If someone has accused you of sexual misconduct at Tufts University, it may feel as though your whole future lies in the balance. Universities take a tough stance on sexual misconduct and having those accusations on your record can have far-reaching consequences. Students often feel disorientated when facing a sexual misconduct disciplinary process. It is crucial that you understand your school's policies and secure a good advisor so you can be sure your school is treating you fairly.
Massachusetts Colleges and Title IX or Sexual Misconduct Cases
The federal civil rights law Title IX prohibits sexual harassment in colleges and universities across the country. Schools must follow the federal guidelines to receive federal funding. New Title IX regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Education went into effect on August 14, 2020, and Tufts revised its own Title IX Policy accordingly.
Title IX rules put in place by the Obama Administration had afforded more protections to the accuser. The Trump Administration's changes sought to redress the balance between the accuser and accused by narrowing the definition of sexual harassment and implementing live hearings with direct cross-examination. These changes have proved controversial, and the Massachusetts state attorney is one of 18 states suing the Department of Education over the new rules.
Students are beholden to school's internal policies as well as Title IX, and many institutions have revised their own sexual misconduct policies to plug gaps left by changes in Title IX policy. For this reason, it is vital that you familiarise yourself with school policies as well as Title IX.
Tufts University: Your School's Title IX Policy
Suppose someone has made a formal complaint against you that comes under Title IX. In that case, the school has to investigate following the adjudication process laid out in the Title IX policy. The Title IX process includes a live hearing where your advisor can cross-examine witnesses on your behalf.
Even if there has not been a Title IX formal complaint, the school can still investigate and penalize allegations against you under the Tufts code of conduct, including the Tufts Sexual Misconduct Policy.
The school might pursue either a formal or informal process.
Tufts University: Your School's Sexual Misconduct Policy
If someone has accused you of misconduct covered by school policy but not Title IX, the investigation will follow a slightly different protocol.
As well as Title IX, members of the students are accountable to the Tufts Sexual Misconduct Policy. This policy prohibits a broader range of behaviors and applies in a more comprehensive range of scenarios, including misconduct overseas.
If, after the initial assessment, the Title IX Office decides that the allegations against you would not violate Title IX, they will dismiss the formal complaint. However, the Title IX Office might refer the complaint to another process under another the Sexual Misconduct policy.
Alternatively, the complaint against you might include actions covered by Title IX as well as actions falling outside of it. The Title IX coordinator can decide whether to include those non-Title IX allegations in your Title IX formal process or in an alternative parallel adjudication process. You could well have two parallel proceedings against you, penalizing you under different policies.
This complexity makes it all the more important to navigate the procedures and level a suitable defense.
Tufts University: Title IX Formal Process
The formal process proceeds in this order:
- initial assessment
- formal investigation
- written report and proposed sanction
- pre-hearing conference
- live hearing to determine policy violations
When a student reports sexual misconduct to the school, they will have some choice over when and how to pursue their complaint.
In exceptional circumstances where they deem there to be a risk to campus safety, the school can choose to proceed with an Administrative Complaint, even if the original accuser decides not to make a formal complaint.
A formal complaint will trigger an investigation. The standard of evidence used is the preponderance of the evidence, which means it was “more likely than not” that there was a violation.
In a Title IX formal process, the school must permit a live hearing where your advisor can cross-examine the other side.
Tufts University: Non-Title IX Process and Informal Processes
If someone files a formal complaint alleging a violation of the school's Sexual Misconduct Policy (rather than Title IX), the school will follow their Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Process. This formal process is very similar to the Title IX process and includes the formal investigation, written report, and hearing, only without direct cross-examination.
You might also be able to agree with your accuser to engage in an informal resolution process. If you all agree to the terms of the resolution, you can resolve the complaint informally. Once settled, the other side cannot appeal, but they can still request a formal process until the point of resolution.
The Consequences of Sexual Misconduct at Tufts University
If someone has made a formal complaint against you, the school will consider safety in the initial assessment. They may decide to suspend you or restrict your access on campus for the duration of the investigation.
Students charged with sexual misconduct can face sanctions, including:
- loss of institutional privileges
Serious as these sanctions are, the reputational impact of an offense can even more far-reaching. Among many other potential consequences, internships, graduate school, professional employment opportunities can all be derailed if a respondent is found responsible for sexual misconduct regrettably.
Joseph D. Lento: Experienced College Sexual Misconduct Advisor
If your future is at threat from sexual misconduct allegations, you should equip yourself with the best advisor you can. Given the high stakes and risk of schools treating the accused unfairly, having an advisor that knows the system could make all the difference.
Joseph D. Lento has successfully defended students from all across the country in their Title IX and sexual misconduct cases. Whichever stage in proceedings you are at, he will work tirelessly to secure you a fair process and favorable outcome.
For more information about how we can help you, call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.