Founded in 1861, the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, is one of the most preeminent public research universities in the world. The main campus spans more than 700 acres, and there are additional campuses in Bothell and Tacoma. More than 54,000 students attend the University of Washington annually. The school's values include integrity, excellence, and respect.
The University of Washington receives federal funds, and so it must comply with Title IX regulations, which dictate very specifically how colleges and universities must handle certain matters. There are three specific factors that influence whether or not something falls under the Title IX regulations. The three areas it prohibits are:
- sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking;
- quid-pro-quo harassment (attempting to trade favors for sex); or
- unwelcome conduct so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive as to deny equal access to education based on sex.
Title IX, originally passed in 1972, was intended to protect students from any form of discrimination “on the basis of sex.” Over the years, the definition of “basis of sex” has expanded to include some forms of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. Although the law hasn't changed since 1972, the Federal interpretation of that regulation has shifted over the years. Most recently, the Department of Education under Betsy DeVos issued new guidance.
The University of Washington employs a Title IX Coordinator and two deputies in the Title IX office. The office specifically handles “sex and gender discrimination, including sexual or gender-based harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, and other forms of sexual misconduct.”
If you or someone you love is facing allegations of Title IX violations, your (or their) academic and professional future could be in grave danger. It's important that you consider speaking with an attorney-advisor who can help you navigate the disciplinary proceedings at the University of Washington.
College Sexual Misconduct and Title IX at the University of Washington
Due to the recent changes, the University of Washington published several documents that address the new guidance. Specifically, they are: Executive Order No. 70, Compliance with Education Department Sexual Harassment Regulations , and Part VII of the Student Conduct Code, contained in chapter 478-121 of the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). As of this publication, the WAC has not been updated on the site, however, the amendment is available on the Washington State Register. The new guidance delineates the Department of Education grievance procedures for employees (Executive Order 70) and students (Part VII of the Student Conduct Code).
They also updated their resource page with other components of University policy that apply to the areas of sexual harassment or sexual assault that fall outside of the scope of the new Title IX guidance.
What Happens When a Complaint is Filed?
When the university receives a formal complaint, they will provide written notice to the parties involved, as well as the alleged misconduct and the date and location of the alleged misconduct, if that information is known. The notice will also include information about the process for formal complaints.
It's important to understand that WAC 478-121-630 states that even if a matter does not fall under the new, narrower, Title IX regulations, and subsequently, “dismissal occurs under this subsection (1) of this section, the university may pursue a conduct proceeding under other parts of this code.” This means that just because an alleged incident falls outside of the jurisdiction of Title IX does not mean the school will drop the matter.
Once a complaint is filed, the university will begin its investigation (WAC 478-121-650). During this process, participants are allowed to have a hearing advisor and/or a support advisor accompany them. Once the university is ready to issue an investigative report, they will send all the evidence to both parties for review. This will happen a minimum of 10 days before the hearing.
At the hearing, according to the updated WAC, the hearing officer will apply the “preponderance of evidence” standard of proof. This means that in order for the accused individual to be held responsible, it must be “more likely than not” that the behavior occurred.
In order to appeal a decision, one of four grounds must be at play.
- Procedural irregularity that impacted the outcome;
- Material error that “substantially affected” the outcome of the investigation;
- New evidence that wasn't “reasonably available”; or
- A university official involved in the process had a conflict of interest or a bias which impacted the outcome.
What's at Stake?
Allegations of Title IX Sexual Misconduct violations should always be taken seriously. Many colleges and universities will attempt to expel or suspend students accused of Title IX violations so that the school stays compliant with the regulations. These allegations can destroy a student's future and impact both their academic and their professional careers. If a student is found guilty of the Title IX accusations, then a suspension or expulsion on their permanent academic record can make it a challenge to get into graduate programs, fellowships, residencies, and more. Even if a student hasn't been found guilty yet, rumors and gossip could damage his reputation at the school before the proceedings have even begun.
Experienced Title IX Advisor to Fight By Your Side
If you or a loved one is facing Title IX or college sexual misconduct allegations, you can see from the above that it's ideal to find an advisor who can assist you through the process. With so much at risk, you want someone with national experience and expertise defending students and navigating college proceedings and disciplinary hearings. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have spent many years helping students and families across the nation defend their rights to due process and a fair proceeding. He has successfully negotiated complex and sensitive cases with high stakes for assisted undergraduate, graduate, and professional level students, as well as faculty and staff at universities during this challenging time. If you'd like to find an advisor with both expertise and passion, dedication, and experience, Joseph D. Lento is the best person to have on your side. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 or reach out online to see how they can assist.