Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Defense at the University of Iowa

If you or a loved one is facing accusations of sexual misconduct at the University of Iowa, it is normal to feel overwhelmed. A determination of sexual misconduct can be devastating for a student and for their future. The stakes are high, and the stigma is considerable. In addition, the political seesawing on Title IX guidance in recent years has led to frequent policy changes. This makes it harder than ever to navigate school disciplinary processes. It is important to familiarize yourself with your school's grievance process for both Title IX and non-Title IX cases and to select your attorney-advisor carefully. Only then can you put your best defense forward and hold your school to account for the due process it owes you.

How Does Title IX Come Into It?

Historically schools have processed sexual misconduct allegations under Title IX proceedings. The federal law Title IX protects students from sexual discrimination in educational settings. All schools and colleges which receive federal funding must comply with Title IX. Schools have to abide by up-to-date guidance issued by the Department of Education specifying what conduct is prohibited and with what due process to investigate.

In recent years the question of how to handle sexual misconduct on campus has been hotly debated. Title IX guidance changed dramatically under the Obama and Trump administrations. The remit of Title IX was expanded dramatically by Obama's government and then narrowed by Betsy DeVos in the Trump administration, with greater due process ushered in for the accused.

Since then, the picture has become more complicated. Betsy DeVos' changes to Title IX did little to reverse the culture on campuses of being tough on the accused. Schools feel pressure from parents, students, and donors to make a show of zero-tolerance policies. As the remit of Title IX was rolled back, schools bolstered their own school policies to tackle offenses that would have formerly been covered by Title IX. Today, in many schools across the country, including the University of Iowa, students can face two different adjudication procedures at the same time.

What is the Sexual Misconduct Policy at the University of Iowa?

The University of Iowa has a sexual misconduct policy, detailed in the Operations Manual, that covers all types of sexual misconduct allegations made against members of the university community. “Sexual misconduct” is a broad term that includes any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature committed without consent or using force, intimidation, coercion, or manipulation.

The Title IX Coordinator oversees all resolutions under this policy and these procedures. The Title IX Coordinator reviews all formal complaints and then, based on the particular allegations, pursues a resolution through Process A, Process B, or for less severe cases, with an alternative resolution.

With the scope of Title IX narrowed by this change in the Department of Education's guidance, the University of Iowa revised its sexual misconduct policy to provide two different grievance procedures: process A and process B. Process A is a formal grievance process that includes an investigation and live hearing. This is the due process required for Title IX investigations. Cases that come under the bracket of Title IX are dealt with this way. According to federal guidance, cases so serious as to come under Title IX must have a live hearing with direct cross-examination of both sides and of witnesses. Your school must give you this chance to formally defend yourself.

Other cases are dealt with by process B, a second formal grievance process that includes findings and a determination of responsibility but not a live hearing. The school can choose to handle cases that do not fall under the remit of Title IX in this way. It is possible to have concurrent procedures for multiple offenses.

What Is the Investigatory Procedure for Title IX Sexual Harassment?

For all reports or complaints alleging Title IX Sexual Harassment, the University of Iowa will use Process A.

Process A begins when someone lodges a formal complaint against you to the school's Title IX coordinator. The school can dismiss complaints if they do not allege prohibited conduct.

  • Formal Notice – If the allegation against you is prohibited under school policy, the Title IX coordinator will provide notice to you and to the other side.
  • Investigation – The school will investigate the allegation by interviewing both sides and relevant witnesses and collecting information about the alleged incident.
  • Investigation report – The investigator will release their investigation report with a summary of their findings. The school will send the report to both sides at the same time. If the case is not dismissed at this stage, it will proceed to a hearing.
  • Hearing – The school will hold a hearing which will take place in real-time with both parties present. Each side will have the opportunity to make formal statements, and each side can have their advisor directly cross-examine the other side and any witnesses in real-time.
  • Notice of outcome – Equipped with the investigator report and adjudicator report from the hearing, the school will make a determination as to whether or not you violated school policy and enforce any sanctions.

The standard of evidence used to determine whether you violated school policy is the preponderance of evidence, which means the evidence suggests that it is more likely than not that you are responsible.

Your chosen advisor, who can be an attorney, is at your side throughout this process.

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

For all reports or complaints alleging sexual misconduct that are outside the scope of Title IX Sexual Harassment, the University of Iowa will use Process B.

In complaints resolved through Process B, investigators also make findings and the determination of whether or not the policy has been violated. The difference from process A is that they do so without a live hearing. Instead, the investigation proceeds as follows:

  • Formal Notice
  • Investigation
  • Investigation report
  • Investigator recommendation and sanctions

This process applies in cases where the alleged behavior falls outside the definition of sexual harassment as defined by Title IX regulation but nonetheless meets the definition of prohibited behavior within the school's Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct.

The due process required by federal law in Title IX investigations is a live hearing with cross-examination, but the school will only do this in cases in which they must. Other infractions will be dealt with without a hearing. In these cases, students will not have an opportunity for their advisor to cross-examine their accuser and any witnesses.

However, students going through Process B will still have the opportunity to put forward their case to the investigator and have their advisor support their defense.

What Are the Consequences of Sexual Misconduct at the University of Iowa?

While an investigation is ongoing, the school might put emergency or interim measures in place so that you do not come into contact with your accuser.

If the school has determined that you violated its sexual misconduct policy, the consequences can be wide-ranging. Sanctions include:

  • Warning
  • Probation
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion
  • Withholding diploma
  • Building or facility ban
  • Academic restriction
  • Organizational sanctions, including loss of privileges
  • Any other sanctions the University deems appropriate.

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

How Can I Appeal?

If you wish to challenge the school's decision, you must make a request to appeal in writing to the Title IX Coordinator within five days of receiving the notice of outcome.

Appeals are limited to the following grounds:

  • Procedural irregularity
  • New evidence that was not reasonably available at the time the determination was made
  • Conflict of interest or bias that affected the outcome
  • The decision as to responsibility or sanction “was not supported by substantial evidence when viewed as a whole.”

An appeal is not a full re-hearing. Instead, an appeal officer will review all of the records and written evidence.

Any sanctions are stayed while the appeal officer reviews the request for appeal, case file, and supporting evidence. They will come to a decision within ten days.

The appeal officer may choose to uphold or reverse a determination and/or any sanctions. Their decision is final.

Possible appeal outcomes include:

  • Reversing the decision on responsibility
  • Reversing or modifying disciplinary sanctions
  • Remanding the matter back to investigation and hearing to remedy procedural errors

How Can Attorney Joseph D. Lento Help?

Attorney Joseph D. Lentohas defended hundreds of students all across the nation in Title IX and sexual misconduct cases. He will fight in your corner, aggressively defending your rights and striving for the best possible outcome for you. Contact us to arrange a consultation. Call 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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