Title IX and College Sexual Misconduct at the University of California, Davis

The University of California system has ten campuses, the third-largest of which is UC Davis, a century-old land-grant research campus outside Sacramento in Northern California's central basin. UC Davis's undergraduate enrollment of about 31,000 means that only UCLA and UC Berkeley have larger enrollment within the UC system. UC Davis offers university-owned and maintained student housing advertising that “college is an experience, so enjoy the best one possible.”

As a campus of the UC system, UC Davis's own Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy refers first to the UC system's Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Interim Policy. The UC system adopted its interim policy on August 14, 2020, to comply with the new U.S. Department of Education Title IX regulations effective that same date, summarized here. The UC system's interim policy controls, but UC Davis's own policy supplements the UC system policy.

Consider this important information about how, with expert representation, your legal rights can help you defend and defeat sexual-misconduct allegations at UC Davis. College or university sexual-misconduct allegations can ruin your education, career, and reputation. Read the following outline, and then retain the skilled and experienced representation of Joseph D. Lento at the Lento Law Firm.

Title IX Misconduct

Colleges and universities like the University of California, Davis, must enforce Title IX's prohibition against sex discrimination if they are to continue to receive their substantial federal funding. An interpretive Obama Administration Dear Colleague Letter expanded Title IX's prohibited forms of sexual misconduct. The guidance also added more procedural protections for those who accuse others of sexual misconduct at colleges and universities. Court decisions found, though, that some colleges and universities had applied that guidance in ways that violated the constitutional rights of the accused.

The Trump Administration thus rescinded the Dear Colleague Letter. In 2020, the U.S. Department of Education tightened Title IX sexual misconduct's definition and added more protections for both accuser and accused. Read here more detail about those recent changes in Title IX interpretation. The current interpretation limits Title IX's reach to only these three forms of sexual misconduct, each of which the UC system's interim sexual-misconduct policy also prohibits:

  • sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking;
  • quid-pro-quo harassment (attempting to trade favors for sex); or
  • unwelcome conduct so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive as to deny equal access to education based on sex.

University of California, Davis Sexual Misconduct

The UC system defines sexual misconduct significantly more broadly than does Title IX, adding to the risk of a sexual-misconduct charge at UC Davis. Schools getting federal funds must prohibit Title IX misconduct but may prohibit other forms of sexual misconduct. The UC system's interim policy makes crystal clear that UC Davis and the other UC campuses prohibit broader sexual misconduct than Title IX misconduct, including each of these additional forms of non-Title IX sexual misconduct:

  • relationship violence, defined as a pattern of abusive physical violence toward a person in a romantic or intimate relationship or non-physical conduct that would make a reasonable person fear such physical violence;
  • stalking, defined as repeated conduct such as following, monitoring, observing, surveilling, threatening, communicating or interfering with property, with a sexual, romantic or other sex-based motivation, that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or suffer substantial emotional distress;
  • Invasions of sexual privacy, defined to include watching or enabling others to watch another's nudity or sexual acts, without their consent, in a place where that person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, or making or attempting to make recordings, or posting, transmitting, or distributing recordings, depicting that person's private nudity or sexual acts;
  • sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 18;
  • exposing genitalia in a public place for the purpose of sexual gratification;
  • failing to comply with a no-contact order, suspension, or exclusion; and
  • retaliation, defined as an adverse action against a person based on their report or other disclosure of alleged sexual misconduct.

Further definitions within the UC system's interim policy broaden the above already-broad categories. For instance, the prohibited abusive behavior constituting relationship violence can include non-physical tactics such as threats, isolation, property destruction, abuse of pets, economic control, displaying weapons, degradation, or exploitation of a power imbalance. These broad, vague, and even subjective definitions can implicate so much behavior as to substantially increase the risk of false or unfair sexual-misconduct charges.

