If you are under investigation for sexual misconduct at the University of Miami, you will likely be going through a slew of emotions. Colleges often pursue claims of sexual misconduct aggressively, and the impact of accusations can be far-reaching. It would be a mistake to underestimate how gravely such an accusation could jeopardize your future. It is vital that you take immediate action to ensure due process and a fair chance to defend yourself.
Florida Colleges and Title IX or Sexual Misconduct Cases
Sexual harassment and other offenses are prohibited in colleges across the state and the country, under the federal law Title IX. In the past, colleges processed the majority of sexual misconduct allegations under these regulations.
In May 2020, the Department of Education issued compulsory new guidance for the application of these rules. The deadline for implementation was August 14, at which point the revised regulations went into effect in colleges all over the state. The University of Miami and other Florida colleges amended their Title IX policies in August to comply with the federal guidance as it came into effect.
The latest regulations have been perceived as tipping the scales back towards a fair process for the accused. They have been controversial on campuses and have received substantial push back from universities.
The definition of sexual harassment in the new regulations is more narrow than it was previously. However, schools must handle any misconduct under this definition in a Florida college under this specific Title IX grievance process. In a significant change, however, the University of Miami is also allowing students to pursue an informal resolution to sexual misconduct. Given these recent changes, it is essential that you familiarize yourself with school policy.
University of Miami: Your School's Title IX Policy
All sexual misconduct allegations at the University of Miami go through the Title IX Office. The school's definition of sexual harassment aligns with the Title IX definition: “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.”
When someone makes a report to the Title IX Office, the coordinator goes through the available supportive measures with them and explains the process of lodging a formal complaint. That person will decide whether to go down the route of supportive measures or a formal complaint. The formal complaint triggers an investigation and hearing in line with Title IX policy.
The most significant of this year's nationwide Title IX changes is the compulsory provision for a live hearing with direct cross-examination of both sides. However, in Miami, this was already the case. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit had put this in place in universities in its jurisdiction back in 2018. However, what has changed in the Title IX changes of 2020 is that everyone involved in sexual misconduct proceedings must have an advisor or attorney-advisor. The advisor will lead the cross-examination in the hearing. Not all advisors are made equal, however. Having an experienced advisor at your side determined to fight your corner and hold the university to account for its own rules will give you the best chance of successfully coming through the other side.
University of Miami: Formal Grievance Process
The formal process at the University of Miami will begin after someone has made a formal complaint against you. Though you should not yet be presumed guilty, the school may well put interim measures in place as they look into the allegations. There will be a formal investigation, with a series of interviews that leads to a written report.
The second phase is a live hearing where you will be able to put forward witnesses and evidence. Title IX guidance protects your right to have an advisor who will directly cross-examine the other side in the hearing. At this point, the school will decide whether you violated the policy or not. The standard of evidence they use is the preponderance of the evidence meaning that they will judge whether it is “more likely than not” that you violated the policy.
If the school finds that you violated sexual misconduct policy, the school might deploy a broad range of sanctions. These range from suspension to permanent expulsion and can have severe repercussions for your reputation and prospects.
University of Miami: Informal Processes
The school now allows an informal resolution as an alternative to the formal grievance process. As of 2020, both parties can agree by writing to engage in an informal process except where violence or assault is alleged.
The Title IX Office may find that the allegation against you doesn't come under Title IX but that it would be appropriate to pursue supportive measures, for instance, for claims that took place overseas and no longer come under Title IX.
The person who reported you for sexual misconduct may elect to pursue an informal process instead of making a formal complaint. Rather than investigating and adjudicating on whether you violated the policy, an informal approach focuses on non-punitive, supportive measures and may include a conference or mediation. You may still face restrictions such as changes in work or housing locations or leaves of absence, and the risk of reputational damage is still there. What's more, while this process is ongoing, your accuser may still instigate a formal investigation.
Joseph D. Lento: Experienced College Sexual Misconduct Advisor
Accusations of sexual misconduct not only endanger your position in college but put your entire future at risk. However, there is no need to go through it alone. Joseph D. Lento has successfully defended students from all over the country in Title IX and sexual misconduct cases. He can guide you through the entire process. With an experienced attorney-advisor at your side, you can feel more confident in reclaiming your future. For more information about how we can help you, call Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.