It's a situation no one imagines for themselves when they head off for college. Your college roommate has reported you to your college or university for sexual assault or sexual harassment. What happens now?
Allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment typically set in motion a flurry of measures by the educational institution that can be incredibly stressful for all parties involved. The Title IX office will likely investigate the allegations, and the process should culminate in a hearing. The Title IX decision maker will render a decision regarding your responsibility. After this, disciplinary sanctions may be involved.
But what happens with your housing situation if your roommate accuses you of sexual assault. Allegations of sexual assault or harassment can make for an incredibly awkward living situation among roommates. So who moves? Who stays? Or do you have to remain living together?
If You Live On Campus
What will happen to your housing situation if you live on campus and you're accused of sexually assaulting or harassing your roommate? Will you have to move out immediately? Will your roommate have to move out immediately? Will you have to keep living together?
If you live in a dorm or an on-campus apartment, the school will likely offer your roommate the chance to move to a separate location as an interim measure pending a Title IX investigation.
For example, at Michigan State, the On Campus Housing Handbook provides that one roommate may be relocated when “one of the roommates is violating their roommates' rights.” Additionally, the handbook provides that a student may be removed from on-campus housing if they engage in physical acts or verbal threats of harassment.
Before an investigation finds you responsible, the school should not force you to move from your own room or apartment. However, you can ask the school to move your housing (if you'd like) to avoid awkward interactions. The most likely result is that your roommate will voluntarily have a change in their housing assignment.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn't be asked to move prior to an investigation finding you responsible for the allegations. It's a wise idea to be represented by counsel in these matters to ensure your rights are protected.
If You Live Off Campus
So what if you live off campus and your roommate accuses you of sexual assault or harassment? Can the school force you to move?
First, if the alleged assault occurred off campus, the school's jurisdiction may be limited under Title IX. (Again, this is why it is important to consult with legal counsel as soon as you're notified of the accusations, so you're adequately protected.)
If you live with a roommate off campus, the school will be much more limited in the measures it can take regarding your housing. The school may offer your roommate supportive measures that include assisting them in finding new housing. This should be the case at most colleges and universities—if the school receives federal funding, then it's subject to Title IX regulations. For example, at Northwestern, housing relocation is offered as a supportive measure for an alleged victim of sexual assault. However, the college cannot force you to move from your off-campus home.
If your roommate has accused you of sexual assault or harassment and you have questions about your housing rights, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Student Defense Team. Attorney Lento and his expert tram can help you make sure your university doesn't violate its own policies. Call the Lento Law Firm now at 888.535.3686 or reach out online.