Title IX and College Sexual Misconduct Charges at Dartmouth College

The private Ivy League Dartmouth College, located in Hanover, New Hampshire, is among the nation's oldest colleges, predating the nation's formation. Dartmouth enrolls about 4,500 undergraduate students and 2,100 graduate students on its rural, 237-acre campus. Its stated mission is to prepare those students for a lifetime of leadership.

Dartmouth College helps its students achieve their educational goals by offering a range of traditional and non-traditional housing options. An academic and residential experience at any college or university like the Ivy League Dartmouth College can lead to conflict within intimate relationships, sometimes leading to sexual-misconduct charges.

Like other federally funded institutions, Dartmouth College maintains a Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct Policy that satisfies federal Title IX requirements. Dartmouth adopted the current version of its policy effective August 14, 2020, coincident with the effective date of new federal Title IX regulations.

Consider this important information as to how expert representation by Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm can help you successfully defend against false or exaggerated sexual-misconduct allegations at Dartmouth College. School sexual-misconduct violations can derail your education, career, and reputation. Read the following outline to understand why you should retain the skilled and experienced representation of Joseph D. Lento at the Lento Law Firm.

Title IX Misconduct

Colleges and universities that receive federal funds, like Dartmouth College, must adopt and enforce Title IX's prohibition against sex discrimination. An Obama Administration Dear Colleague Letter expanded Title IX's prohibited forms of sexual misconduct to include many sexual behaviors that occur with unfortunate frequency at colleges and universities. The guidance also added protections for the accuser that some court decisions found so strict as to violate the accused's constitutional rights.

The Department of Education under the Trump Administration rescinded the Obama Administration's Dear Colleague Letter while tightening again Title IX's sexual-misconduct definition and adding protections for the accuser and accused. Read more here about those recent Title IX interpretive changes. The current interpretation limits Title IX's reach to only these three forms of sexual misconduct, each of which Dartmouth College's 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.

Dartmouth College Sexual Misconduct

Colleges and universities may define sexual misconduct more broadly than Title IX defines it. Dartmouth College defines sexual misconduct much more broadly than Title IX, adding markedly to the possibility of sexual-misconduct charges. Dartmouth College's sexual-misconduct policy includes each of these additional forms of non-Title IX sexual misconduct:

  • sexual or gender-based harassment defined as any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, whether verbal, non-verbal, graphic, physical, electronic, or otherwise, either as a quid pro quo or sufficiently severe or pervasive as to interfere with education;
  • any act of intimidation or hostility, whether verbal or non-verbal, graphic, physical, or otherwise based on sex or gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, even if the acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature, either as a quid pro quo or sufficiently severe or pervasive as to interfere with education;
  • sexual assault defined as having or attempting to have sexual contact with another individual without consent, including sexual intercourse or sexual touching such as intentional contact with the breasts, buttocks, groin, genitals, or other intimate part of an individual's body;
  • sexual exploitation defined as intentionally taking sexual advantage of another person without consent, such as voyeurism, disseminating, streaming, or posting images, pictures, or video of another in a state of undress or of a sexual nature without the person's consent, knowingly exposing one's genitals to another person without consent, prostituting another individual, or knowingly exposing another individual to a sexually transmitted infection or virus without the other individual's knowledge and consent;
  • relationship or interpersonal violence defined as any act of violence or threatened act of violence against a person who is or has been involved in a sexual, dating, domestic, or other intimate relationship with the respondent, or against a person with whom the respondent sought to have such a relationship;
  • stalking defined as when a person engages in a course of conduct toward another person under circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury or experience substantial emotional distress, including cyber-stalking using electronic media;
  • provision of alcohol or drugs to an individual for the purpose of committing or facilitating prohibited conduct under the policy; and
  • retaliation, defined as any adverse action or threat taken or made against an individual for making a report of prohibited conduct or participating in any investigation or proceeding related to the sexual-misconduct policy.

