Allegations of sexual misconduct can be devastating for everyone involved. Navigating your school's disciplinary process is already tricky, and heightened emotions make it more challenging still. Universities often respond to allegations swiftly and harshly. The penalties can be grave, and the reputational damage severe. College adjudication processes are far from perfect, so you must take a proactive approach if you want a fair chance to defend yourself.
California Colleges and Title IX or Sexual Misconduct Cases
The federal civil rights law Title IX prohibits sexual harassment and assault in educational institutions across the country. Historically, it has been under Title IX that schools have processed sexual misconduct claims. However, the University of California and other California campuses have recently changed their Title IX processes in the light of new federal regulations.
In May 2020, the Department of Education announced compulsory, nationwide changes to Title IX. The new guidance limits investigations to a narrower definition of sexual harassment and has provisions designed to tip the scales back towards a fair process for the accused. These changes went into effect on August 14, 2020.
If someone has accused you of sexual misconduct, you may also be coming up against individual school policies in addition to, or instead of, Title IX.
Indeed, some colleges have rushed to fill the gap created by the more confined Title IX by expanding their own sexual misconduct policies in student codes of conduct.
The implementation deadline for Title IX changes was August 14, 2020, meaning colleges around the U.S. hastily revised Title IX policies despite considerable disturbance from the pandemic. As a result, an accusation of sexual misconduct can makes you something of a test case, as the school investigates you under new, untried rules. Consequently, it is more important than ever to carefully study school policies and equip yourself with an advisor who knows how your school's disciplinary systems operate.
UCI: Your School's Title IX Policy
Title IX guidelines require schools to follow a specific grievance process for behavior covered by the regulations. The University of California has a system-wide Title IX Office that investigates all sexual misconduct claims across the University, including UCI. The University was vocal in its criticism of Title IX changes but has nevertheless revised its policies to implement them as part of a dual process.
If adjudicated under Title IX, the following changes, which took effect in August, will apply:
- Your school must now allow a live hearing where a student's advisor/attorney-advisor can directly cross-examine.
- Sexual misconduct that occurred on off-campus housing or overseas no longer comes under Title IX.
- Schools must have ‘actual knowledge' of the accusation, rather than having ‘reasonably should have known' about it to be obligated to investigate.
- Title IX no longer covers such a broad and expansive category of sexual exploitation. Title IX sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual conduct on the basis of sex determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies an individual equal access to the University's education programs or activities.”
UCI: Your School's Sexual Misconduct Policy
As well as Title IX, UCI students are bound by The University of California's Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment Policy, which is much broader in application than the Title IX regulations. This dual system means that you could be penalized in a separate protocol under this policy instead of, or parallel to, a formal Title IX process.
The policy notes that the school will go down the Title IX route when required by federal law but will otherwise use their own policy and protocol to police sexual misconduct on campus.
The University has taken this position following vocal opposition to Title IX changes, which UC President Janet Napolitano has dismissed as “misguided” in the LA Times. The University will continue to take a hard line on sexual misconduct with a policy that prohibits “a broad spectrum of conduct, not all of which is sexual violence.” This includes, for example, invasion of sexual privacy. There is also some ambiguity in determining whether an offense can be penalized as sexual violence or sexual harassment, and this is at the discretion of the Title IX Office.
The breadth and complexity of the school's dual policies make it all the more important that you seek advice from someone who understands these policies and protocols.
UCI: What Due Process to Expect
The formal grievance process at UCI includes an investigation culminating in a written report and a hearing.
If conducted in full, the process occurs in the following order:
- formal investigation
- proposed sanction
- opportunity to contest the preliminary determination
- hearing to determine policy violations
- appeal process
On receiving a report, the Title IX Officer will make an initial assessment to determine whether to begin a Title IX Grievance Process or Alternative Resolution. Your school's policy makes it clear that they will follow the Title IX grievance process “when (and only when) required,” preferring an Alternative Resolution instead.
In either case, the school will prepare a written report and will inform both parties of the outcome. If you contest their decision or if the accused requests it, the next stage will be a hearing. At this hearing, both you and your accuser will have time to state your cases and the school will use the preponderance of the evidence standard to judge whether it is “more likely than not” that you violated the policy. You will have a short period when you can appeal the final decision, after which point, the school will consider your case closed.
The Consequences of Sexual Misconduct at UCI
At UCI, the consequences can be wide-ranging. According to the UC Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment, the sanctions you face could
- exclusion from areas of the campus or official University functions
- loss of privileges or exclusion from activities
However, there may be practical consequences ahead of any investigation or hearing. The school can choose to put ‘supportive' measures in place or interim measures removing you or restricting your movement on campus while you are under investigation. While this may seem severe, failing to comply could result in even worse consequences later on.
Joseph D. Lento: Experienced College Sexual Misconduct Advisor
If you have been accused of sexual misconduct allegations at the University of California, Irving, having an attorney-advisor experienced in student defense can help even the odds. Joseph D. Lento has successfully defended students all across the nation in their Title IX and sexual misconduct cases.
He will work tirelessly to support you at every stage, whether that's reviewing the evidence, preparing you for the hearing, or negotiating with the administration for a mutually acceptable resolution. For more information about how we can help you, call Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.