appealing a Sexual Misconduct or Title IX Violation Decision
Appeals for other acts of sexual misconduct, or a Title IX violation can be made within ten business days of receiving the determination. The appeals can only be made on the following bases:
- Procedural irregularity that affected the outcome
- New evidence is present now that was not reasonably present before that could affect the outcome
- The Title IX Coordinator, Assistant Director of EORC, Investigator(s), or the Independent Decision Maker had a conflict of interest or bias that affected the outcome of the matter
- The grievance process described was not followed
- The conduct alleged doesn't fall within the university's jurisdiction
- The sanctions imposed were not appropriate
The Appellate Consideration Board will review the appeal, and whatever determination they make cannot be appealed further.
How an Attorney-Advisor Can Help
Attorney-advisors work on your behalf to help not only create a strategic defense that will ensure the best possible outcome for your case but also endeavor to mitigate any negative consequences you might experience just by being accused. For instance, if you are found not responsible, the damage to your reputation may already be done. Teachers and students might have made a decision about who you are as a person, and those rumors can be hard to move on from. Additionally, if you are found responsible for sexual misconduct, the university will apply harsher sanctions, like suspension or expulsion, that will need to be discussed on every future graduate school application. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm aim to create strategic defenses that will avoid these potential consequences. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.