Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Defense at the University of Illinois at Chicago

It is hard to imagine anything more devastating for a young student than an unwarranted accusation of sexual misconduct. College procedures are highly sophisticated, like courts of law in their own right, and the stakes are extremely high. It is especially tough trying to navigate school policy while emotions are running high. The stigma against those accused can be considerable on a college campus, and unfortunately, the burden of proof can fall more on them. For this reason, it is extremely important that you understand your school's dual grievance process for both Title IX and non-Title IX cases and secure an experienced attorney-advisor to have at your side.

How Is Title IX Enforced at Illinois Schools?

Schools have historically processed campus sexual misconduct under Title IX. This is a federal law protecting students nationwide from sexual discrimination in educational institutions. Title IX applies in all the schools and colleges across the country that receive federal funding. The law itself does not change, however, the Department of Education issues federal guidance on the scope and implementation of Title IX. This guidance can vary widely depending on what Government is in power.

Under the Obama administration, a very broad scope of sexual harassment was prohibited under Title IX. This expansion of Title IX brought about sweeping cultural change on college campuses, sometimes creating a hostile environment for those accused. Changes brought in under the Trump Government narrowed the definition of sexual harassment and brought in more due process for the accused.

However, many schools in Illinois have responded in many cases by filling in the gap left by the restricted Title IX by expanding the scope of their student codes of conduct. The University of Illinois at Chicago is one of many schools that have not only a federally compliant Title IX grievance process but also a second disciplinary process for cases that do not fall under Title IX.

The complexity of this dual system makes it all the more important that you have a knowledgeable attorney-advisor to help keep the school accountable to its own rules and protect your right to due process.

What Counts as Sexual Misconduct at the University of Illinois at Chicago?

The University of Illinois at Chicago has a sexual misconduct policy designed to prevent “Title IX Sexual Harassment, hostile environment harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual violence, or sexual exploitation.”

Title IX Sexual Harassment is defined as “unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to UIC's education program or activity.”

What Is the Sexual Misconduct Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago?

The Title IX Office at the University of Illinois will investigate sexual misconduct claims filed against any member of the community.

The UIC sexual misconduct policy covers Title IX offenses but prohibits further conduct as well.

The school has to discipline Title IX offenses with the specific Title IX grievance process. This affords a certain level of due process for the accused. The due process is slightly less for the school's general sexual misconduct grievance process.

What Is the Investigatory Procedure for Title IX Sexual Harassment?

For all reports or complaints alleging “Title IX Sexual Harassment,” UIC will use their Title IV grievance procedure.

This disciplinary process is triggered when the Title IX Coordinator receives a formal complaint. If the complaint does not meet the requirements, the Title IX coordinator will dismiss the complaint. If not, the Title IX Coordinator will provide written notice to both parties.

  • Interview of Complainant and Respondent
  • Interviews of Witnesses and Collection of Relevant Information
  • Review of Investigative Report and Evidence
  • Hearing

Both parties may have an advisor of their choice, who can be an attorney. A student's advisor can inspect and review evidence obtained during the investigation and will lead the cross-examination for the student during the hearing.

What Happens During the Hearing?

According to the school's policy, “The Title IX Coordinator will identify the hearing officer(s) for the Title IX hearing. The hearing officer(s) will not be the same person(s) as the Title IX Coordinator or the investigator(s).”

  • Introduction/Reading of Allegations
  • Opening Statements
  • Presentation of Investigative Report
  • Presentation of Evidence and Cross-Examination
  • Findings

Any cross-examination of a witness is required to be “conducted directly, orally, and in real-time by the other party's advisor.”

What Is the Investigatory Procedure for Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct?

There are plenty of things that might not fall under Title IX, but that the university will still prosecute under its Sexual Misconduct Grievance Process.

  • Interviews of Witnesses and Collection of Relevant Information
  • Review of Evidence
  • Investigator Recommendation

The main difference between the general sexual misconduct process and the Title IX grievance process is that according to federal guidance, the school must allow a live hearing with cross-examination in Title IX cases. This due process is not afforded in non-Title IX cases.

In non-Title IX sexual misconduct cases, there is an investigation culminating in a finding but no hearing to determine guilt. Students still have the opportunity to put forward their case to the investigator, but they will not have an opportunity for their advisor to cross-examine their accuser and any witnesses.

After the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator will issue a written recommendation. They will use the same standard of evidence to determine responsibility as in Title IX cases, the preponderance of evidence standard.

What Are the Consequences of Sexual Misconduct at the University of Illinois at Chicago?

The consequences of sexual misconduct can be wide-ranging. According to the UIC sexual misconduct policy, the sanctions you face could include:

  • Warning
  • No-contact directive
  • Restitution
  • Loss of privileges
  • Restriction or loss of computing privileges
  • University probation
  • Community service hours
  • Educational experience or project
  • Class removal or reassignment
  • Residence hall probation, reassignment, contract suspension, or termination
  • Withholding degree
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion

Beyond these immediate sanctions, a record of sexual misconduct can have far-reaching consequences for your future.

How Can I Appeal?

You may appeal a determination on any of the following bases:

  • Procedural irregularity
  • New evidence that could affect the outcome of the matter
  • The Title IX Coordinator, investigator, or hearing officers had a conflict of interest or bias that affected the outcome of the matter

In any case, the appeal officer is always different from whoever was previously involved. The appeal officer will notify the parties in writing, after which point both sides will have the chance to submit a written statement. The appeal officer will review the case and issue a written decision within thirty days. They will provide the result of the appeal and the rationale for the result.

How Can Attorney Joseph D. Lento Help?

With your reputation, your education, and your prospects at stake, you want the most experienced college sexual misconduct advisor you can have at your side. Attorney Joseph D. Lentohas successfully defended hundreds of students all across the nation in their Title IX and sexual misconduct cases. He will defend your right to due process and work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome. Contact us to arrange a consultation. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.

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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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