Sexual Misconduct and Title IX – University of Massachusetts Amherst

If you've been accused of college sexual misconduct at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, chances are your case is already moving forward. You could be facing serious consequences, including suspension or expulsion from the university—and those sanctions are only the formal repercussions. A sexual misconduct allegation stays with you long after your hearing and sanction are over.

If graduate schools know that you violated your school's sexual misconduct or Title IX policy, they may hesitate to grant you admittance. If an employer sees your sexual misconduct offense, they might not offer you a job or internship. If you're expelled from UMass Amherst, you might have trouble enrolling in another university with a sexual misconduct violation trailing behind you.

When you're facing a sexual misconduct allegation, you need an attorney-advisor specialized in student defense to stand by your side.

College Sexual Misconduct at UMass Amherst

After the new Title IX regulations took effect in August 2020, UMass Amherst implemented interim policies and an interim Title IX coordinator. Like many colleges and universities, the school didn't want to make permanent changes to sexual misconduct policies, given how often they've changed over the last few presidential administrations.

As a result, UMass Amherst has a Title IX 2020 policy document, which covers sexual harassment definition, complaints, and procedures mandated by federal regulations. The university supplemented this document with its own policy concerning harassment, discrimination, and related interpersonal violence.

Sexual misconduct prohibited at UMass Amherst:

  • Sexual harassment under Title IX: This type of harassment is on the basis of sex that either conditions an aid, benefit, or service on participation in unwelcome sexual conduct, or unwelcome sexual conduct so severe it denies equal access to a University's education program or activity.
  • Sexual misconduct: Sexual misconduct includes unwelcome sexual conduct that interferes with work or academic performance, interferes with participation in an academic program or activity, or creates a hostile working or academic environment.
  • Sexual assault: Sexual assault is sexual activity that is forced, coerced, unwanted.
  • Sexual exploitation: Sexual exploitation is taking sexual advantage of someone without their consent.
  • Sexual violence: Sexual violence is a physical sexual act that one individual engages in without the consent of the other individual.
  • Intimate partner violence: Intimate partner violence includes dating violence (violence committed by one person against someone they have or had an intimate or romantic relationship with) and domestic violence (felony or misdemeanor violence committed by a current or former spouse, a co-parent, or a cohabitant).
  • Stalking: Stalking is conduct directed toward someone that would cause that person to fear for their safety or the safety of others, or to suffer emotional distress.
  • Retaliation: Retaliation is interfering with someone's right or privilege as secured by law.

The Sexual Misconduct Process at UMass Amherst

UMass Amherst's Equal Opportunity Office handles sexual misconduct cases, including Title IX complaints. The university adheres to the Title IX grievance procedure for complaints of sexual misconduct.

The Equal Opportunity Office or Title IX Coordinator receives a formal complaint of sexual harassment or misconduct and will review it, then decide to dismiss the complaint or investigate it further. The case may proceed with an informal resolution between the complainant (accuser) and respondent (accused). If there's no informal resolution, the case moves to an investigation.

Investigation

During the investigation phase, an Investigator will gather evidence from both parties. Evidence may include witnesses, documents, communications, and photographs. After the Investigator collects evidence, both sides have ten days to review it and respond, and the Investigator creates a report. Ten days after the report, the hearing takes place.

Hearing

The Hearing Panel includes three unbiased people, either students, faculty, or staff. At the hearing, each party must have an advisor. UMass Amherst allows you to choose a non-university advisor, such as an attorney. New Title IX regulations allow cross-examination of witnesses, and require a preponderance of evidence standard (not innocent until proven guilty, but instead requiring both sides to present evidence that is more convincing than the other).

Determination and Sanctions

At the end of the hearing, the Hearing Panel will determine if the allegation of sexual harassment is valid. The panel will work with relevant university authorities to find appropriate sanctions. Sanctions for students may include:

  • Restriction from a certain university education program or activity
  • Requirement to attend certain trainings
  • University probation
  • Suspension deferred
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion from the university

Sanctions for employees may include:

  • Restriction from a certain university education program or activity
  • Requirement to attend certain trainings
  • Application of progressive discipline

Appeal

Both parties have the right to appeal the decision, and must submit a signed appeal letter within ten business days of receiving notice of a dismissal or determination. An Appeal Panel of three people hears appeals, and doesn't include anyone who served on the Hearing Panel. Appeals are not for do-overs of the hearing, but for arguing that certain factors blocked the Hearing Panel from making an accurate determination (such as new evidence that wasn't reasonably available at the time of the appeal).

Choosing an Attorney for a Sexual Misconduct or Title IX Case

Why should you consult with a legal advisor for your university sexual misconduct or Title IX case? The latest Title IX regulations (as of 2020) grant you the right to a live hearing, and to have an advisor. If you don't bring an advisor with you, the university can assign you one, typically someone associated with the university.

To better your chances of a favorable determination, you should consider having an advisor unaffiliated with UMass Amherst, who will provide legal-minded guidance on your behalf. An outside attorney-advisor will have your best interests in mind, not the university's.

Joseph Lento of Lento Law Firm has defended hundreds of students, faculty, and staff members in sexual misconduct and Title IX cases at universities across the nation. If you're facing an allegation and want to safeguard your future, call the Firm today at 888-535-3686.

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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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