If you face sexual misconduct charges, you are probably experiencing considerable added stress and disruption to your college life and studies. You need to know current Title IX and University discipline policies found in the University of Michigan Student Handbook to protect your rights and prepare for each step of the investigation, hearing, and potential appeal. There is no room for oversight or misstep with your future and reputation at stake. You need an experienced Title IX Attorney to advise you, help you gather witnesses and evidence for a strong defense, verify that all proceedings and outcomes are fair and just, and submit an appeal if necessary.
New Regulations Restore Rights But Limits Title IX Cases
The New Title IX (the “Final Rule”) has restored due process for the accused in sexual misconduct case proceedings on campus. Under the former Title IX rules, the Obama administration directives had created a system favoring the accuser. They discouraged universities from giving the accused the right to question accusers, learn witnesses' identity, or see the full evidence against them. Under the Final Rule and the University of Michigan's Title IX policy, all information considered relevant by the investigator will be provided to the parties for their review. The University of Michigan uses the term “Complainant” for the student filing accusations of sexual misconduct and “Respondent” for the accused student. Although the Respondent is afforded new protections under the Final Rule, the sexual misconduct case may not fall under Title IX's jurisdiction, and may instead be subject to University student discipline policy. In fact, the New Title IX significantly narrows the definition and scope of Title IX cases. Applicable cases are now limited to on-campus and school-controlled venues only. The new ruling excludes “sexual exploitation” and “improper conduct related to sex” from its policies. Title IX sexual misconduct now must be “severe and pervasive,” not just “severe or pervasive,” as previously required.
The University of Michigan Has Dual Sexual Misconduct Policies
The Department of Education does not prevent schools from investigating and punishing conduct not technically considered sexual misconduct under the New Title IX definition. The University of Michigan has two separate misconduct policies: a Title IX policy and a university student discipline policy. The dual parallel policies for Sexual Misconduct attempt to incorporate the new federal regulations without appearing to abandon the school's commitment to protecting Claimants by keeping the University policy against Respondents strong. The University of Michigan has chosen to set the lower “preponderance of evidence” bar to prove guilt, rather than “clear and convincing” evidence—the higher standard recommended by the Department of Education.
U-M Title IX Office Troubled By Federal Investigation And Controversy
In 2014, the University of Michigan received a letter from the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Office (CRO) reporting a claim that the University “failed to promptly and equitably respond to complaints, reports and/or incidents of sexual violence of which it had notice.” Since the University of Michigan receives federal funding, OCR has jurisdiction over the allegation and thoroughly investigated the complaint. The University implemented Title IX reforms and sexual misconduct prevention programs, hoping to improve campus safety. President Mark Schlissel's email to the campus community in 2019 reveals persistent sexual misconduct despite the University's best efforts: “The number of sexual assaults and misconduct cases continues to be too high at U-M…We must do everything we can as we strive to reduce the number to zero.” Further stress was put on U-M's Title IX program when the Michigan Daily broke a story on October 13, 2020, regarding possible repeated mishandling of sexual misconduct charges against a football player. Typically, when a University's federal funding is at risk due to Title IX investigations, or to offset recent scandals and repair the University's reputation, Title IX administrators may take more aggressive measures to defend the Complainant. This aggressive posture is sometimes at the expense of the Respondent receiving their due process rights. In extreme cases, a Respondent may be subject to Immediate Suspension, even before being given a chance to respond to allegations. If you face accusations of sexual misconduct at the University of Michigan, it's essential that you have an experienced lawyer in your corner fighting for your rights.
Impartiality Is a Key Component Of the New Title IX
Under the former Title IX, colleges were encouraged to use the “single investigator model” by appointing a single official who acted as detective, prosecutor, judge, and jury. The New Title IX federal reforms fixed these “kangaroo courts” by requiring a separate decision-maker to be in charge of each phase of the proceedings, providing a fairer process and more checks and balances against bias. If you have concerns that the Title IX Coordinator, investigator, or hearing officer cannot conduct a fair and unbiased review, (for example, because of a personal connection with one of the parties or witnesses,) you must be proactive. Report your concerns to the Office for Institutional Equity as soon as possible to avoid a biased process.
Potential Invasion of Privacy For Inadmissible Evidence
Throughout the formal resolution process, you may have an advisor of your choice to provide support and guidance. If your case warrants a hearing, an expert Title IX attorney will conduct a focused and incisive cross-examination. Your attorney will also guard against inadmissible evidence and unnecessary invasion of privacy. The U-M's Title IX policy states: “Prior or subsequent conduct of the Respondent will never be used to prove character, but may be considered for other purposes, such as determining pattern, knowledge, intent, or the Respondent's reasons for taking the action.” The hearing officer is responsible for determining the relevance of the information. Your attorney will be vigilant regarding possible policy violations or bias, and help you challenge the outcome of the investigation or sanction through an appeal, if warranted.
Ongoing Policy Modifications Require Due Diligence
The University of Michigan cultivates ongoing community participation and feedback from students, faculty, and staff regarding revisions of its Sexual Misconduct policy and procedures. If you are facing sexual misconduct charges, be sure to contact the University of Michigan's Sexual and Gender-Based Misconduct Reporting office for the most up-to-date regulations and procedures and clarification regarding the jurisdiction of Title IX.
Title IX Attorney Joseph D. Lento Will Fight For You
For many years, attorney Joseph D. Lento has fought for students' rights while gaining a reputation as one of the country's preeminent experts in Title IX sexual misconduct and student discipline defense. If you or someone you know is facing Title IX charges or being accused of sexual misconduct at the University of Michigan, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento online today or call 888-535-3686.