If you or a loved one is studying at the University of Texas, you will understandably be deeply distressed to discover that the school is investigating you for sexual misconduct. Allegations of this nature can imperil your education and derail your future plans. It is normal to feel threatened at the thought of coming up against your school's formal disciplinary process. By familiarizing yourself with your school's policies and securing an experienced Title IX attorney as your advisor, you can give yourself the best possible chance of a favorable outcome.
Title IX and Federal Law
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that makes it illegal to discriminate based on sex. Schools, colleges, and universities are required by law to respond to all Title IX complaints of sexual misconduct. If they fail to do this, they risk losing their federal funding.
The Department of Education publishes guidance on how to implement Title IX correctly. This guidance outlines the jurisdiction of Title IX, specifies what counts as a Title IX offense, and lays out the grievance process schools must follow to investigate and discipline these specified Title IX offenses.
The most recent Title IX guidance, which went into effect in August 2020, provided better protections for the accused. However, with the definition of Title IX narrowed, schools are increasingly disciplining students under their own codes of conduct for sexual misconduct offenses.
With students now having to navigate dual disciplinary processes, it is more important than ever that you and your advisor understand your school policy and the Title IX rule.
The University of North Texas Title IX Policy
The University of North Texasstrictly prohibits Title IX Sexual Harassment.
Title IX Sexual Harassment is defined in the following way:
- Sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking
- Quid pro quo harassment from employees
- Any other unwelcome sexual conduct that any reasonable person would consider “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the University's education program or activity.”
The Title IX Coordinator implements and enforces the University's Title IX program across all University campuses, programs, and activities. When someone reports sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator, the coordinator will assess the report. They will either initiate an investigation or dismiss the complaint. They must dismiss a complaint if any of the following are true:
- The alleged incident does not meet the definition of Title IX Sexual Harassment
- The alleged incident did not occur in a UNT educational program or activity
- The alleged incident did not occur against a person in the United States
Title IX guidance protects student's rights to due process. Your school must give you a fair chance to defend yourself, including significantly, a live hearing in which your attorney-advisor can cross-examine your accuser and any witnesses.
The University of North Texas Sexual Misconduct Policy
University of North Texas students are held accountable to school policies as well as the federal-compliant Title IX policy. Though the school is obliged to follow the federally compliant Title IX grievance process for Title IX offenses, you may face allegations of sexual coercion, sexual exploitation, or a minor count of sexual misconduct that do not meet the threshold for Title IX sexual harassment. The school may act under the UNT sexual misconduct policy or student code of conduct to investigate and discipline you for the allegation.
The jurisdiction of Title IX is strictly on-campus and in the U.S. only. At the same time, school policy can apply to sexual misconduct that occurs off-campus or overseas should it be reasonably likely to affect students' academic or work environment adversely.
As with Title IX claims, the sanctions for violating the school's code of conduct can be extremely severe. Although schools must be consistent with their own rules, students can expect less due process in these proceedings.
The University of North Texas Formal Grievance Process
The formal grievance process at the University of North Texas begins when someone signs a formal complaint and submits it to the Title IX Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator will either dismiss the complaint or sign it to initiate an investigation.
The investigation phase proceeds as follows:
- On launching an investigation, the Title IX Coordinator will give written notice to those involved. They will provide you with ten days to respond in writing and schedule an interview with the investigator.
- You will have a chance to present as well as view any relevant information and evidence.
- Your advisor or attorney-advisor can attend any related interview, meeting, or proceeding in the Grievance Process.
- Once the investigation is complete, the investigator will produce a written investigation report and provide copies to both parties, your advisors, the Title IX coordinator, and Hearing Officer if appropriate.
- The case may either be dismissed at this stage or proceed to a hearing.
If the school does not dismiss the complaint against you following the investigation, they will proceed to a Live Hearing to resolve the allegations:
- Both sides have full access to any evidence during the hearing, and their advisors can cross-examine the other party and any other witnesses.
- The Hearing Panel will make a determination of responsibility on all allegations in the Formal Complaint.
- The Hearing Officer is responsible for preparing a written determination with factual findings and any recommendations for disciplinary sanctions.
- The Hearing Officer will transmit a copy to the Dean of Students, who has 14 days to consider your case and assign a sanction accordingly.
The preponderance of the evidence is the standard of proof used throughout each stage of the formal resolution process. The school must prove that it is more likely than not that you violated the policy. The University will retain all documentation related to this Grievance Process for seven years.
Review and Appeal
If the school reached an unfair finding or sanction, you might submit an appeal in writing within ten days of notice of the written determination.
An appeal may be based only on the following grounds:
- A procedural irregularity occurred affecting the outcome
- New evidence has emerged
- The Title IX Coordinator, investigator, or Hearing Panelist had a conflict of interest or bias that affected the outcome
The school's policy advises that “in cases of sexual assault, sexual coercion, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, a request for review of the finding is conducted by the Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity (VPED), and a request for review of the sanctions is conducted by the Committee and VPSA.”
The Consequences of Sexual Misconduct at the University of North Texas: Measures and Sanctions
The school often puts interim measures in place when they begin an investigation. In theories, these are non-punitive and are for welfare purposes to avoid contact between parties. In reality, these can be obstructive and inconvenient. However, it is important not to break any rules imposed while proceedings are ongoing.
If you are found to have violated school policy, the University has a broad range of sanctions they can use, including:
- Conduct probation
- Loss of privileges
- Residence hall removal
- Student suspension
Once the appeal timeframe has elapsed, or the appeal process is complete, the school will enforce sanctions. Beyond these immediate sanctions, a record of sexual misconduct can have far-reaching consequences for your future.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento: Experienced College Sexual Misconduct Advisor
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has successfully defended hundreds of students from across the country in their Title IX and sexual misconduct cases. From accompanying you in the interview meetings to leading your cross-examination or appealing an unfair determination, Joseph D. Lento will be there every step of the way. For more information about how we can help you, call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.