The Amherst (UMass Amherst) attempts to create an environment that is free from discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence. To that end, the university takes allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously.
UMass Amherst's policies prohibit this type of behavior in connection to the university and provide procedures for handling alleged violations. Accused students should take their accusation seriously, as there is much at stake if they are found responsible for committing sexual misconduct.
Title IX and Sexual Misconduct at UMass Amherst
UMass Amherst has two policies that deal with sexual misconduct:
- Title IX Policy and Grievance Procedures
- Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Interpersonal Violence
The Title IX policy at UMass Amherst follows federal Title IX guidelines for reporting, investigation of, and grievance procedures for allegations of sexual misconduct. This policy only applies to instances of sexual misconduct defined by Title IX. The Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Interpersonal Violence pertains to other forms of sexual misconduct not covered by the Title IX policy.
What Counts as a Violation at UMass Amherst?
Title IX Policy
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual assault (including sex offenses, fondling, incest, statutory rape, and rape)
- Dating violence
- Domestic violence
Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Interpersonal Violence
- Unlawful discrimination
- Sexual misconduct defined by M.G.I. c. 6 §§ 168D and 168E
- Sexual misconduct
- Sexual assault
- Sexual exploitation
- Sexual violence
- Intimate partner violence
- Dating violence
- Domestic violence
How Does UMass Amherst Handle Sexual Misconduct Allegations?
As UMass Amherst has two policies, there are two sets of procedures for dealing with allegations. All complaints of Title IX sexual harassment are adjudicated under the university's Title IX Grievance Procedure. Accusations of behavior that goes beyond the scope of Title IX are adjudicated by the second policy, the Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Interpersonal Violence, as well as the Code of Student Conduct.
Title IX Grievance Procedure at UMass Amherst
Reporting and Formal Complaint
The Title IX procedure starts when someone makes a report to either the Title IX Coordinator or Equal Opportunity Office. These university officials can help the person making the report decide to file a formal complaint. Once the Title IX Coordinator or their designee receives a formal complaint, they must notify both parties and initiate a grievance process.
The accuser (complainant) and the accused (respondent) may decide to come to an informal resolution, without the need for a hearing. However, the Title IX Coordinator must determine if an informal resolution is appropriate. If the two parties come to an agreement, the matter is resolved.
Investigation and Hearing
If there is no informal resolution, the Title IX Coordinator must investigate the formal complaint. The Title IX Coordinator produces a final investigation report, and a Hearing Officer schedules a hearing.
A Title IX hearing panel has three hearing officers who have received relevant training. Respondents and complainants may choose their own advisors to have with them at the hearing. Both parties present their positions to the panel, show evidence, and may cross-examine witnesses. The hearing panel may also pose questions to both parties.
Determination of Responsibility
The hearing panel uses the preponderance of the evidence standard to decide if the respondent is responsible for the behavior they are accused of. If they are responsible, the hearing panel then recommends sanctions.
Both parties have the right to appeal the decision before a panel of three appeals officers. Appeals are not re-hearings, but both parties will have the chance to submit a written statement to the appeals panel. The appeals panel decides to uphold the decision or remand the case, and the decision is final.
Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Interpersonal Violence Procedure
Because the violations in this policy may result in expulsion, suspension, or suspension deferred, the Student Conduct & Community Standards Office handles reports of alleged violations according to the procedures in the Code of Student Conduct.
The process is as follows:
- Referral: Anyone may submit a student conduct referral to the Student Conduct & Community Standards Office.
- Investigation: The Student Conduct & Community Standards Office reviews the referral by obtaining information and witness accounts.
- Charge: If the Student Conduct & Community Standards Office has reasonable cause to believe there was a violation, they will charge the student with the violation.
- Gathering information: A Case Administrator is assigned to the case and asks the parties involved for information regarding the matter.
- Administrative meeting: The Case Administrator holds a meeting with the respondent to let them present their side of the story. The Case Administrator then either asks for a sanctions review or a university hearing board.
- Hearing: The respondent goes before the university hearing board and may bring an advisor with them. The hearing board makes a determination using the preponderance of the evidence standard.
- Sanctions: The Dean of Students waits three days to impose sanctions, during which time both parties can submit documents to be considered for sanctions.
- Appeals: Respondents can appeal a sanction review from a Case Administrator or a university hearing board decision within five days of the outcome. A university appeals board hears the appeal and decides to either uphold the decision or remand the case. The decision is final.
Possible Sanctions for Sexual Misconduct at UMass Amherst
Title IX Policy Sanctions
- Restriction from specific University education program or activity
- Attend required trainings
- Progressive discipline
Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Interpersonal Violence Sanctions
- Suspension deferred
- Revocation of degree or admission
How Can a Student Defense Advisor Help?
At UMass Amherst, you are allowed to have an advisor with you through the investigative process and at your hearing if you are accused of sexual misconduct. An advisor who specializes in defending students at their universities will know how to craft the best defense strategy and prepare you for the investigation and potential hearing.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped hundreds of college students nationwide with sexual misconduct matters at their schools. If you want to protect the future of your education, contact the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888-535-3686.