Pennsylvania colleges and universities may share similarities in how Title IX charges are investigated and adjudicated, but every school is different. Some schools use a "single investigator" model, others use a "hearing panel" model, and others yet use a "blended" model which incorporates elements of both. Even among colleges and universities that use the same Title IX disciplinary model, critical differences exist as to each schools' specific Title IX disciplinary procedures.
Regardless of the disciplinary model used at your or your student's particular school, federal Title IX policies mandate swift disciplinary proceedings in cases where sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, assault, or violence, has been alleged, and findings need only be supported by a preponderance of the evidence, a standard far below “beyond a reasonable doubt” that is afforded in criminal courtrooms. Because of the significant federal funding at stake, most colleges and universities in Pennsylvania have made their Title IX disciplinary policies comply with federal mandates, and by doing so, have continued to diminish the procedural safeguards afforded to accused students.
In addition, campus Title IX proceedings are generally conducted and adjudicated by panels of students, faculty, and/or administrators with little or no training in due process, investigatory practice, rules of evidence, or civil procedure. As a result, students accused of sexual misconduct are increasingly facing life-altering negative consequences when found “responsible” for alleged sexual misconduct. Allegations alone can create serious issues for accused students, and consequences resulting from a finding of responsibility can include suspension, expulsion, the loss of scholarships, the reporting of disciplinary charges on their permanent student record that often must be disclosed when applying to graduate schools for example, or when pursuing professional employment. With so much at stake, it cannot be ignored that schools do make mistakes; indeed, the number of colleges and universities being investigated by the federal government for missteps in such matters has tripled since 2011; 11 of which are under present investigation in Pennsylvania.
Despite the potential inadequacies of how a particular school handles sexual misconduct allegations, ultimately, to achieve the best possible result when facing such allegations, students and parents must understand how their school investigates and adjudicates Title IX violations, and must take the proper steps as early as possible in the process to protect the accused student's interests.
The following list of Pennsylvania colleges and universities provides specific information as to each schools' Title IX disciplinary model and procedures: