Of the many issues plaguing higher education, none of them are as contentious or interminable as campus sexual assault. Institutions continue to struggle with finding ways to successfully deter student-to-student sexual assault and protect survivors and the campus community, while simultaneously upholding the rights of everyone involved.
Title IX of the Education Amendments prevents federally funded colleges and universities from discriminating on the “basis of sex.” Its widespread application within institutions is a promising effort in the fight to combat sexual assault. But it's also opened a can of worms, prompting the investigation of colleges and universities that have failed to implement these processes correctly, and emanating more guidance that refines school processes to achieve full compliance with Title IX.
The Title IX resolution process leaves some room for flexibility for administrators. This opportunity for distinctive resolution processes among institutions - though minor - transformed what may have been intended to be a uniform system into a multifaceted one. In the era of the Trump administration, processes have become even more versatile, as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team substantially loosened the reins by eliminating deadlines and allowing schools the option to select their own evidentiary standards.
This is why it is imperative that students have a comprehensive understanding of the way their school resolves sexual misconduct complaints. Institutions are beginning to modify their processes due to this newfound leniency by implementing one of two types of models for student discipline in sexual misconduct cases: the “hearing model” or the “investigator model.” Each of these models means something different for students involved in complaints.
The hearing model is regarded as the traditional approach. It entails an investigation, often conducted by an independent party or firm hired by the school, followed by a hearing. A Title IX hearing resembles an administrative hearing, as there is a panel comprised of neutral decision-makers, sworn testimony, statements, fact-based findings, and the cross-examination of witnesses (with appropriate boundaries for alleged victims). The panel deliberates with all of this information in mind and comes up with a determination that will either assign “responsibility” to a respondent or rid them of charges.
The investigatory model is a newer approach to complaints that more institutions are adopting. Schools that implement this model skip the hearing process altogether. Instead, students facing discipline (known as respondents) receives notice of their charges, and the incident is investigated by a single person or an outside, independent firm. The investigation will give respondents and complainants (people who bring charges) an opportunity to share their account of an incident through an interview.
Of course, the equitability of each process for complainants and respondents is questioned in each of these models. Some people think the hearing model should be the only offered model because of its strong resemblance to actual criminal trials. While others believe the investigatory model should be solely legitimized because it leaves less room for bias.
But you can maximize your chances of success with either model if you gain an understanding of the ways your school has chosen to resolve Title IX matters. Knowing the ins and outs of your school's selected model will give students a good idea of how to prepare for success in these situations. Seeking an attorney will also be beneficial in making sure that your rights aren't disregarded in these processes.
Nationwide Title IX Advisor
The only way to make sure your voice is heard and your rights are upheld is to retain a student defense attorney. National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skill, experience, and expertise to help you preserve your entitled rights under Title IX and your school's policy. For a case evaluation or more information about his representation, contact him online or give him a call at 888-535-3686 today.