Washington University in St. Louis: Title IX And Sexual Misconduct Policies

Washington University Strengthens Title IX Sexual Misconduct Policies

Chancellor Andrew D. Martin was disturbed by the high numbers and increase in sexual assault and misconduct at WashU, as reported in a comprehensive nationwide survey conducted by the Association of American Universities in 2019. Martin vowed to continue WashU's significant efforts to create a “more timely and efficient Title IX process” and support students who become involved in this process. The Title IX Office is now named the Gender Equity and Title IX Compliance Office to reflect the addition of non-Title IX responsibilities.

The New Title IX Applies To Fewer Cases Of Sexual Misconduct

If you face Sexual Misconduct allegations, the New Title IX rules offer you better protections but have a narrower scope and therefore pertain to fewer cases than the previous Title IX regulations. The Final Rule explicitly states that Sexual Misconduct allegations against students or employees that do not fall under Title IX jurisdiction may be handled “in any manner the school chooses.” The Office of University Compliance posts the current student Code of Conduct, outlining the ethical and legal standards used as the basis for its decisions and actions.

Know Your Rights And How To Navigate A Complex Policy System

It's vital that you understand the Formal Complaint process to be prepared and defend your rights. Unfortunately, the judicial process at WashU is layered and complex, with a multiplicity of committees, boards, and administrative rules. Depending on the nature of the Formal Complaint, your case may start with one committee and then be referred to another committee or board with different policies and consequences. The Gender Equity and Title IX Compliance Office website is a good place to start because it has links to the various administrative pathways your case may follow. If the office determines that your case has Title IX conduct violations, you should refer to the Student Title IX Grievance Process. If the office determines that your case falls outside of the scope of Title IX, it will be referred to the Student Gender Equity Grievance Process.

WashU Resources For Respondents In Sexual Misconduct Cases

The Title IX and Gender Equity at WashU web page also has a useful link: “What is the process if I have been accused?” with information “For Respondents” that not only outlines procedural information but also provides resources for navigating the process. WashU's administration recognizes that being accused of sexual misconduct is a painful and challenging experience. During the investigation, if it becomes difficult to concentrate in class or follow through with your coursework, you may be able to arrange for accommodations by contacting the Title IX Coordinator at 314-935-3118.

Student Title IX Grievance Process

The Gender Equity and Title IX Compliance Office (“Office”) oversees Title IX complaints. Once the Title IX office receives a “Formal Complaint” of sexual misconduct, the administration must notify you and all parties involved. They will then do an initial review to determine if the alleged misconduct falls under the definition of “Prohibited Conduct” under university Title IX or sexual misconduct policy. If the office does not find Prohibited Conduct, they will dismiss the complaint. If the Formal Complaint is not dismissed, a hold will be placed on your academic account until the investigation has been completed. A “Conduct Hold” may prevent you from registering for new classes, withdrawing, graduating, or obtaining a transcript. You can request that the hold be lifted by contacting the Dean’s office for the WashU school or college in which you are enrolled. If the hold does get lifted by request, your transcript will still state the fact that there is a sexual misconduct case against you under the current investigation.

The Role Of Advisors

You may obtain an advisor of your choice to accompany you to any related meeting or proceeding. It is highly recommended that you choose an experienced attorney to be your advisor to help you during the investigation, pre-hearing conference, and hearing. When you are facing a Sexual Misconduct accusation, the consequences may go beyond your education and negatively affect your career and future. A Title IX Attorney will protect your due process rights and ensure that the university follows procedures and applies them fairly. If WashU fails to protect your legal rights, your Title IX attorney can help you file a due process lawsuit against the university.

The Advisor's Role In A Title IX Sexual Misconduct Case Hearing

If your case warrants a hearing, it is mandatory for you to have an advisor, preferably an experienced trial attorney, to question the Complainant and witnesses at the hearing. If you and your advisor believe that there are follow-up questions that should be asked of the other party or witnesses, and if the Hearing Chair decides the questions are relevant, your advisor may add follow-up questions that are extremely useful if new information comes to light during the cross-examination. An expert trial attorney has the insight and experience needed to anticipate when more questioning is warranted to help secure a positive outcome in your case.

New Title IX Rules Require A Separate Investigator

The Title IX Office has a full-time trained investigator to conduct interviews and gather evidence for Formal Complaints. Fortunately, the new Title IX rules that the investigator be separate from anyone deciding or affecting the outcome of the sexual misconduct case. Before the New Title IX, universities could follow the “single investigator model,” which was a deeply problematic system that did not provide Respondents with due process. The single investigator allowed one person to act as detective, judge and jury with no checks and balances in case there was bias.

In Title IX Cases The Hearing Panel Votes On The Outcome Of The Hearing

The Hearing Panel has three voting members, including the Chair of the Hearing Panel who presides over the proceedings. The Hearing Chair is appointed by the office and has investigative training for sexual misconduct cases. The other two Hearing Panel members will be selected by the office from the University Sexual Harassment Investigation Board (USHIB), which is comprised of faculty, staff, and students appointed by the Chancellor. If at any point you or your advisor believes that the investigator or any member of the hearing panel is biased in any way, you should report your objections immediately to the Title IX Office. If your objections are considered valid, the biased official will be replaced.

The Hearing Panel Decides The Case With Lower Burden Of Proof

Unfortunately, WashU has chosen to set the lower “preponderance of evidence” bar to prove guilt, a decision that favors the Complainant. If the Hearing Panel determines that evidence establishes that it is “more likely than not” that you engaged in the alleged Prohibited Conduct, you will be held responsible. A preponderance of evidence, often referred to as the “50 percent plus a feather” test, means that if both sides of the case seem equally convincing, the Complainant only needs the slightest amount of evidence to push the scales of justice towards a guilty verdict. Washington University rejected the Department of Education's recommended higher standard of “clear and convincing” evidence that establishes the truth of a disputed fact by a high probability. Since the Respondent is innocent until proven guilty, if the evidence does not prove one side over the other, the Respondent wins.

Procedures For Non-Title IX Cases

The Gender Equity and Title IX Compliance Office may refer any sexual misconduct matters that fall outside of the new Title IX definition or scope of behavior to the Student Conduct Board (SCB) or University Sexual Harassment Investigation Board (USHIB) for investigation. The office must prepare a notice of referral, which shall include the provision(s) of the Code allegedly violated, and deliver the notice to you and the Dean of the School or College in which you are enrolled, and the Complainant. If the Title IX office decides to dismiss the Formal Complaint, the dismissal may be appealed by the Complainant.

An Expert Title IX Advisor For Washington University In St. Louis Is The Right Choice

Attorney Joseph D. Lento is one of the most experienced attorneys in the nation when it comes to student defense cases. He has successfully helped countless students at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States. He's seen how previous changes to the regulations affected the Title IX landscape and can help you navigate the new rules and guide you to the most beneficial outcome for your case.

The Lento Law Firm is here to help and ready to defend you. Call Title IX Attorney Joseph D. Lento for a case consultation today: (888) 535-3686.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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