Sexual Misconduct Charges at the University of Massachusetts Lowell

The University of Massachusetts Lowell doesn't have one process for investigating sexual misconduct allegations: it has three. One for Title IX cases and two for non-Title IX cases. What does that mean if you've been accused? It means you can't know for certain just what you might be facing.

Below, we detail all three processes. That's a useful starting point for understanding what you might be up against. It's important to recognize, though, that these cases are serious, and they can be extraordinarily complex. Current Title IX guidelines take up over 2000 pages. Non-Title IX policies and procedures can be tricky and hard to follow. And, you don't even know which one you'll have to deal with.

The bottom line is, you shouldn't be trying to take your school on alone. You need a qualified attorney, someone with experience in university justice.

So, learn all you can about how your school deals with these kinds of charges. Then, take the time to seek professional help.

Title IX Sexual Misconduct: Investigations

Schools deal with a large percentage of sexual misconduct accusations using the federal government's Title IX statute. This law, originally passed in 1972, was intended to prohibit sexual discrimination at colleges and universities. As the law evolved, however, it became the primary means by which schools investigate and adjudicate all types of sexual misconduct on campus.

Current Title IX guidelines mandate much of how the justice process works, though schools do have some control over certain aspects of the process. Here's what the University of Massachusetts Lowell process looks like.

First, all formal complaints must originate with the Title IX Coordinator and must be signed either by the complainant or the Coordinator themselves.

Once a complaint has been made, the school must serve notice on the respondent. As part of this notice, respondents are entitled to know exactly who has made the accusation and the central details of the alleged incident. In addition, the notice must apprise the respondent of their rights, including the right to be presumed innocent and the right to choose an advisor to help them prepare their defense. This advisor may be an attorney. You should note that advisors can accompany respondents to all meetings in the case and represent respondents during the hearing. However, at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, respondents are required to answer for themselves during investigative interviews.

Under Title IX, the school is obligated to provide important support services to the accuser, such as medical care and counseling. The school may offer additional help like course schedule adjustments or housing changes. Importantly, whatever the school offers to claimants, it must offer to respondents as well.

Next, the Coordinator appoints an investigator to pursue the case. This investigator interviews both parties in the case. They collect any physical evidence such as clothing, video, text messages, and dorm logs. They also interview any potential witnesses.

At the conclusion of the investigation, the investigators summarize their findings in a written report. Both sides in the case have ten days to review this report and make suggestions for revisions. The final version of the report is submitted to the Title IX Coordinator.

Title IX Sexual Misconduct: Hearings

Once the investigative report has been submitted, the Title IX Coordinator sets a date for a formal hearing and appoints a Hearing Officer to oversee the proceedings.

The hearing is an opportunity for the respondent to respond to charges and defend themselves. It is analogous in many ways to a court case. That is, both sides have an opportunity to present evidence and call witnesses. Both sides get a chance to cross-examine these witnesses as well as the other party. Advisors, like lawyers, do all of the questioning. Meanwhile, the Hearing Officer serves as judge, making decisions about whether questions are admissible and ultimately deciding the outcome of the case.

However, there are important differences between Title IX hearings and actual court cases:

  • There are no formal rules of evidence in Title IX hearings
  • Verdicts aren't the result of a unanimous jury. Instead, most cases are decided by a single individual, the Hearing Officer
  • In addition, decision-maker(s) don't use the familiar “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard to judge evidence. Instead, they use the much less strict “preponderance of evidence.” According to this standard, decision-maker(s) must merely believe it is “more likely than not” that the respondent committed a violation

Whatever the ultimate verdict, either side can appeal that verdict under certain circumstances:

  • Procedural irregularities
  • New evidence
  • Conflict of interest for one of the officials

Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct: Conduct Conferences

In recent years, Title IX has undergone a number of important changes. As a result, not every case now falls under Title IX jurisdiction. Allegations that don't are subject to provisions outlined in the University of Massachusetts Lowell Student Code of Conduct. Cases then fall into one of two categories. The first of these are cases where the possible sanctions include probation or less.

In these cases, a single Conduct Officer oversees the entire case. Respondents are notified of the accusations against them. They are then required to appear at a “Conduct Conference” to respond to charges.

Following the conference, the Conduct Officer undertakes an investigation. Both the accuser and the respondent may submit their own written accounts and may ask others to submit written witness statements on their behalf. Additionally, the Conduct Officer may ask questions of either party or witnesses.

At the end of the process, the Conduct Officer then renders a decision and assigns any penalties as necessary.

Either side may appeal the decision directly to the Student Conduct Office under the same strict guidelines as Title IX cases.

Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct: Investigations and Hearings

For non-Title IX cases that can result in suspension or expulsion, the Student Code provides for both an investigation and a formal panel hearing.

To some extent, this process works like a Title IX investigation and hearing, with certain important exceptions:

  • Students and their representatives are not allowed to question witnesses directly. Rather, they may submit potential questions to the panel who will ask the questions if they deem them relevant.
  • All students who participate in the process must submit to questioning by the panel.
  • Cases are decided by a panel, and decisions are the result of a majority agreement.

Once again, either side may appeal the decision for the same very specific reasons as listed under the Title IX appeals.

Contact Attorney Joseph D. Lento for Help with Sexual Misconduct Allegations

As we noted in the beginning, sexual misconduct investigation and adjudication procedures can be, at best, difficult to navigate. Further, the results of a responsible verdict can be life-changing. The University of Massachusetts Lowell lists a number of possibilities, including written reprimands and loss of housing. However, the most common outcomes in such cases are suspension or expulsion. Expulsions come with a transcript notation explaining the offense. That can make it virtually impossible to enroll anywhere else. Your academic career could essentially be over.

Don't risk your future. Make sure you have a qualified attorney on your side.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento specializes in sexual misconduct cases. He built his career representing students nationwide from all types of school allegations, both Title IX and non-Title IX. Joseph D. Lento knows the law, but he also knows how school justice systems work. He's familiar with University of Massachusetts Lowell processes and knows how to use them to your benefit. Whatever your situation, Joseph D. Lento is committed to getting you the very best possible outcome for your case.

If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct by your college or university, don't wait. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or by using our automated online form.

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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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