Defense for Sexual Misconduct Accusations at Western Washington University

Western Washington University (WWU) seeks to provide a university environment where everyone is free from sexual harassment. To this end, the university prohibits sex discrimination, including sexual assault. WWU's policies and programs aim to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and therefore allow the university to take disciplinary actions against students accused of sexual misconduct.

Sexual harassment is a serious matter at WWU, and if you are a student facing an accusation, you should know that there is a lot at stake. You could potentially be expelled from the university if you are found responsible for sexual misconduct. If you find yourself in this situation, you should consider consulting with a specialized student defense attorney-advisor.

Title IX and Sexual Misconduct at WWU

Like all educational institutions that receive federal funding, WWU must abide by federal Title IX rules. The university has two policies that address Title IX and sexual misconduct:

The Student Conduct Code at WWU is actually governed by state law, Washington Administration Code (WAC) Title 516. Various sections of the code cover sexual misconduct, as well as the process for dealing with alleged sexual misconduct violations:

The policies for dealing with suspected sexual misconduct violations are the same policies that cover general student misconduct. The only major difference is that the Title IX Coordinator and Title IX office get involved when it's a potential case of sexual misconduct.

Although it may be difficult to make sense of WWU's sexual misconduct policies, students have a responsibility to uphold them. Ignorance or misunderstanding of the policies are not, unfortunately, a sufficient defense if accused of sexual harassment.

What Counts as Sexual Misconduct at WWU?

WAC 516-21-180 defines sexual misconduct. In this section of the Student Conduct Code, students can find a list of actions that are prohibited and, therefore, subject to disciplinary action:

  • Nonconsensual sexual contact
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Sexual violence
  • Sexual assault
  • Dating violence
  • Domestic violence
  • Stalking
  • Any type of sexual misconduct or gender-based discrimination

In WAC 516-21-270, there is a definition of what is considered “Title IX sexual harassment.” Complaints of these behaviors would fall under Title IX and would therefore be the responsibility of the Title IX Coordinator to investigate:

  • Quid pro quo harassment
  • Hostile environment harassment
  • Domestic violence
  • Dating violence
  • Stalking
  • Sexual assault
  • Nonconsensual sexual intercourse
  • Nonconsensual sexual contact
  • Incest
  • Statutory rape

How WWU Handles Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Violations

The process for dealing with alleged violations of the Student Conduct Code is in WAC-516-270 and goes through four phases.

Reporting

Anyone in the university community can submit a complaint about a code violation to the office of student life or the office of civil rights and Title IX compliance if it is alleged sexual harassment. The Title IX Coordinator or a designee reviews the complaint and decides to launch an investigation or dismiss the complaint.

Investigation

The Title IX Coordinator or designee conducts an investigation to determine if there was a code violation and, if there was, may impose a sanction. The investigation allows the Title IX office to gather information about the alleged incident by speaking to potential witnesses or looking for evidence. If the investigator decides to charge the student with a violation, they must set a meeting date with the student and provide three days' written notice.

Hearing

There is a meeting or hearing that takes place after the Title IX Coordinator charges the student with sexual misconduct. Both parties may be present at this hearing, and the Title IX Coordinator or another conduct officer will act as the sole decision-maker. During the hearing, both parties may present evidence, and the conduct officer must use the “preponderance of the evidence” standard to reach a decision. They can then also impose sanctions.

Appeals

If a student is found in violation of the Student Conduct Code, including for sexual misconduct, they may appeal the findings and/or the sanctions imposed. The accusing party may also request an appeal if they disagree with the findings or sanctions.

An appeal must have the proper basis for the dean of students to consider it:

  • Proceedings weren't conducted in conformity with prescribed procedures
  • Sanctions imposed are substantially disproportionate to the violation committed
  • Decision reached did not properly consider information presented
  • New information becomes available after the decision

The student must submit an appeal in writing to the dean of students within ten days of the original decision. If the appeal finding resulted in or may have resulted in suspension or expulsion, the matter must go before an appeals board. The decision of either the dean of students or appeals board is final.

Potential Sanctions for Students Responsible for Sexual Misconduct

Sanctions for violations of the Student Conduct Code are listed in WAC 516-21-230 and include:

  • Warning
  • Conditional status change
  • Loss of privileges
  • Restriction from contacting others
  • Educational activities
  • Assessment, counseling, or treatment programs
  • Restitution
  • Parental notification
  • Campus residence hall or apartment relocation
  • Termination of university residences agreement
  • Suspension from the university
  • Deferred suspension
  • Expulsion from the university

Work With a Student Defense Attorney-Advisor

The rules about sexual misconduct at WWU can seem complex, and if you are accused of violating them, you may feel overwhelmed. An attorney-advisor can guide you through each step of the process and prepare you for your meetings and hearings with administrators. You shouldn't have to go through this process on your own.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped college students with sexual misconduct issues across the country. If you want to protect the investment you've made in your college education, contact Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686.

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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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