If you or a loved one are facing accusations of sexual misconduct at the University of Colorado, Denver, you will likely be feeling concerned. In recent years, schools across the US have made an example of students as they have sought to show that they are tough on-campus sexual misconduct. This has created an ever more tense environment for students, who are already nervous about facing up to their school's judicial process. Despite these fears, you shouldn't shy away from tackling unfair allegations. It is important to familiarize yourself with your school's policy and time limits, get the best advisor you can, and act quickly so that you don't lose the opportunity to defend yourself.
Why is Title IX Important?
Sexual harassment is prohibited in schools under federal civil rights law. Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment in educational institutions. This is a federal law that applies across the county, including at the University of Colorado Denver campus.
Schools must discipline offenses that violate Title IX if they are to receive federal funding. What's more, they must discipline staff and students in such a way that is compliant with federal guidance. To complicate things further, Title IX guidance is subject to change. The Department of Education can publish new Title IX guidance, which changes the scope of offenses deemed to come under Title IX and the procedure and due process schools should use for investigating and disciplining offenses.
In recent years, as school sexual misconduct policies have become a hot button issue, guidance has shifted violently, with the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations all having instigating significant changes. There can be pressure from both donors and students to be tougher on the accused. Every time the Department of Education issues new guidance, schools must assess and rewrite their own policies accordingly. As a result of this instability, more students face sanctions under swiftly implemented or even untested policies.
Historically schools have processed all their sexual misconduct claims under Title IX. One outcome from all these changes to official guidance is that now school policies often prohibit a broader span of offenses under the umbrella of sexual misconduct than is explicitly prohibited under Title IX.
The Sexual Misconduct Policy at the University of Colorado “includes both Title IX Sexual Harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct that fall outside Title IX's jurisdiction.”
Given the growing complexity and febrile atmosphere surrounding college disciplinary procedures, it is more important than ever to familiarize yourself carefully with school policy and make sure you have an advisor who knows the system.
What Counts as Sexual Misconduct at the University of Colorado, Denver?
The University of Colorado “prohibits Sexual Misconduct, including conduct on the basis of sex specifically prohibited by Title IX and conduct that falls outside of Title IX's jurisdiction.” Prohibited conduct under the school's sexual misconduct policy includes:
- Sexual assault
- Dating violence
- Domestic violence
- Title IX stalking
- Sexual exploitation
- Title IX hostile environment
- Hostile environment
- Title IX quid pro quo sexual harassment
- Quid pro quo sexual harassment.
The jurisdiction of Title IX is limited “to conduct that occurs in an education program or activity against a person in the United States.” However, school policy prohibits all these offenses amongst anyone affiliated with the university community, including off-campus and online conduct.
The school must always pursue Title IX prohibited conduct. For non-Title IX allegations, the school's Title IX Coordinator is authorized to determine whether the school's sexual misconduct policy applies and whether the university has jurisdiction to take action. Both are pursued with the same grievance process.
What is the Grievance Process for Sexual Misconduct at the University of Colorado, Denver?
The Title IX Coordinator, who is part of the Office of Equity, oversees all sexual misconduct grievance procedures on campus. The process begins when someone files a formal complaint against you.
If the Title IX Coordinator is investigating you for a formal complaint, they must give you your due process. This due process includes giving you advance written notice of allegations with sufficient time to prepare a response before any initial interview. They must also provide both parties with an equal opportunity to present witnesses and evidence. The university holds both the burden of proof and the burden of gathering sufficient evidence to determine whether you are responsible for sexual misconduct.
A formal grievance process includes the following stages:
- Filing and evaluation of the formal complaint
- Written investigative report
- Pre-hearing conference
- Hearing and determination regarding responsibility
What Will Happen at the Hearing?
The school may dismiss the charges at any point, but they cannot determine you to be responsible until your case has gone to a hearing.
A trained hearing officer presides over the live hearing, which is conducted virtually, with both sides in different locations. Each side can bring an advisor of their choosing to the live hearing to conduct the cross-examination. Your advisor can ask the other party and any witnesses all relevant questions and follow-up questions, including those challenging their credibility.
The hearing officer will apply the preponderance of the evidence standard to determine whether, based on the evidence they have seen, it is more likely than not that you violated the sexual misconduct policy.
After the hearing, the hearing officer issues a written determination which will include any disciplinary sanctions.
What Sanctions Could I Face?
The range of possible disciplinary sanctions for student respondents spans all the way from a written warning to expulsion.
Sanctions can include the following:
- Educational sanctions
- Residence hall reassignment
- Residence hall termination
- Restriction or Denial of University Services
- Delayed Conferral of Degree
You can appeal a determination of sexual misconduct for the following reasons:
- procedural irregularity
- new evidence
- conflict of interest or bias
If granted an appeal, both sides may submit a written statement. On reviewing your case, the school will issue a written decision describing the result of the appeal and a rationale for the result. You will need to act quickly if you want to appeal, as you must submit your appeal to the Title IX Coordinator within ten business days after the school issues its hearing determination.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento: Experienced College Sexual Misconduct Advisor
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have successfully defended hundreds of students across the nation in Title IX and sexual misconduct cases. Attorney Lento and his team fight aggressively to protect the rights of the accused in what can feel like a highly hostile climate. If you are under investigation for sexual misconduct, you should waste no time launching a defense. Contact us online or call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686.