If you've been charged with sexual misconduct by your university, you probably have a lot of questions. Will I have a chance to defend myself? What rights do I have? What happens if I'm found to be responsible?
The answers aren't always straightforward. For instance, your specific rights may depend on how your school chooses to investigate you.
This is a good place to start if you're looking for answers, but you need to know that these cases can be extraordinarily complex, so much so that you can't hope to handle one all on your own. There are just too many possibilities and too many subtle distinctions in your school's policy.
So, take the time to look through the information below. Then, contact an attorney who specializes in university misconduct cases, someone who can help you navigate through the process at CUNY Baruch, someone who can protect your rights.
Part of the reason sexual misconduct cases are so tricky is because most schools, including CUNY Baruch, use not one but two different processes for investigating allegations.
The first of these processes is related to the federal government's Title IX statute. This law was originally passed in 1972 and aimed at eliminating sexual discrimination and harassment on college campuses. It set forth a number of guidelines for investigating and prosecuting accusations, and for many years schools used these guidelines almost exclusively when dealing with sexual misconduct.
However, the law changed in 2020 when the Trump administration narrowed the definition of “discrimination” and limited schools' jurisdictional authority. In response, schools like CUNY Baruch developed alternative policies designed to address misconduct that Title IX no longer covered. The result? Two separate processes for dealing with allegations: Title IX processes and non-Title IX processes.
The good news is that, at CUNY Baruch, both processes provide several important due process rights, including the right to:
- Be investigated and adjudicated by unbiased individuals
- Be treated as “not responsible” until proven responsible
- Receive advance notice of all meetings
- Be accompanied by an advisor of your choice
- Review evidence in the case
In addition, both processes involve a thorough investigation into the allegations, including a chance for both sides to provide the investigator with evidence and suggest potential witnesses.
Title IX Cases
Students have additional rights under Title IX cases, such as the right to cross-examine witnesses. Here's a detailed look at how these cases work.
- Each case begins with a formal complaint which must be signed either by a complainant or the school's Title IX Coordinator.
- As soon as a complaint has been made, the Coordinator must notify the respondent about the specifics of the allegation. In addition, the Coordinator should apprise respondents of their rights, including their right to be presumed innocent and their right to choose an advisor, who may be an attorney.
- Next, the Coordinator appoints an investigator. The investigator meets with both parties, collects any physical evidence, and interviews witnesses. Students have the right to review all evidence. They also have the right to have an advisor with them at all meetings.
- Investigations can take up to 120 days. At the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator completes a summary report of their findings. Both sides have ten days to review this report and suggest revisions. The report is then forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator.
- Under Title IX, respondents are entitled to a live hearing. The Coordinator sets a date for this hearing and chooses a three-person committee to serve as decision-makers.
- Advisors represent students at the hearing. Both sides present evidence and witnesses. In addition, both sides have an opportunity to cross-examine one another.
- Once the hearing is complete, the committee deliberates and determines whether or not the respondent is responsible. In doing so, they use the “preponderance of evidence” standard, which demands they believe it is “more likely than not” a violation occurred.
- Additionally, the committee assigns any sanctions as necessary.
- Either side may appeal the hearing decision. However, they may only do so under very limited conditions:
- New evidence
- Procedural irregularities
- Conflicts of interest among the Coordinator, investigator, or committee members
- Penalty that is disproportionate to the offense
Non-Title IX Cases
The investigative portion of non-Title IX cases is similar to that of Title IX cases. Students have the same basic rights under both processes, such as the right to an advisor, the right to be presumed “not responsible,” and the right to review evidence in the case.
However, non-Title IX cases don't allow for a hearing. Once the investigation is complete, the Title IX Coordinator reviews the investigator's report and makes a determination as to the respondent's responsibility. This severely limits a respondent's ability to present a full and fair defense.
It is possible to appeal the Coordinator's decision. Appeals are heard by the school's Appeals Committee. However, once again, appeals may only be filed for very specific reasons. In addition, it's important to note that an appeal is not the same as a hearing. The Committee reviews all evidence in the case, but it does not invite witness testimony.
Joseph D. Lento, Title IX Sexual Misconduct Attorney
Sexual misconduct charges are among the most serious you can face as a college student. If you are found responsible, the minimum penalty will likely be suspension. More probably, you'll face expulsion. Expulsion bans you from enrolling at any other CUNY school. In addition, it includes a transcript notation that can make it hard for you to enroll anywhere.
While the procedures outlined here offer a useful place for beginning a defense, keep in mind that the full set of guidelines runs to some fifty-two dense pages. You need professional help.
Joseph D. Lento is an attorney who specializes in university misconduct cases in New York and across the nation. He built his career defending students just like you from both Title IX and non-Title IX accusations. He knows the law, but he also knows how schools operate. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are committed to protecting your rights. He's on your side, and he will fight to make sure you get the resolution you deserve.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct by your college or university, Joseph D. Lento can help. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or by using our automated online form.