The guidelines for adjudicating sexual misconduct in colleges and universities are relatively clear due to the enforcement of Title IX. The federal law, enforced in 1972, was initially implemented as a mechanism to establish equal opportunities for women in collegiate sports. But in recent years, conversations about Title IX unfailingly concern sexual misconduct, a very pervasive and prominent form of gender discrimination on college campuses.
The law's evolution is credited to an amendment made by the Department of Education in 2011 to ensure that institutions internally mitigate sexual misconduct complaints. The new guidance also fared as a warning, stating that federal funding would be stripped from schools who failed to comply. With this looming threat over the heads of administrators, institutions scrambled to hire key players in the resolution process, solidify detailed policy, and educate staff about their duty as mandatory reporters. And in the swing of a pendulum, schools that once had a lethargic reaction to sexual misconduct complaints transformed into aggressive seekers of justice.
But what hasn't changed is the mystery behind the investigation of respondents who happen to be student-athletes. Despite government and school efforts to maintain a cohesive process, the waters are muddied when an athlete navigates it. The fate of a student-athlete in these matters is left to be dictated by an athletic director whose motivations may or may not be incentivized by the drive to build successful programs.
In colleges and universities across the country, there's an apparent trend: institutions bring down the hammer on athletes who have been charged with a crime. We see this phenomenon in the popular case of the three UCLA players who were suspended pending the outcome of a shoplifting scandal in China. Yet, when it comes to Title IX investigations, the reaction to alleged violations are unpredictable. In the absence of specified guidelines, coaches have wide discretion in the decision to allow a student-athlete to play while under investigation. And it's at no surprise that onlookers inside and outside the world of higher education have noticed the obvious conflict of interest.
In order to provide some clarity for student-athletes and to create a more objective process, some schools are making efforts to minimize (or completely eradicate) the role of coaches in the Title IX process. Texas A&M, for example, announced that the university's dean of students - rather than a team or organization - will determine the interim penalties while an athlete is under investigation. Other schools have imposed similar guidelines to clear up confusion and prevent controversy, especially at a time where sexual misconduct is vehemently publicized.
Only time will tell if these policies will reap the intended results. But If more schools follow suit, one thing is for sure, the world of collegiate sports will not be the same.
Nationwide Title IX Advisor
The only way to make sure your voice is heard and your rights are upheld is to retain a student defense attorney. For respondents, especially, the assistance of an attorney advisor is invaluable in the Title IX process. 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.