Robert Mayes Sr. founded Columbia Southern University in 1993 as a for-profit university. It is one of the first online-only universities in the United States. Although the school was initially begun with environmental management and occupational health and safety as the available areas of study, today the school offers many more degrees and certifications to the non-traditional students that comprise most of its 30,000+ student population.
Title IX and College Sexual Misconduct at Columbia Southern University
The student handbook offers very little information about CSU's Title IX policy and procedures, and there is a small amount of information on their website. Instead, the Equal Opportunity, Harassment, and Nondiscrimination Policy is the best resource for you.
Alexis Harris is the Director of State Authorization and Title IX Coordinator under the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Accreditation at Columbia Southern University. Her email is [email protected].
At CSU, there is not much differentiation between what constitutes sexual misconduct and what constitutes a Title IX violation of sexual assault or harassment.
There are, however, a few things to note from the EOHN Policy.
First, they define sexual harassment as any conduct that falls under the following categories:
- Quid pro quo
- Any behavior that is: “Unwelcome conduct, determined by a reasonable person, to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the CSU's education program or activity”
- Non-consensual sexual acts
- Incest or statutory rape
- Dating Violence
- Domestic Violence
- Sexual acts that use force, coercion, consent, and incapacitation
Second, a complainant might choose not to proceed, and the Title IX coordinator may decide that the concern is such that the office will proceed with an investigation.
Finally, there are two resolution processes that are relevant. Process A applies to qualifying allegations of sexual harassment occurs. Process B can also apply to sexual harassment instances “when jurisdiction does not fall within Process A, as determined by the Title IX Coordinator.” Process A is also known as the “Formal Grievance Process,” and Process B is also known as the “administrative resolution procedures” as outlined in Appendix D of the policy.
The Disciplinary Process at CSU depends on whether you are following Process A (Formal Grievance Process) or Process B (administrative resolution procedures). Both processes involve the Title IX office, allow for an advisor, and have options for informal resolutions, investigations, and hearings.
In order to see more about which process is relevant in your circumstances, take a look at the policy and explore the appropriate process.
What Are Possible Sanctions From CSU for College Sexual Misconduct?
When CSU decides what sanctions to enact, it takes several factors into consideration. Although this is not an exhaustive list, some of the factors include:
- The nature, severity of, and circumstances surrounding the violation(s)
- Previous allegations or allegations involving similar behavior
- The Respondent's disciplinary history
Student sanctions for Title IX violations and College Sexual Misconduct are found in CSU's Equal Opportunity, Harassment, and Nondiscrimination Policy, which was updated in December 2020. Although it seems like there are many different sanctions, the truth is that usually, schools choose expulsion or suspension for college sexual misconduct and Title IX violations.
The policy names “usual sanctions” and lists:
- Warning: a formal statement that the behavior was unacceptable, and that further behavior could result in a more serious response
- Required Counseling: Mandated meetings with a counselor
- Probation: A written reprimand that allows for more severe consequences if policies are violated within a set period of time
- Suspension: At CSU, suspension is termination of your student status and can last for up to two years(!). Once you return to class, you are permanently on probation
- Expulsion: Permanently removed from student status at the school
- Withholding diploma: If an allegation is pending, the university can prohibit the student from attending commencement activities or receiving their diploma
- Revocation of Degree: CSU can revoke your degree if they learn of serious violations that were committed by the student prior to graduation
- Organizational Sanctions: this is mostly relevant for organizations and can result in loss of status, loss of privileges, and more
- Other actions: this catch-all allows the university to choose any other sanctions they deem appropriate
What Is the Appeal Process if You Disagree With the Outcome?
Students may only appeal for three specific reasons.
- There was a procedural irregularity that impacted the outcome
- New evidence has been discovered that wasn't available previously, and the new evidence could impact the final outcome
- The Title IX Coordinator, investigator, or other decision-maker had a conflict of interest that impacted the outcome
If you are going to appeal, you have seven days from receiving the Notice of Outcome to file a request. The request must be written and then submitted to the Title IX Coordinator. The Appeal decision-maker will be someone who was not previously linked to any stages of the prior proceedings.
The appeal is not usually a full re-hearing. Rather, it's a review of relevant documentation or recordings that specifically connect to the grounds for appeal. If an appeal is going forward, then the involved parties will be notified and have five business days to submit any relevant response. Barring any extenuating circumstances, the decision-maker will decide within five to seven business days and then send out a Notice of Appeal Outcome. The standard for decisions is the preponderance of evidence standard.
Does College Sexual Misconduct Have a Long-Term Impact?
Allegations of Title IX violations or college sexual assault or misconduct can drastically affect your future. Whether you're considering employment opportunities or further studies, anything on your transcript or record would be visible and could keep you from being offered a job or gaining admission at a school. Additionally, if you've received any financial aid for your coursework, that could be in jeopardy if you aren't enrolled for the appropriate amount of credit hours. This could lead to a significant financial burden.
Choose the Best Title IX and College Sexual Misconduct Defense Attorney-Advisor for CSU
An attorney-advisor can help you face these concerning allegations as Columbia Southern University examines and explores them. Sometimes students will wait until after a decision is made and only speak with an attorney-advisor once a finding is announced. This is a misguided approach and can lead to more complications and temporary sanctions while your appeal is underway, even assuming the matter can still be rectified at that later time.
Speaking with an attorney-advisor immediately can ensure you understand how to best approach and navigate this challenging situation. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have worked with hundreds of students nationwide to help them reach the best possible outcome when facing Title IX violations or sexual harassment/assault/misconduct allegations. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 or contact them online in order to speak with someone about your specific case.