University of California, Davis Procedures

The procedures that a school uses to determine whether sexual misconduct has occurred can influence the outcome of disputed allegations. The UC system's interim sexual-misconduct policy mandates different procedures depending on whether the complaint implicates Title IX sexual misconduct or, instead, non-Title IX UC Davis or UC system sexual misconduct. Appendix E to the UC interim policy governs non-Title IX proceedings, while Appendix F governs Title IX proceedings. Consider the following outline.

Title IX Procedures. A college or university receiving a complaint about Title IX forms of sexual misconduct must follow federal rules to determine whether misconduct occurred. Trump Administration 2020 changes to federal Title IX procedures guarantee the accused a hearing at which the accused has the right to attend and cross-examine the accuser and other witnesses to expose false allegations.

UC system procedures reflected in its Appendix F generally preserve these rights. A Title IX Officer determines whether to initiate a Title IX Grievance Process based on a report of sexual misconduct. The Title IX Officer issues a Notice of Charge and appoints an Investigator to interview the accuser, accused, and other witnesses, and prepare a report. The procedures require the investigator to share the draft report with the accuser and accused for comment.

If the report finds a Title IX violation, then a Student Conduct board determines a sanction. Unless both sides accept the sanction, then the Title IX Officer designates a Hearing Officer who schedules a hearing after extensive pre-hearing procedures. Importantly, advisors for the accuser and accused may attend the hearing to ask questions, effectively cross-examining adverse witnesses. The cross-examination of adverse witnesses and other hearing procedures are exactly where a skilled and experienced lawyer from the Lento Law Firm can make a huge difference in the outcome of sexual-misconduct charges. The procedures also provide for appeal by an aggrieved party.

Non-Title IX Procedures. The UC system's interim policy's Appendix E sets forth procedures for determining whether a non-Title IX sexual-misconduct violation has occurred. A school-appointed Title IX Officer decides whether to initiate a formal investigation on issuing notice of charges. The Office designates an investigator to meet with the accuser, accused, and other witnesses. The investigator then issues a report concluding whether sexual misconduct occurred. No hearing occurs, and no cross-examination of witnesses. If the report finds sexual misconduct, then a Student Conduct board determines the sanction.

Only if a party objects to the sanctions does a hearing occur. The parties may propose questions, but the hearing officer asks the questions. The school determines the charge based on the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard, not the higher clear-and-convincing-evidence standard applying to Title IX allegations. While lawyers have no direct role in these proceedings, a skilled and experienced lawyer from the Lento Law Firm can assist you in evaluating and critiquing biased statements, statements without a factual foundation, and other evidence, while preparing questions. Retained counsel can also help with the appeal that the UC system's procedures permit.

Sanctions. UC Davis, through the UC system policies that UC Davis follows, makes clear that sexual misconduct is serious business. The UC system's interim policy on sexual misconduct states that the sanction for a violation can include dismissal from the UC system. It then refers to the UC system's Student Conduct Code, section 105.00 of which includes these potential penalties:

  • warning;
  • censure;
  • probation;
  • loss of privileges including exclusion from activities;
  • interim suspension;
  • dismissal;
  • revocation of an awarded degree; and
  • restitution.

Retain Skilled and Experienced Representation

The above discussion shows that the stakes of a sexual-misconduct charge are incredibly high. But sexual-misconduct charges differ from a finding of a violation. And that's where skilled and experienced legal counsel makes a difference. UC Davis's sexual-misconduct procedures give substantial opportunities to defend false and exaggerated charges. Expert legal counsel is your greatest resource in defending and defeating school sexual-misconduct allegations that can otherwise ruin an education, career, and reputation.

College and university students and employees nationwide retain Joseph D. Lento at the Lento Law Firm to represent them in sexual misconduct disciplinary matters. Joseph Lento and the Lento Law Firm have the knowledge, resources, and expertise to help you through a disciplinary proceeding at the University of California, Davis, for the best outcome. Call 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation, or use the online service.

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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 the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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