Grand Valley State University, located in Allendale, Michigan, seeks to protect the health and safety of its over 23,000 students. One way of doing this is via thorough misconduct policies.
The goal of these policies is to prevent the abuse and discrimination of students, but they can also pave the way for false accusations and ruined lives.
If you are a GVSU student who was accused of sexual misconduct—or the parent of the accused—your first step in protecting your rights is to understand your university's sexual misconduct policies, including those mandated by the federal government.
A Brief Background on Title IX
Title IX, instated as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, is a civil rights law meant to prevent sex-based discrimination at educational institutes. This discrimination includes sexual misconduct, and Title IX is generally used to defend students from harassment or victimization by a classmate or faculty member.
Title IX Changes and University Reactions
While Title IX itself has never changed, its interpretation has been updated numerous times with different presidential administrations.
For example, the Obama administration tightened Title IX regulations, making it easier for the accuser to receive a favorable outcome during school hearings. Then, in 2020, the Trump administration reversed these changes, attempting to level the playing field for the accused instead of giving the accuser more power.
If you have been accused of a Title IX offense, the above changes don't mean you can breathe a sigh of relief. Many schools have updated their internal sexual misconduct policies to “beef up” Title IX requirements.
Schools that receive any type of federal funding—GVSU included—will lose that money if they are found to have breached Title IX. Thus, schools are highly motivated to adhere to Title IX. Additionally, mounting societal pressure to hold sexual abusers accountable has made many schools rush to punish the accused without giving them a fair chance to defend themselves.
It's usually in the institute's best interest—whether financially or to preserve their reputation—to act quickly and hold those accused of sexual misconduct responsible. This process can mean ignoring due process and violating student rights.
Grand Valley State University and Title IX
GVSU is one of the aforementioned universities that have put other sexual misconduct policies in place beyond those required by Title IX.
Their policy states:
“GVSU is committed to providing an educational environment, a workplace, programs, and activities that are free from all forms of harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and sexual misconduct. This policy prohibits all forms of harassment and discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 2020 Title IX Regulations (34 CFR § 106), Section 304 of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and other applicable statutes, including the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, Michigan PA 453 of 1976.”
The policy also includes the following statement—verbiage that students accused of sexual misconduct should read closely:
“This policy prohibits a broad continuum of behaviors, some of which are not legally prohibited but which reflect GVSU's standards and expectations for a positive working and learning environment.”
This is why sexual misconduct cases get so complicated. Not only do the federal interpretations of Title IX change frequently, but schools are also free to “fill in the gaps” however they see fit.
One example from GVSU is that their sexual misconduct policy “is also applicable to off-campus conduct,”—which is completely opposite of the Trump administration's updates, which state that Title IX policies shall not apply to off-campus incidents.
Grand Valley State University's Sexual Misconduct Policy
GVSU defines sexual misconduct as “Engaging in any conduct that is considered sexual assault, stalking, intimate partner violence (dating/domestic violence), sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, or gender-based harassment.”
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Process and Grand Valley State University
GVSU has two different processes for sexual misconduct allegations—one if the behavior falls under Title IX and another if the behavior breaches its internal policies. If the university's Title IX Coordinator dismisses alleged misconduct because it does not meet Title IX requirements, GVSU can then pursue their second, less stringent, process.
The main difference between Process A (for Title IX offenses) and Process B (for school misconduct offenses) is that Process A requires a hearing for all parties to give their side of the story, while Process B only requires a hearing if the accused requests one.
Those accused can accept responsibility without a hearing—but this decision gives them no opportunity to defend themselves and does not mean repercussions will be lighter. For many schools, the baseline punishment is suspension. You may also face dismissal from GVSU.
If you are found responsible for sexual misconduct at GVSU, you have the right to appeal the decision. However, you may only appeal on the grounds of:
- New evidence
- Procedural error
- Conflict of interest
The appeal board will decide whether to grant your appeal, and their decision is final.
The Lasting Damages of Sexual Misconduct Allegations
Sexual misconduct allegations are no laughing matter. They have the power to destroy your reputation and educational progress, as well as affecting your ability to transfer schools or be granted internships and employment.
Even if you are found not responsible, allegations can haunt you for years and change the entire course of your future.
The stakes are high—you need a strong defense.
The Lento Law Firm Can Defend Your Rights
With your very future on the line, it's imperative that you understand Title IX, your school's policies, your rights, and due process.
This information is far beyond what most students and their parents can learn on their own. Attorney-Advisor Joseph D. Lento has years of experience in student defense and will ensure your rights are protected every step of the way.
You've worked hard to get where you are—don't let false allegations or misleading policies get in your way. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888-535-3686. You can also fill out our online form.