The four years you spend at college are perhaps the most important years of your life. These are the years when you define yourself. You study for a career; you make lifelong friendships; you forge your own identity as an adult.
These years can also define you in a negative sense, though. An allegation of sexual misconduct at college can not only derail your academic future; it has the potential to affect your entire life. Accusations that find their way to the Internet, for instance, can be difficult if not impossible to eradicate.
While schools have an obligation to protect victims of sexual misconduct, they have an equal obligation to protect the due process rights of those accused of sexual misconduct. Some schools do. Others pay lip service to the principal. Too often, though, the university judicial system simply fails to provide these protections.
A Brief History of Title IX
Title IX is the law most commonly used to prosecute instances of sexual misconduct on college campuses. The law was created in 1972 to prevent sexual discrimination in educational programs by withholding federal funds from any organization that practiced such discrimination.
Over time, Title IX evolved into a means of protecting individuals from sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct. While this evolution reflected noble goals and has certainly had positive outcomes, it also put pressure on colleges and universities to vigorously prosecute anyone accused of sexual misconduct. Otherwise, they risked losing funding. With money at stake, defendants almost necessarily had to be treated as guilty until proven innocent.
Over time, and as a result of Title IX, attitudes at educational institutions shifted dramatically. Far from discriminating on the basis of sex, the academic world came to see itself as the greatest defender of women's rights and a righteous prosecutor of sexual misconduct. Again, while we should applaud such a shift, it also created an unbalanced system in which the accused had fewer and fewer rights.
Things changed again in early 2020. That's when the Trump administration, under the guidance of education secretary Betsy DeVos, issued revised federal guidelines for Title IX. These new guidelines narrowed the definition of sexual misconduct and tried to provide more due process rights to the accused. These changes helped bring balance to the system, but they also stand as a reminder that Title IX law is complicated and subject to frequent interpretation and reinterpretation.
The Title IX Process at Illinois Institute of Technology
Like any college or university receiving federal funds, the Illinois Institute of Technology maintains an Office of Title IX Compliance led by the school's Title IX Coordinator.
- The Title IX adjudication process goes into effect when this office receives a formal complaint of sexual misconduct. The office first provides written notice to both parties listing the allegation and explaining the resolution process. Under current Title IX guidelines, the accused is presumed “not responsible” until a final determination about responsibility has been made. In addition, both students are allowed to choose an attorney as an advisor throughout the process.
- Next, the office holds a series of “investigatory meetings” designed to gather evidence and witness statements. Again, both students are entitled to use attorneys as advisors during this process, though these attorneys may not speak on the students' behalf. In addition, both parties are equally entitled to present evidence as part of the investigation process, but the burden to prove the allegation rests solely on the school.
- Within ninety days of the complaint, Title IX investigators submit a written summary of the evidence and both sides then have at least ten days to respond before a hearing begins.
- Finally, a live hearing is held, though it may be held virtually. During this hearing, both parties' advisors have the opportunity to cross-examine the two parties and any witnesses. The school cannot rely on any information from a party or witness who declines to be cross-examined. At the conclusion of the hearing, the school assigns responsibility and determines punishment where appropriate.
The Impact of Sexual Misconduct Allegations at Illinois Institute of Technology
Either side may appeal the final verdict of the hearing, but only for very specific reasons, including:
- New evidence;
- Process irregularities;
- Conflict-of-interest allegations;
- Claims that the penalty is disproportionate to the offense.
Otherwise, the verdict cannot be questioned.
And what kind of penalties can a student found to be “responsible” face in sexual misconduct cases? Lower level penalties at Illinois Tech include disciplinary warnings, counseling referrals, and restitution or fines. More serious penalties can include:
- Educational sanctions: student must complete an educational project in line with the offense such as a paper or public presentation;
- Conduct probation: student remains on campus and has a certain period of time to correct their behavior;
- Disciplinary probation: student remains on campus but must immediately correct their behavior.
Finally, though, students can also be suspended or even expelled from the school for proven instances of sexual misconduct.
How Joseph D. Lento Can Help
What do you do if you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct at the Illinois Institute of Technology? First, take such allegations seriously. Penalties for such an offense can be severe and can affect not only a student's ability to get an education but their ability to move forward into a productive life.
Next, contact Joseph D. Lento to serve as your advisor. Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience finding successful resolutions in sexual misconduct cases. He specializes in student disciplinary matters and in making sure students are afforded their due process rights. Joseph D. Lento understands the complexities of Title IX and university disciplinary procedures and knows how to navigate through the bureaucracy. Joseph D. Lento will stand by your side from start to finish of the entire process making sure you are treated with fairness and dignity.
For more information, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.