When you show up at college, you don't expect you'll have to face an accusation of sexual misconduct before you graduate. Unfortunately, these kinds of allegations are made every day on college campuses across the country. Young love can be beautiful, but it can also be volatile. Simple misunderstandings can escalate quickly, and it doesn't take much for one person in a relationship to decide they've been mistreated by the other. The next thing you know, campus police are knocking on your door at 3 AM.
If this should happen to you, you're likely to experience a chaotic mix of emotions, including confusion, anger, even depression. The first thing to do in such a situation is to take a deep breath. You aren't the first person to go through this experience, and you do have the tools to deal with it. The next thing to do is to find out as much as you can about how your school treats these kinds of allegations. When you know what you're up against, your chances of successfully defending yourself go up dramatically.
A Brief History of Title IX
The University of Missouri's justice system doesn't work like a court of law. In some ways, that's to your advantage: the school can't, for example, sentence you to prison time. In other ways, you're at a distinct disadvantage. For one thing, the university isn't required to protect your rights the way police detectives or prosecutors are. For another, campus justice can sometimes be far more confusing than a court of law.
Part of this confusion has to do with the history of sexual misconduct at educational institutions.
For a number of years, colleges and universities dealt with such cases largely through the federal government's Title IX law. Passed in 1972, Title IX prohibited sexual harassment and discrimination in any educational program that receives federal funds.
The law was well-intentioned. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, many college campuses were openly hostile towards women and minorities. Even so, Title IX wasn't without its problems. For one thing, by tying investigations and prosecutions to funding, the government gave schools an incentive to pursue allegations as zealously as they possibly could. That sometimes meant defendants' rights fell by the wayside.
Then in early 2020, the situation became far more complicated. The Trump administration, under the direction of education secretary Betsy DeVos, issued brand new Title IX guidelines. The administration's goal was to restore balance to the way schools conduct investigations and hearings, to give defendants a voice equal to that of accusers. The new rules limited university jurisdictions, narrowed the definition of sexual harassment, and restored some due process rights to defendants.
Most legal experts applauded the move. Most colleges and universities did not. They saw the new rules as a direct affront to their own authority and a threat to the positive work they had been doing for so many years in the name of women and minority rights.
The end result? Some schools actually sued to prevent the new Title IX from taking effect. Most schools looked for ways to skirt Title IX and keep their previous policies in place. Meanwhile, the Trump administration was replaced by the Biden administration, who have promised to rewrite the rules yet again.
Sexual Misconduct Policies at the University of Missouri
Sexual misconduct cases at the University of Missouri can take several different twists and turns.
- All cases begin with a formal complaint to the school's Title IX Coordinator.
- Once the Title IX office receives a complaint, the Equity Officer conducts a preliminary investigation and decides whether the complaint qualifies as a violation of school or federal policy.
- If the school decides to pursue the complaint, a trained investigator conducts a formal investigation.
- At this point, the case may proceed to one of three resolution processes: conflict resolution where a facilitator tries to mediate between both parties; an administrative resolution, where a single Title IX administrator decides the case; or a hearing panel resolution where a panel made up of faculty, staff, and administrators decides the case.
- Finally, students can appeal a verdict or the sanctions imposed on them by any of these arbiters, but only under very limited conditions. Those include new evidence or the demonstration of clear bias in the investigative process.
If a student is found responsible for the sexual misconduct, sanctions can also vary widely, from a warning, to removal from housing, to probation, suspension, and expulsion.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento Can Help
If the process for conducting sexual misconduct investigations at the University of Missouri seems complicated, that's because it is. Between new Title IX rules, student code of conduct procedures, and at least three different potential paths to case resolution, it can be difficult to know what's happening to you, let alone how to defend yourself properly.
You should also know that the university will not be on your side during this case. Their funding arguably depends on how hard they work to find you responsible. They do not have to find you guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” but must only determine that it is “more likely than not” that you committed the offense. What's more, if they deem you a “threat” to campus, they have the power to suspend you before the case is even tried.
Here's the good news: you are allowed to choose an advisor, and that advisor can be an attorney. Make that attorney Joseph D. Lento. Joseph D. Lento has years of experience serving as an advisor in just these kinds of cases. He knows Title IX law and is up to date on the law's most recent changes. He also knows how to deal with campus judicial systems. Joseph D. Lento is empathetic. He knows what you're going through, and he will stand beside you from the start of your case to its conclusion. Joseph D. Lento will fight on your side to make sure you get the rights you deserve.
For more information, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.