University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) prohibits student sexual misconduct, including but not limited to sexual harassment. Federal regulations referred to as Title IX also prohibit sexual harassment. As a UTRGV student accused of a sexual infraction, you may face severe sanctions under Title IX or university policy.
If you face an allegation of sexual misconduct—a Title IX offense or otherwise—attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento will defend you until the final bell rings. He takes clients' concerns personally and specializes in student discipline defense, especially sexual misconduct defense.
What Is Title IX, and What Qualifies as a Title IX Offense?
Title IX is a wide-ranging federal regulation originally designed to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex. In reality, Title IX is far more expansive—it has created a framework for how universities process and adjudicate alleged sexual misconduct.
Title IX has also proven subject to change. Different presidential administrations with varying views on justice have molded Title IX in their own image. Such changes include, but are not limited to:
- What qualifies as a Title IX offense
- What the accused can and cannot do during a Title IX hearing (questioning their accuser, for example)
- The standard of proof to find someone responsible for a Title IX offense
Title IX has changed significantly in recent years, causing widespread confusion as a result. There is no simple answer as to what does or does not qualify as a Title IX offense. You can assume that most offenses deemed “sexual misconduct” by UTRGV will—at least initially—be handled as Title IX infractions.
Section 11(D) of the Title IX Legal Manual prohibits sexual harassment “in educational programs or activities operated by recipients of federal funding.” An alleged offense may fall outside the scope of Title IX based on details like where or when the alleged offense took place.
UTRGV literature encourages reporting of Title IX violations to the school's Title IX Coordinator. If someone files a Title IX report naming you as a perpetrator of wrongdoing, then expect the UTRGV to fully adjudicate the complaint.
What Acts Qualify as Sexual Misconduct at UTRGV?
Even if your case does not qualify as a Title IX offense, UTRGV may pursue sanctions, nonetheless. You may face similar punishment for a Title IX and non-Title IX offense.
Sexual offenses prohibited by UTRGV’s Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP) for Sexual Misconduct include:
- Sexual exploitation
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual assault
The HOP also prohibits stalking, dating violence, domestic violence, and “other inappropriate sexual conduct or unprofessional sexual conduct.”
A formal complaint against you will kickstart the adjudication process. If you do not put forth a strong offense from the start, then allegations of the above-listed behaviors could result in expulsion from UTRGV (and worse).
How Does UTRGV Handle Alleged Sexual Misconduct?
UTRGV refers reporters of sexual misconduct to its Office of Institutional Equity & Diversity and its Title IX Coordinator specifically. The Title IX Coordinator, and by extension Title IX policy, may be an integral feature of your case from the outset.
The disciplinary process begins with a formal complaint against you. At this point, you become the “Respondent” to the complaint. The complaint against you will contain a “Detailed description of the alleged conduct or event that is the basis of the alleged violation under this Policy.”
UTRGV gives great influence to the Title IX Coordinator. This power includes the discretion to proceed with a complaint against you even if the Complainant requests that they cease. Once the Title IX Coordinator receives a complaint against you, then the UTRGV Grievance Process may ensue, including:
Assessment of the Complaint
The Title IX Coordinator has three days to:
- Determine if the complaint qualifies as sexual harassment (and thus a Title IX offense)
- Determine the proper adjudication process
- Notify you and the Complainant of their findings
The Title IX Coordinator must dismiss a complaint if the alleged offense does not qualify as sexual harassment, did not occur in the U.S., or did not happen in the context of “UTRGV's education program or activity.” (See HOP p.10). Other circumstances may warrant a discretionary dismissal of the complaint.
Informal Resolution Process
You and the Complainant may have the right to pursue an informal resolution. Informal resolutions are optional, and you can withdraw from this process at any time.
UTRGV will investigate the complaint if no informal resolution arises. The investigator will meet with you, speak with witnesses, gather and review evidence, and complete an investigation report. You will have a ten-day window to review and respond to the evidence before the investigator writes their report. You will receive a copy of the report no later than ten days prior to your Sexual Harassment Complaint hearing.
Sexual Harassment Complaint Hearing
Your case may involve a hearing during which your attorney-advisor may:
- Make opening statements
- Question witnesses
- Challenge the credibility of witnesses
- Comment on evidence
- Make closing statements
A hearing officer will oversee the proceedings. Their discretion will determine how the hearing unfolds.
If your complaint does not qualify as sexual harassment, then one of UTRGV's alternative grievance processes for sexual misconduct complaints will apply. Your attorney-advisor will explain to you what your specific grievance process will entail.
You have ten days from receipt of a case decision to file an appeal. Conflict of interest, procedural irregularity, and new evidence are the three stated grounds for appeal.
UTRGV's Handbook of Operating Procedures for Sexual Misconduct states that “UTRGV will promptly discipline any individuals or organizations within its control who violate this policy.”
The university can:
- Suspend you
- Expel you
- Revoke your degree
- Revoke financial aid
- Issue a formal reprimand
- Take other punitive measures against you
Allegations of a sexual nature are particularly serious. Being deemed responsible for sexual harassment or another form of sexual misconduct will have a negative effect on you. Other schools may not allow you to enroll, while prospective employers may see you as a liability and thus unemployable. Your personal well-being may suffer because of stress and hardship caused by sanctions from UTRGV.
Hire a Passionate Title IX Attorney-Advisor Today
UTRGV uses the preponderance of evidence standard to judge cases of alleged sexual misconduct. While you are assumed not responsible for starting your case, the person arguing against you must only show that you are likely to have committed the alleged offense.
You need a passionate, skilled, experienced attorney-advisor on your side. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is that advisor. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. You can also contact our Firm online. Attorney Lento and his team will resolve your case at UT Rio Grande Valley, seeking the best possible result for you.