In the midst of the Trump administration's speculated Title IX adjudication reform plans, a handful of colleges and universities are taking matters into their own hands. Moving away from committees, or a panel of students, staff, and faculty to mitigate sexual misconduct cases, schools are handing over this responsibility to a sole investigator. This is known as the “single-investigator” model.
The single-investigator model operates in one of two variations: either (1) one investigator handles the entire duties of both investigation and adjudication, or (2) one party conducts the investigation and drafts the report, while other parties review the report and issue a finding.
Implementing this method of adjudication in the context of sexual misconduct and other forms of gender-based discrimination in schools isn't a new concept. Institutions have relied on one official - an internal employee or hired outside party - since Title IX entrusted them with the obligation to resolve these cases. But it hasn't gained much popularity until now.
The drastic and somewhat sudden shift of adjudication process changes in institutions has sparked a larger debate regarding the Department of Education's newfound degree of flexibility under Title IX enforced by the current administration. Critics of the DOE's leniency argue that this model is detrimental, as there are apparent issues that arise when a school allows one person to be the prosecutor, judge, and jury of these cases. The absence of hearings until a request for an appeal (if at all) is also problematic within itself, they argue. Those who support this system, however, believe that it's beneficial since it removes the responsibility of resolving these cases from inexperienced parties.
Regardless of where opinions from people on each side of the spectrum fall, one thing is apparent: the implementation of this system carries many advantages for the institution overall. Both due process and survivor advocates alike can agree that the decision to amend such policies may stem from a self-serving incentive, rather than the best interests of the parties involved. Some of these advantages include (but are not limited to):
- Limited staff/training: panels require pools of qualified adjudicators that must be trained on the school's dime. With the single-investigator model, schools need only worry about adequately training one person, which in turn, saves them money.
- Speed: comprising a panel and conducting a hearing take time. But these are important steps to make to ensure integrity and fairness within hearings. A single investigator process is likely to be faster than a hearing panel, clearing the case out faster (despite the fact that time restraints on Title IX cases were recently removed).
As of now, we'll see how effective this system functions in practice. But endowing one person with a considerable amount of power does not seem like it'd lead to more fair outcomes in these cases.
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The only way to make sure your voice is heard and your rights are upheld is to retain a student defense attorney. National Title IX attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skill, experience, and expertise to help you preserve your entitled rights under Title IX and your school's policy. For a case evaluation or more information about his representation, contact him online or give him a call at 888-535-3686 today.