The University of Rhode Island (URI) is a community of learners where respect and concern for the safety and well-being of everyone are required. To this end, URI tries to maintain a healthy, safe, and vibrant campus community where no one experiences gender inequality or sexual violence. Discrimination on the basis of sex or another other protected class, as well as sexual misconduct, is prohibited.
URI university administrators will not hesitate to launch investigations and adjudication procedures if they find out about possible sexual misconduct related to members of the URI community. If you have been accused of sexual harassment at URI, you should consider it a very serious matter.
At Lento Law Firm, we work to protect your rights and interests during a sexual misconduct allegation process. We've provided this information about sexual harassment at URI to help you better understand your situation.
College Sexual Misconduct and Title IX at URI
To understand URI's policies about sexual misconduct and how the university handles it, you should be familiar with three important documents:
- Student Handbook, “Gender and Sexual Based Harassment, Sexual Violence, Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, and Dating Violence” section
- Procedures for Policy on Sexual Misconduct (the university's Title IX policy)
The URI Student Handbook uses the Rhode Island Board of Higher Education's Council on Postsecondary Education Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence Policy as a governing document, and any violations are handled by the Student Conduct System (which is found in the Student Handbook as well). The Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence Policy from the Rhode Island Board of Higher Education defines what counts as sexual misconduct, but URI also has a Title IX policy.
The Procedures for Policy on Sexual Misconduct (URI's Title IX policy) complies with federal Title IX rules and defines sexual misconduct as well. Complaints of sexual harassment that do not fall within the scope of Title IX may be adjudicated under the Student Conduct System found in the URI Student Handbook.
What Counts as Sexual Misconduct at URI?
The following behaviors may lead URI to start an investigation and adjudication process under Title IX:
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual assault
- Dating violence
- Domestic violence
It's worth noting that the definition of sexual harassment according to the URI Student Handbook expands upon the Title IX definition to include sexual assault, acts of sexual violence, domestic and dating violence, and other coercive activity. Also, for incidents that occur off-campus, students have the ability to file a complaint under the Student Conduct System rather than the Title IX grievance process.
URI Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Complaint Process
The Title IX and sexual misconduct adjudication process at URI proceeds in five phases: filing a complaint, investigation, hearing, sanctions, appeals.
Filing a Complaint
The Title IX Coordinator receives formal complaints of Title XI violations from members of the URI community who believe they were victims of sexual harassment. In some cases, the Title IX Coordinator may file a complaint on someone else's behalf.
The university investigates the allegations made by the complainant (the person filing the complaint) against the respondent (the accused person). An investigator gathers evidence and information about the alleged incident by speaking to potential witnesses, the complainant, and the respondent themselves. The investigator produces a report based on their findings, and both parties are allowed to review it before it is finalized.
After the Title IX Coordinator receives the investigation report, they appoint a hearing officer and assemble a hearing panel. At the hearing, both parties may address the hearing officer directly and respond to questions. They can also present and cross-examine witnesses and submit evidence. Each party is allowed to have an advisor of their choosing with them during the hearing.
At any point during the Title IX complaint process, both parties may choose to have an informal resolution. Each side must agree to a facilitated resolution that will end the case without further adjudication.
Decision and Sanctions
Once the hearing is over, the hearing panel will determine if the respondent is responsible for a sexual misconduct violation or not. If yes, then the panel will also recommend disciplinary action.
After receiving the hearing panel's decisions, the parties may appeal. They have seven business days from the date they receive the decision to submit a written appeal to the university appeal board. If the appeal is accepted, the other party may write a written response. The appeal board then decides whether to grant the appeal, and the decision is final.
What's at Stake for Students Found Responsible for Sexual Harassment at URI
Students found responsible for sexual harassment under Title IX are subject to the full range of discipline, including but not limited to:
- Verbal reprimand
- Written reprimand
- Mandatory training
- Coaching or counseling
- Mandatory monitoring
- Partial or full probation
- Partial or full suspension
- Permanent separation from the institution
- Physical restriction from university property
- Cancellation of contracts
How Can a Student Defense Attorney-Advisor Help?
If you are accused of sexual harassment at URI, you might be feeling overwhelmed or unsure how to handle the formal disciplinary procedures. You shouldn't go through this process alone, especially if you're unfamiliar with it. Throughout the Title IX process at URI, you are allowed to have an advisor of your choosing with you. They can assist you during meetings and hearings but also outside of these formal meetings to coach you and assist with gathering evidence and tracking down witnesses. An advisor will help you craft answers to questions the hearing officer may ask you and provide general advice about how to conduct yourself with university staff.
Joseph D. Lento has helped students nationwide with sexual misconduct issues at their universities. If you are accused of sexual harassment at URI and think your future might be in jeopardy, contact Lento Law Firm by calling 888-535-3686.