These often-broad and often-vague definitions can implicate so much sexual and non-sexual behavior as to substantially increase the risk of false or unfair sexual-misconduct charges at Dartmouth College. Dartmouth's policy includes further definitions of related concepts such as consent and a set of principles for evaluating charges where the parties had unequal positions. These definitions create an interpretive minefield that demands the knowledge, skill, and experience of expert counsel Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm.

Dartmouth College Procedures

The procedures that a college or university uses to determine the truth of sexual-misconduct allegations are important to the reliability and fairness of the outcomes. Dartmouth College maintains separate policies describing the procedures for sexual-misconduct complaints against students, faculty members, and staff members. The student procedure further provides for different procedures depending on whether the charges involve Title IX sexual misconduct or non-Title IX sexual misconduct. Consider the following outline of Dartmouth College procedures.

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. Significantly, 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.

Dartmouth College's sexual-misconduct policy and its related student-misconduct procedures preserve these and other federal Title IX rights. Either the complainant or Dartmouth's Title IX coordinator may file a formal complaint. If a threshold review confirms a potential Title IX violation, the university notifies the accused of the charge, and the coordinator appoints an investigator. The investigator prepares an investigation report after interviewing the accuser, accused, and any other witnesses. Both sides get to comment on the report. If the report does not result in dismissal of charges, then the matter moves forward to hearing before three Dartmouth College employees whom the Title IX coordinator chooses.

Each side may retain an advisor to attend the hearing. The advisor, who may be an attorney, may cross-examine witnesses at the hearing. The hearing panel may not consider the statement of any witness who does not testify at the hearing. The hearing panel prepares a final decision, one that the losing side may challenge with an appeal. Dartmouth College's student-misconduct procedures follow the lower preponderance-of-the-evidence standard rather than the higher clear-and-convincing-evidence standard, for the hearing panel's determination.

Dartmouth College's Title IX procedures create obvious opportunities for skilled counsel to assist in the defense of false or exaggerated charges. The organization and presentation of evidence, review and comment on proposed findings, cross-examination of adverse witnesses, and review and appeal of adverse findings are exactly where a skilled and experienced lawyer from the Lento Law Firm can change the outcome of sexual-misconduct charges.

Non-Title IX Procedures. Dartmouth College's student sexual-misconduct procedures provide an Other Prohibited Misconduct Hearing Format for non-Title IX sexual misconduct. The non-Title IX format is the same as above until the matter reaches the point of a formal hearing before the designated hearing panel. At the hearing, neither side may question the other side, although either side may propose questions to the panel members to ask at their discretion. The hearing panel may also rely on statements in the investigator's report even if those witnesses did not testify at the hearing.

While limiting any role by legal counsel, Dartmouth College's non-Title IX procedures still provide substantial opportunities for a skilled and experienced lawyer from the Lento Law Firm to defend false and exaggerated charges. Joseph D. Lento can evaluate and prepare corrective critiques of biased statements, statements without a factual foundation, and other evidence, help draft proposed questions to the accuser, help identify witnesses and organize the defense evidence to present, and evaluate and appeal adverse findings.

Sanctions. Dartmouth College takes sexual misconduct seriously. Dartmouth College's procedures list these potential sanctions for a finding of sexual misconduct: fine; restitution; educational or counseling requirement; warning; reprimand; probation; no-contact order; restriction from specific programs or activities; housing restriction or relocation; restriction from college employment; suspension; separation, meaning dismissal or expulsion; organizational loss of college recognition; organizational removal from college-owned housing; or loss of organizational insurance coverage.

Retain Skilled and Experienced Representation

The above discussion shows that the stakes of a sexual-misconduct charge at Dartmouth College are just as high as at other institutions. Don't assume, though, that a charge means a violation. Skilled and experienced legal counsel Joseph D. Lento can defend false or exaggerated charges. Dartmouth College's procedures create substantial opportunities for Mr. Lento to expose the weaknesses in misconduct cases.

Expert legal counsel is your greatest resource to defend and defeat 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 disciplinary matters. Joseph Lento and the Lento Law Firm have the knowledge, resources, and expertise to help you through a disciplinary proceeding at Dartmouth College for the best outcome. Call 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation, or use the online service.

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