Acts such as forms of sexual harassment are one example of misconduct prohibited under federal guidelines that relate to Title IX. These regulations are enforced regardless of an individual's gender, sexual orientation, or identity. At the State University of New York at Binghamton, the leadership is active in promoting a positive environment that is free of discrimination. Acts of sexual misconduct do not necessarily involve physical actions but are often simply words deemed to be derogatory in nature.
Title IX Provisions and Right to Free Speech
How do Title IX provisions relate to First Amendment protections? Is the government infringing on the rights to free speech by prohibiting speech that reflects gender bias or otherwise expresses sexually-based opinions? The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has clarified that their intentions are not to restrict free speech. Their goal is to ensure that educational settings do not become hostile environments. They explain further that derogatory opinions that are gender-based are clearly actions that are contrary to the goal of maintaining an environment free from hostility. Schools generally encourage debate and the expression of ideals and beliefs; however, certain types of speech easily cross into forms of abuse or threats.
Drug/Alcohol Amnesty in Title IX
The University does acknowledge that often actions such as sexual assault or dating violence occur while one or more parties is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The provisions state that individuals should not be hesitant to report potential violations for this reason. Those who report incidents pertaining to Title IX violations are therefore not subjected to potential consequences for drugs or alcohol as defined in the Student Code of Conduct.
The school's guidelines list a variety of rights that students are entitled to in conduct and disciplinary matters. Students, faculty, and other staff have a right to contact law enforcement when needed and also to have their sexual-based allegation taken seriously. Students have a right to a disciplinary process that is fair and impartial and does not tolerate retaliation from adverse parties. Parties have a right to appeal a decision and to be accompanied by an advisor of their choosing for support.
Title IX Violations: Level II Category
Violations associated with Title IX are classified are Level II violations, which are the more serious among the two categories. All conduct proceeding are completed according to the Student Code of Conduct as well as any applicable federal and state laws. To determine rulings on these allegations, the administration uses a “preponderance of the evidence” standard that is generally associated with civil actions.
Parties involved in conduct or disciplinary processes are always able to be accompanied by an advisor of their choosing. Advisors are not permitted to directly address witnesses or those facilitating meetings or hearings unless otherwise permitted to do so. The Student Conduct Board hears these matters of student conduct. The Board consists of three-individuals appointed specifically by the Office of Student Conduct.
The accused student and/or the conduct administration may select witnesses to provide relevant testimony. The accused is afforded the opportunity to ask questions, issue responses, and right to refuse answering questions. The hearings are to focus exclusively on relevant details that relate to the potential violation(s).
The Board will reach a determination on the allegations following the hearing and impose sanctions as needed. Sanctions are designed to act as a deterrent to actions of misconduct. The sanctions imposed are directly a reflection of the offense committed.
Sanctions Potentially Imposed
The types of sanctions that the University may impose include some of the following:
- Probation: A period of disciplinary probation may be imposed for a specified period of time
- Ineligibility for scholarships or awards
- Ineligibility for many campus organizational programs or University-based employment
- Privileges may be revoked such as access to University housing
- Educational assignments such as essays may be required
- A requirement to perform community service
- To make financial restitution
- Suspension or expulsion
Those seeking to pursue an appeal must submit their intent in writing to the Office of Student Conduct within a period of 10 days after a ruling. The right to appeal in matters relating to Title IX applies to both parties. Appeals are determined by the Vice President of Student Affairs or the Dean of Students. The basis for appeal may be related to the specific sanctions imposed or because of a potential failure to meet procedural requirements.
Records pertaining to violations of student conduct remain on transcripts for either a five-year period following the hearing or for seven academic years depending on the nature of the offense. Records relating to a student's expulsion remain indefinitely; however, a written request for removal may be made once seven years have elapsed.
SUNY Binghamton Title IX Coordinator Contact
Mr. Andrew R. Baker
Risk Management and Administrative Compliance
Couper Administration Building, AD-217
Importance of Retaining Attorney Representation
Some students may make the mistake of underestimating the consequences that may be incurred from violations of conduct. Students are likely devoting key resources such as time and money to their academic plan. When serious sanctions are imposed such as suspension and expulsion from the institution, these plans are likely to be impacted. Having an attorney function in the advisory role is tremendously beneficial in how well you are prepared in hearings. You are more likely to have effective opening or closing statements and be able to confidently respond to questions. In addition, your attorney may potentially engage in negotiations that could result in a mutually acceptable solution.
Attorney Represents Students Accused of Sexual Misconduct at SUNY Binghamton
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have the knowledge and experience necessary to represent students at New York colleges and universities in disciplinary matters, such as those involving sexual misconduct. These disciplinary processes are often very time sensitive and you are encouraged to consult with an attorney soon after being made aware of allegations. Those seeking to consult with an attorney should contact the office at (888) 535-3686.