Western Michigan University wants all university community members to help create a safe, welcoming, and respectful campus environment. Everyone should be free to learn, express themselves, and participate in the university's education programs and extracurricular activities without fear of discrimination or harassment.
To protect the rights of all community members, Western Michigan University has a sexual misconduct policy that applies to all students, faculty, and staff. Those who do not uphold the principles of safety and civility could face consequences. Students accused of sexual harassment may end up with a permanent mark on their transcript, having to suspend their studies for a semester, a year, or more, or may even be forced to withdraw from the university. Any such actions can put pursuing an education at substantial risk.
If you are a Western Michigan University student accused of violating the sexual and gender-based misconduct policy, contact a specialized student defense advisor for guidance.
Sexual Misconduct at Western Michigan University
The Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct Policy at Western Michigan University affirms the university's commitment to providing an environment free from discrimination, harassment, violence, and stalking. It has a list of “Covered Behaviors” that are considered violations of this policy and which can trigger a formal complaint, investigation, hearing, and potential disciplinary action. For information about how to handle reports of sexual and gender-based misconduct, the university has a separate policy document, the Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct Grievance Procedures and Program.
Western Michigan University's definition of sexual and gender-based misconduct is broader than the Title IX definition. Many colleges that have definitions that go beyond Title IX have two separate policies; one for Title IX and one for behavior that falls outside the Title IX scope. At Western Michigan University, however, there is only one policy, and it incorporates both Title IX and the university's expanded definition of sexual and gender-based misconduct.
What Counts as Sexual Misconduct at Western Michigan University?
Western Michigan University includes “Covered Behavior” in its Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct Policy, stating explicitly what is prohibited. This list includes both behavior prohibited by Title IX and the university's definition of sexual and gender-based misconduct:
- Sexual harassment
- Gender-based harassment
- Quid pro quo harassment
- Harm to others
- Intimate partner violence
- Non-consensual sexual contact
- Non-consensual sexual intercourse
- Sexual exploitation
How Western Michigan University Deals with Sexual Misconduct
At Western Michigan University, the Office of Institutional Equality (IE), together with the Title IX Coordinator, oversees the grievance process for reports of sexual and gender-based misconduct. The grievance procedure applies to both Title IX violations and “Covered Behavior” that falls outside the scope of Title IX. The process has five stages: Reporting and assessment, informal resolution, investigation, hearing, and appeals.
Reporting and Assessment
The Title IX Coordinator hears reports of suspected sexual or gender-based misconduct. Either the Title IX Coordinator or IE will assess the report and determine one of the following actions:
- Refer the report to the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) if it's not covered by the grievance policy
- File a formal complaint to pursue an informal resolution
- File a formal complaint to start an investigation
An informal resolution consists of alternative actions that do not include disciplinary action against the accused student (respondent). The university, respondent, and accuser (complainant) must all decide to use informal resolution. This option provides remedies such as safety measures and training. One of the parties can decide at any time to move to a formal resolution instead.
IE opens an investigation to gather evidence and speak to potential witnesses. Typically, an IE staff member conducts the investigation and, once they are done, provides a report. Both parties are allowed to review the report before it is finalized.
After the investigation, the university appoints a hearing officer to set a date for and preside over the hearing. Both parties are required to have an advisor at the hearing, whom they can choose themselves. During the hearing, each party's advisor can pose questions to the investigator and any person that submitted statements or evidence. The hearing officer makes a decision once the hearing is over and may apply sanctions if there is a determination of responsibility.
Either party can appeal a hearing decision within five days of receiving the decision. An interdisciplinary Appeals Committee will review and decide appeals. This committee may either uphold the findings, reverse a finding of responsibility for all charges, require that IE reopen the investigation.
Parties may also appeal the imposed sanctions within five days of receiving notice of the hearing outcome. Students who wish to appeal sanctions must submit a written appeal to the Vice President of Student Affairs. Each party has the chance to review and respond to the other party's appeal. The Vice President of Student Affairs appoints a designee to review the appeal of sanctions, and their decision is final.
What's at Stake for Students Found Responsible for Sexual Misconduct?
Students may face any one or more of the following sanctions if they are found responsible for sexual or gender-based misconduct:
- Behavior contract
- Discretionary sanctions
- Loss of privileges
- Revocation of degree
- Withholding degree
How a Student Defense Attorney-Advisor Can Help
When you're accused of sexual misconduct at Western Michigan University, you may feel overwhelmed by the procedures. With an experienced advisor by your side through each step of the process, you have a better chance of defending yourself and ensuring your university protects your rights.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped hundreds of college students across the country with sexual misconduct and Title IX accusations and he can help you also. Contact the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888-535-3686.