One of the worst mistakes a college can make when adjudicating sexual misconduct cases is overlooking the importance of garnering a fair panel. The service to campus that these members provide is important, and their actions will ultimately determine if a case was resolved with integrity. With the alarming numbers of lawsuits alleging discrimination and impartiality, schools are beginning to realize that not just anyone can sit in on a panel. This is why they've begun to make efforts to find the right people to maximize its effectiveness. These small changes made in the selection of a panel have made a drastic difference in hearing results:
It is crucial to ensure that panel members do not have actual or perceived biases. This shouldn't solely be a concern because of the binds enforced by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (DOE-OCR) or related legislation and regulations, minimizing bias is the fair and just thing to do. Bias can be covert and explicit.
For example, if a case involves a student from the swim team, and the swim coach is placed on a panel, the coach couldn't help but exhibit actual bias in the case. Perceived bias, however, is more tricky. It is identified based on the perception of the parties involved in a hearing rather than the panel member. A panel member may believe that they are being totally objective in a case, but prior interactions with the parties involved, people they may know, or their campus position may validate a perceived bias for complainant or respondent parties.
All panel members are required to keep the identities of all the parties involved in sexual misconduct cases confidential. Students who work for the school newspaper, for example, may not be the best choice for a panel member. When information is leaked, it significantly affects the dynamics of a case.
Representation of various perspectives pertaining to campus life, cultural experiences, and other factors is invaluable in Title IX hearings. A lack of diversity is indicative of a lack of integrity in these cases. For example, a panel member may be properly equipped to sufficiently assess and weigh evidence, but they have little to no understanding of the practices and lifestyle of those in Greek Life, for example. This is why panels should be comprised of people of different races, ethnicities, genders, and community positions with the school. Colleges are attempting to elect more than the typical faculty representative with limited insight.
Choosing panel members who are willing to serve
There is much more to serving on a Title IX hearing panel than meets the eye. Most people expect to experience a certain level of emotional labor when mitigating these cases, but they aren't completely prepared for the complicated, intense, and oftentimes difficult aspects of this position. A panel member is tasked with having to listen to evidence that involves detailed accounts of sexual encounters.
Some people join the panel with the motive of making a difference on their campus. Although they have positive intentions, they soon realize that they aren't willing to consistently subject themselves to such emotional discomfort. Sexual misconduct cases aren't black and white, and many panel members find themselves conflicted. Panel members should also remember that they're putting themselves at risk of being sued if a student were to allege discrimination or similar claims.
Title IX Attorney Helping Clients Nationwide
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.