Finding out you have been accused of sexual misconduct or a Title IX violation can be overwhelming, requiring you to defend yourself when your head isn't really in the game. You may not know this, but every student is allowed the help of an attorney-advisor during these proceedings. Attorney-advisors will help you defend yourself from such allegations by gathering witnesses and evidence and preparing you to tell your side of the story in a concise manner. If you or someone you love has been accused of an act of sexual misconduct or a Title IX violation, attorney-advisors, like Lento Law Firm, can help.
What Is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal regulation that creates a specific requirement that all federally funded colleges and universities must uphold when managing sexual discrimination and sexual violence on their campus. These requirements include:
- Clear and immediate procedures for sexual misconduct allegations
- Designated personnel to handle instances of sexual violence
- In Title IX hearings, the standard of evidence should be “more likely than not” or “preponderance of evidence”
- Both parties involved should have access to the same procedures – advisors, appeals, and presentation of the evidence
- Retaliation protection
Middle Tennessee State University is dedicated to creating a safe space for its students free of discrimination and sexual violence, which they define as rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.
What Happens After an Allegation of Sexual Misconduct at Middle Tennessee State University?
Middle Tennessee State University is committed to nurturing a campus environment that promotes learning, growth, and service, and their Office of Student Conduct (OSC) was created to further this commitment. After a complaint of sexual misconduct or a Title IX violation is made to the OSC, the Title IX Coordinator will conduct a preliminary review. If they determine there is enough preliminary evidence to pursue a formal complaint, they will notify the accused student.
It is important to note that any time before the Title IX Coordinator determines that a formal complaint is necessary, both parties may consent to an informal resolution process that does not involve the investigation and adjudication process discussed below. The informal resolution must be completed within 20 business days; if not, the process will move to the formal process.
The Title IX Coordinator will appoint an investigator to interview the complainant and accused student, gather witnesses, and review any relevant evidence they might find. Once the investigation is complete, the investigator will send a copy of their report to both parties and the Hearing Officer. Before the formal hearing, you will have an opportunity to review the investigation report so that you can strategize your own defense for the hearing.
During the hearing, the Hearing Officer will allow both sides to present their accounts of the incident. This presentation can include documentary evidence and relevant witness statements. You will also be given a chance to cross-examine the other party's witnesses and evidence. It is really important to be emotionally prepared for the hearing as it will likely be a frustrating process.
At the end of the hearing, the Hearing Officer will determine if the student did, in fact, commit an act of sexual misconduct or a Title IX violation based on a preponderance of the evidence. If so, they will decide which sanctions best fit the act. Sanctions must not be more egregious than the act itself, and so might include one or more of the following:
- Educational program
- Restriction on a student's privileges
- Housing probation
- Involuntary housing reassignment
- Housing suspension or forfeiture
- Revocation of admission, degree, or credential
Appealing a Sexual Misconduct or Title IX Violation Decision at Middle Tennessee State University
At Middle Tennessee State University, parties to a Title IX violation or sexual misconduct hearing are given the opportunity to appeal the Hearing Officer's decision. Generally, the Hearing Officer will deliver a written determination to both parties, which must include the process for an appeal.
Appeals must be made within ten business days of the date of the determination. The basis for an appeal must be made on one of the following grounds:
- Procedural irregularity that affected the outcome
- New evidence is present that was not reasonably available during the hearing and would have affected the Decision-Maker's decision
- The Title IX Coordinator, investigator, or member of the Conduct Body had a conflict of interest or bias for either party that affected the outcome
The President or the designee will review the appeal and determine if the original issue should be overturned, upheld, or modified. Whatever the result, it is final and cannot be appealed further.
How an Experienced Attorney-advisor Can Help
When students are accused of a Title IX violation or sexual misconduct, it can have more consequences than just the immediate sanctions. For instance, students might find it hard to recover from the emotional exhaustion a grievance process like this can have. You might have had to move your schedule around to steer clear of the complainant, have to find a new friend group or lunch spot, or had your access to campus restricted altogether. The autonomy you've been so excited to exercise as a college student might be stripped away.
Additionally, if you are found responsible and sanctioned with a suspension or expulsion, they will be memorialized on your final transcripts. This means that any other school you apply to, and some government jobs, may ask you about the sanction, forcing you to explain what happened over and over.
Working with an attorney-advisor from the moment you learn of the accusations against you will ensure you the best possible outcome for your case. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and Lento Law Firm have years of experience helping college students in the same situation. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.