If you or a loved one is facing college sexual misconduct charges at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, it's easy to become overwhelmed and paralyzed. One way to combat that is with knowledge and action. To get you started, here's an overview of the process at UWM and some possible steps to take
What is the Difference Between Title IX and College Sexual Misconduct at UWM?
UWM revised its Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy in February 2021. Although they do distinguish between college sexual misconduct and Title IX offenses, it's important to understand that their policy specifically “prohibits acts of sexual harassment and sexual violence (which, as defined below, includes sexual assault, sexual exploitation, stalking, dating violence, and domestic violence) on university property, at university-sanctioned or university-affiliated events, and where off-campus conduct affects a member of the university community.”
That means that their scope is more similar to the older Dept of Education Title IX guidelines rather than the May 2020 Betsy DeVos DoE guidelines. These murkier and wider-reaching guidelines apply to the following (from the policy)
- University-sponsored and supported activities— both on and off-campus, “including those held in other municipalities, states, and nations.
- All students while they are on campus or if their off-campus conduct meets any of the following criteria:
- The conduct constitutes or would constitute a serious criminal offense, regardless of the existence of any criminal proceedings.
- The conduct indicates that the student presented or may present a danger or threat to the health or safety of self or others.
- The conduct demonstrates a pattern of behavior that seriously impairs the University's ability to fulfill its teaching, research, or public service missions.
- All other members of the University community (including, but not limited to employees, volunteers, visitors, guests, contractors, and third-party vendors) while they are on campus or engaged in activities associated with University-sponsored and supported activities.”
One key difference here is that the University policy applies to events that are off-campus (which generally does not fall under Title IX per the Title IX Final Rule which went into effect in August 2020).
At UWM, the Title IX Office and the Dean of Students Office investigate any allegations involving student respondents, and allegations against “employees, affiliated individuals, visitors, and guests, are investigated by the Office of Equity/Diversity Services.”
The actual activities that fall under sexual misconduct, as well as the procedure, are determined by the UWS system. UWS 17.152 specifies what constitutes a Title IX violation versus a sexual misconduct violation.
UWM strives to resolve all allegations within 90 days of a complaint occurring.
What Steps Should You Take if You've Been Accused?
When you or a loved one has been accused of sexual misconduct, whether Title IX or under UWM's code of conduct, here are some recommended steps. You may be surprised by the charge, as you may have thought an interaction was consensual. Regardless, it's critical that you follow the steps below.
Speak with nobody on campus about the case.
Although you may be tempted to speak with friends or trusted advisors about your circumstances, it's crucial that you not do so. If you need support, find someone outside the University. Additionally, if any campus officials attempt to speak with you, know that you do not have to answer their questions without speaking with an advisor. You do not have to speak with campus police or security.
Do not contact or reach out to your accuser.
You may be confused by the allegations and want to speak with your accuser to ask questions or to confront them. This would be unwise. You also do not want to enlist any third parties to speak with them on your behalf.
Find and speak with a college sexual misconduct advisor right away.
If you're facing a college sexual misconduct investigation, you want to ensure that your actions work toward the best possible outcome. You want someone who's successfully helped clients defend against these types of cases. They'll be able to help you protect your rights and advise what the best course of action is.
Take the time to review UWM's Student Handbook.
There are several documents that you will want to become familiar with if you've been accused of sexual misconduct. The student handbook outlines the overall policy and procedure at UWM, and the Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy offers broad strokes as to the circumstances and guidelines. The most helpful resource, however, as far as specific procedural understanding, is “Subchapter III — Procedures for Student Nonacademic Discipline in Sexual Misconduct Cases,” which begins with UWS 17.151 and ends at UWS 17.156.
Document and write down everything.
Make sure to gather everything that could possibly impact your case. Your experienced attorney-advisor can make certain that you have all of the needed records and facts. Don't rely on your memory. Keep track on your cell phone, a notebook, or somewhere else safe.
How Can an Attorney-Advisor Help?
Although some educational institutions prohibit an attorney-advisor, UWM does allow students to seek out the assistance of an attorney-advisor. According to the policy, they can help a “respondent in any grievance proceeding or related meeting.” This is good news if you are facing these serious allegations. Your attorney-advisor can help you navigate the investigation and the disciplinary process. With such high stakes, you want to be certain that you are adequately defended. The presence and expertise of an attorney-advisor can help prepare you for any of the hearings, interviews, or meetings, that UWM holds. They can also, if needed, negotiate on your behalf with the school's attorney.
One of the other benefits of an attorney-advisor is that they will know what type of evidence is relevant and helpful for your case. You might think of some of the sources on your own, such as text messages or DMs, but what about voicemail recordings, witnesses who can testify on your behalf, and other relevant evidence. An attorney-advisor will help you make sure that you gather all relevant and useful evidence.
As importantly, you need someone solely dedicated to your cause and who will not waiver regardless of the how difficult the path forward may be. A respondent in a Title IX or college sexual misconduct case can rest assured that due process issues will arise during the course of the case. Although some potential issues may seem small in comparison to the uninformed, because of what is at stake when accused of sexual misconduct, everything that takes place during an investigation, hearing, or appeal needs to be carefully considered and addressed accordingly. This is not a time to blindly accept what may be taking place, as a respondent's rights and interests are generally considered last in Title IX disciplinary proceedings. This is unfortunately true of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and most any school in the United States. It is the nature of the Title IX beast. Fundamentally, a respondent needs an attorney-advisor who is battle-tested, having fought on behalf of the accused for a fair process and the best possible outcome.
Contact an Experienced UWM Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Attorney-Advisor Today
Addressing UWM sexual misconduct allegations doesn't have to (and shouldn't) be something you navigate alone. An expert attorney-advisor can fight for your rights and make sure that you have the best chance to achieve an outcome that is positive. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled Title IX and college sexual misconduct experience and has helped hundreds of students across the nation facing allegations of this nature. Sexual misconduct is a serious allegation with far-reaching effects. You want the best on your side to help protect your rights and your future. Contact the Lento Law Firm online today or call us at 888-535-3686.