When it Comes to Title IX Violations, Your School is Not on Your Side

It's easy to get lured into a false sense of security when you're a college student. True, you're not living at home with your parents anymore, but you aren't adult-ing yet either. Often, a university becomes a kind of surrogate parent for students. After all, it takes care of most of your needs—food, shelter, entertainment—so it's only logical if you believe your school has your best interests at heart.

And in fact, in most cases your school probably is on your side.

If you've been accused of sexual misconduct, though, the situation has changed. Your university may try to convince you that it wants what's best for you, but the truth is it will do everything it can from this point forward to expel you, even if that means denying you some fundamental rights.

Unfortunately, your university can't even be trusted to be objective in a Title IX case, let alone be on your side. Why not? It simply has too many incentives to turn against you.

Title IX

The root of the problem has to do with Title IX itself. Title IX was written with the best of intentions. When it was originally passed in 1972, many college campuses were openly hostile towards women. The law set out to change that situation. It reads,

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

In fact, Title IX has been wildly successful at doing what it set out to. In the almost fifty years since its passage, higher education has become perhaps the most welcoming place for women in all of American society.

At the same time, Title IX has caused its share of headaches. A number of these have to do with the way the law was originally written.

First, Title IX didn't make clear precisely what the term “discrimination” meant. As a result, the courts were free to interpret this term and have generally done so broadly, taking discrimination to include a whole host of crimes from giving males admission preference to rape. This means that today colleges and universities—whose primary task should be to educate—find themselves serving as investigators and prosecutors in some of the most serious crimes in our judicial system. To say they are not adequately equipped for these tasks would be a gross understatement.

More importantly, this situation means that in Title IX cases a university must shift its role, from protecting students to attacking them.

The second problem with Title IX is even more insidious. It has to do with how the federal government enforces the law. Any school that fails to comply with Title IX stands to lose its federal funding. The bulk of that funding is earmarked for student loans and grants. When that funding is withdrawn, schools can't offer attractive financial packages to their students. They attract fewer applicants, affecting the quality of students admitted. Those students who are admitted may not be able to attend because they lack the funds to do so.

No school is willing to risk that kind of result. Most schools do absolutely everything they can to avoid even the possibility that it might happen. The law says they must investigate every complaint of sexual misconduct. In most cases, schools go even further, making sure they prosecute every complaint as well and convict as many defendants as they possibly can.

In short, colleges and universities have a clear incentive to go after accused students as hard as they can, an incentive built into the law itself. It makes sense then that most schools don't use the judicial standard of “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead, they must only determine whether the event is “more likely than not” to have occurred. Hearing panels aren't required to reach a unanimous decision as to guilt. It only takes a simple majority to convict. If you've been accused, your school has an interest in finding you guilty.

The Me Too Movement

The biases against defendants built into Title IX have only been exacerbated in recent years by social phenomena such as the Me Too movement. Of course, the Me Too movement has done a great deal to bring attention to an important subject: how American men and American culture generally treat women. No one would suggest that our society hasn't made necessary steps forwards in the last several years as a direct result of movements like the Me Too movement.

However, as with Title IX, the positive results of the Me Too movement have come with clear downsides as well.

For example, some victim advocates have gone so far as to insist that society “believe all women” who allege sexual misconduct. They say this even though studies have shown that as many as ten percent of such allegations are false.

The real problem, though, is that the Me Too movement creates an atmosphere in which a defendant simply can't get a fair hearing. The problem is especially pronounced on college campuses, enclosed communities with 18-22-year-olds who are particularly susceptible to targeted messaging. You may have seen posters up in the dining halls that report the alarming statistic that one in five college women will become a victim of sexual assault. You may have seen fliers advertising the film The Hunting Ground.

These kinds of materials generate an atmosphere of paranoia, in which every man is a potential rapist, and no one is truly safe. In this kind of frenzy, students are more likely to accuse their classmates, administrators are more likely to initiate investigations, and hearing panels are more likely to convict.

The University Environment

Finally, though, colleges and universities are disinclined to give accused students a fair hearing in Title IX cases simply because of the way academic culture works.

The tendency of educational institutions, in general, is to lean to the political left. There's nothing inherently wrong with this fact. It is the job of a university to pursue knowledge, occupy the leading edge of discovery, question assumptions, and maintain open minds. As a society, we want our institutions of higher learning to do these things, and we want them to teach students how to do them as well. How can we complain, then, if professors advocate radical positions like believing every accuser? They have an incentive to embrace social causes and to push for change.

On the other hand, we can't afford to allow this kind of thinking into our judicial system. The law must be measured. It must be objective. It's not a place to test theories or try out new ideas. The role of a court, a judge, isn't to correct social imbalances or create change. It's to decide a single case on its own merits. As part of that responsibility, a judge must do everything they can to avoid a miscarriage of justice. That means protecting the rights of the accused, and that can sometimes be an unpopular position.

Ultimately, then, we wind up back where we started, with Title IX. Colleges and universities just aren't equipped to investigate and prosecute crimes as serious as rape. Physicists and sociologists are great at what they do. They aren't trained in the law, though, and they shouldn't be asked to make decisions about such weighty matters as whether or not a student should be expelled. When we ask them to, we shouldn't be surprised when they get it wrong.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento Can Help With Your Title IX Case

Colleges and universities are also biased in Title IX cases for a much simpler reason: they hate to admit they're wrong. Once the wheels of justice are set in motion, it's almost impossible to stop the inexorable movement forward. Investigators must justify the choice administrators made to investigate. Hearing panels must ratify the investigator's findings. The school's president must approve the panel's decision.

Your school has no good reason to support you and every incentive to attack.

You need someone on your side. Someone who knows Title IX, someone who's dealt with hundreds of sexual misconduct cases, someone willing to take on the immovable mountain that is academic bureaucracy. You need attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento built his career on Title IX cases. He knows the law, and he knows how universities operate. Your school will try to deny you your rights. Attorney Lento won't let them. He is empathetic to your situation and eager to help you get the justice you deserve.

If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to act. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.

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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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