Sexual Misconduct Defense at Arizona State University

Almost all institutions of any size are subject to the complexities of bureaucracy. Colleges and universities, however, seem to have more complexities than most, as anyone who has ever tried to deal with a campus parking department can probably attest.

For the most part, academic bureaucracy is just an annoyance. There are cases, though, where it can be a serious problem. Campus judicial processes, for instance, can be notoriously difficult to navigate.

Below, we explore Arizona State University's policies for dealing with instances of sexual misconduct. By the time we're done, we think you'll agree that, should you or your child find yourselves accused of such a serious crime, your very first call should be to a qualified attorney who can help you make sense of it all.

Sexual Misconduct Under Title IX

For many years, American colleges and universities responded to allegations of sexual misconduct using Title IX. Passed by the federal government in 1972, this law encouraged schools to prosecute instances of sexual discrimination and harassment on campus, and threatened to withhold funding from those schools that refused to comply.

The law was well-intentioned, and its positive impact is undeniable. Many college campuses in 1972 were openly hostile environments for women, and thankfully that has changed. Title IX wasn't perfect, however. By tying prosecutions to funding, it created a clear incentive for schools to aggressively investigate absolutely every complaint they received. And little by little, a number of schools allowed other due process rights to fall by the wayside as well.

In response to these inequalities, the Trump administration, in March 2020, issued a new set of guidelines for how Title IX should be interpreted. Among the changes, the administration narrowed the definition of “harassment” and limited university jurisdictions. In addition, the rule changes restored some due process rights, giving defendants the right to a live hearing and to cross-examine witnesses.

The Response to the New Title IX

The new Title IX, had it been widely accepted, might have done much to level the judicial playing field on college campuses. Instead, most colleges and universities accused the administration of trying to undermine victims' rights and send academia back to the dark ages. A handful of schools actually sued to have the new rules set aside. Others took a more subtle approach. Usually, this involved creating a separate track for dealing with sexual misconduct allegations that no longer fit Title IX standards. In addition, many colleges created separate procedures for dealing with these allegations, procedures that didn't necessarily restore due process rights as the administration's changes had been designed to do.

Often, the end result was a confusing patchwork of policies and laws that essentially demanded defendants hire lawyers just to make sense of it all.

Searching for Answers

Where does Arizona State University stand on these issues? How has the school responded to the Title IX changes, and what are its policies for dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct? Unfortunately, the school doesn't make it easy to find answers to these questions.

ASU does have a Title IX coordinator, and in its published statement on Title IX suggests this coordinator handles all complaints of discrimination and harassment.

At the beginning of that page, the school promises to prosecute conduct that doesn't rise to the strict standards of Title IX under the school's code of conduct. In fact, the school notes that students could potentially face simultaneous prosecution under both Title IX and the code of conduct: “When appropriate, this [code of conduct] grievance process may proceed concurrently with any other university process addressing other aspects of the facts or occurrences giving rise to a formal complaint of Title IX sexual harassment.”

What are the university's procedures for handling sexual misconduct that falls outside of Title IX? That's a bit of a mystery. A different link connects to the student code of conduct, and that does mention “sexual misconduct” but doesn't define the term and offers no guidance about procedures for addressing violations. Another link is titled “Discrimination and Harassment Procedures.” Clicking here brings up university policy P20, which explains the procedures for reporting, but not what happens after a report is filed. This page does provide a link, to policy ACD 401, which purports to explain procedures for handling incidents. In fact, it only describes more about the reporting process and suggests yet another link to the Arizona Board of Regents Policy Page. This brief page includes a link to Arizona State University's “Sexual Violence, Awareness, Prevention and Response” page, and that is essentially the same as the first Title IX page.

Sexual Misconduct Prosecution Under ASU Policies

Ultimately, non-Title IX sexual misconduct seems to be prosecuted under the same procedures used to prosecute every violation of the student code of conduct, from cheating to underage drinking.

  1. An investigator is appointed to gather evidence, including witness statements.
  2. The investigator forwards a copy of his final report to the Dean of Students.
  3. The Dean of Students determines guilt or innocence and assigns relevant sanctions.

Should students contest the dean's decisions, they are entitled to a hearing. At this hearing, a panel reviews evidence and may call witnesses. Students are entitled to choose an advisor, who may be an attorney, to represent them at the hearing. They may also submit questions for witnesses, though in contrast to Title IX rules they may not cross-examine witnesses directly.

Should the student be found guilty, the school may assign a variety of different sanctions, from counseling to probation, suspension, or expulsion.

Joseph D. Lento Can Help

Confused? We're not surprised. It isn't merely hard to defend yourself against sexual misconduct charges at ASU: it's hard just to figure out what the process is supposed to be and whether you might tried under one set of rules, another set of rules, or both.

If you're accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait: call Joseph D. Lento immediately. Joseph D. Lento specializes in student disciplinary cases. He's an expert on Title IX, but he's also an expert on university bureaucracy. Joseph D. Lento will make sure you get the due process rights you deserve, and will fight hard to assure you the best possible outcome.

For more information, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686, or use 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 our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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