Sexual Misconduct Allegations at Western Carolina University

If you're a student who's been charged with sexual misconduct, you probably have a lot of questions. What will the investigation look like? Will you have a chance to defend yourself? What sort of punishments might you face if you're found “responsible” (guilty)?

You'll find answers to a lot of your questions here. The first thing you need to know, though, is that you shouldn't try to handle this situation all on your own. A sexual misconduct defense is a complicated matter, and it's no exaggeration to say that your entire future is at stake. The minimum sanction in these cases is usually suspension. The more probable outcome is expulsion. Often, expulsion comes with a transcript notation about the nature of your offense, a notation that can prevent you from enrolling at other schools.

The good news is, you don't have to handle this situation all on your own. At Western Carolina University, you're entitled to choose an advisor to help you defend yourself. Even better, that advisor can be an attorney. So, in addition to a description of what you can expect from a sexual misconduct investigation and hearing, you'll also find important information below about how to get help navigating these often-difficult procedures.

Title IX and Sexual Misconduct

Most sexual misconduct cases, including those at Western Carolina University, are a matter of federal law. Title IX prohibits all forms of sexual discrimination and harassment on college campuses and requires schools to take all allegations seriously. In addition, the law prescribes exactly how universities must conduct investigations and adjudications.

Western Carolina University's interpretation of these Title IX guidelines is contained in University Policy 129. This should be your bible in preparing your defense. Here's a brief overview of what it has to say.

  • WCU has a designated Title IX Coordinator. Anyone at the school may report you if they suspect you've committed a sexually-based offense. However, only a Complainant (alleged victim) or the Coordinator may sign a formal complaint against you.
  • If you've been charged with misconduct, you're entitled to written notification of those charges. That notification should include the name of the Complainant as well as details about the allegation.
  • In addition to Notice of the Charges, Title IX grants you several other important rights. These include
    • The right to be treated equally to the Complainant in all matters
    • The right to be presumed “Not Responsible” (innocent)
    • The right to an advisor, who may be an attorney
    • The right to review all evidence in the case
    • The right to advanced notice of any and all meetings or proceedings
    • The right to Investigators and Decision Makers who are free of bias
  • Once they've issued a notice of the charges, the Coordinator appoints an Investigator.
  • At WCU, investigations may take up to thirty days. During this time, the Investigator interviews both sides in the case, collects any physical evidence, and talks with any witnesses.
  • At the conclusion of the investigation, Investigators write a full, unbiased summary of their findings. Both sides then have ten days in which to review this document and suggest any revisions.
  • The final Investigative Report is then forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator, who sets a time and date for a live hearing before the school's Title IX Hearing Board.
  • At the hearing, both sides present their cases. This includes making arguments, presenting evidence, and calling witnesses. In addition, both sides may—through your advisors—cross-examine one another and any other witnesses against you.
  • The last stage of the hearing is deliberation by the Board. Decisions are based on majority opinion. In addition, board members must apply the “Preponderance of Evidence” legal standard in making their decisions. According to this standard, they must find you Responsible if they are more than fifty percent convinced of your guilt.
  • Both sides have the right to appeal the Board's final decision. Appeals must be filed within seven business days, though. In addition, grounds for appeal are strictly limited to
    • Procedural irregularity
    • New evidence that has a bearing on the outcome
    • Conflict of interest on the part of a Title IX official

Non-Title IX Cases

Title IX changed significantly in 2020, with the adoption of what is known as the Final Rule, a set of guidelines that dictate exactly how schools should address allegations. One of the more significant changes was that off-campus and overseas incidents are no longer subject to Title IX enforcement. Many schools, including Western Carolina University, objected to this change, feeling it might allow some misconduct to simply slip through the cracks. In response, these schools passed new policies designed to deal with these so-called “Non-Title IX” offenses.

WCU elected to incorporate these cases into its general Student Code of Conduct. For the most part, the judicial procedures outlined there are very similar to those used in Title IX cases. For example, you are still entitled to legal representation. You are still treated as Not Responsible until proven Responsible. You're also still subject to both an investigation and a hearing.

There are subtle differences between Title IX and non-Title IX procedures. For instance, the investigation and hearing are conducted by entirely different university personnel. Most of these differences have no real impact on how cases work, though, or on case outcomes.

How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?

Whatever kind of sexual misconduct charges you're facing, defending yourself is an uphill battle. You have some important rights, but it's not always easy to know how to use these effectively. You may know you're innocent but proving that isn't as simple as just saying it. You have to collect evidence, organize your arguments, and ask the right questions of witnesses.

You can be sure the Complainant will have an attorney. The school may very well have one as well. You need one, too, if you want to give yourself the best possible chance of successfully defending yourself.

Joseph D. Lento is what's known as a Title IX attorney. What does that mean? Joseph D. Lento built his career defending students just like you from sexual misconduct charges. He knows the law. He's studied the Title IX statute and is comfortable working under both Title IX and non-Title IX procedures. In addition, Joseph D. Lento knows how schools operate. He knows the tactics they use, and he has experience fighting those tactics. Most importantly, though, Joseph D. Lento is on your side. He understands what you're going through, and he'll do everything he can to make sure you're treated fairly and that you get the best possible resolution to your case.

If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to act. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.

Contact Us Today!

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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