March 16, 2024

Many people are aware of Title IX for two main reasons: 1) it is a federal law that has revolutionized women’s sports by mandating equity in college sports such that, over the last half-century, young women have been provided with exponentially more opportunities to compete in athletics at the college level; and 2) it is part of a politically charged national conversation about how accusations of sexual misconduct (including assault, harassment, and discrimination) are investigated and dealt with on college campuses. This article focuses on the latter. 

Unless you are keenly focused on sociopolitical debates as they relate to current affairs, you may well not be up to speed on the ongoing political controversy over at least the last several decades regarding how Title IX should be used to police sexual misconduct on campus, with the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations all proposing and/or implementing significant changes to how Title IX is implemented. 

But make no mistake, whether you are aware of the details of Title IX or not, if you are a student, professor, or employee at a college or university, a Title IX investigation and disciplinary proceeding instituted against you can have an enormous impact on your life. 

What Is Title IX?

Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 (or “Title IX” as it is more commonly known) provides certain protections to students, faculty, and staff of all public colleges and universities (and nearly all such private schools) in the areas of sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, and other sexually misconduct.

In providing said protections, Title IX mandates that colleges and universities police students, professors and staff in a manner that can resemble a law enforcement investigation and proceeding, yet without the same clear rights afforded to the accused as they would expect to find at the hands of police officers and prosecutors. 

Thus, while the goal of Title IX is to protect students and others from the harm of sexual misconduct and discrimination, many argue that the manner in which schools and universities are mandated and/or permitted to investigate and prosecute such alleged misconduct – particularly when it comes to “he-said-she-said” allegations of nonconsensual sex and other alleged misconduct – has actually victimized many individuals by depriving them of their education, careers, and livelihoods over unsubstantiated allegations in proceedings that lack sufficient procedural and evidentiary safeguards for the accused. 

Consequences of a Title IX Violation for Students

A student accused of a Title IX violation may be suspended or expelled for having been found to have engaged in misconduct. This of course presents a huge disruption to a student’s life, and that student might not be able to recover tuition and costs already paid to the school. Worse still, with the disciplinary record, a student may not be able to be accepted to another school of similar value, and may face further career struggles in hiring and promotion with the black mark of a Title IX violation on their record. Furthermore, civil and criminal charges might be brought against a student based on the Title IX proceeding. 

In one prominent example, a 33-year old former Marine Corps journalism graduate student at Columbia University was expelled and denied his diploma after a fellow student accused him of sexual misconduct. The case attracted attention because, according to him, the accused student did not have sex with the accuser, and instead provided a recording of the accuser asking him 29 times for sex which he refused to do, yet he was unable to cross-examine the accuser and the disciplinary panel was uninterested in hearing his side of the story. And despite him having made a complaint against the accuser as well, he was expelled and denied his diploma while she received his. The accused student then reported that his fledgling journalism career was ruined as a result of the Title IX process. However, the accused student then filed a $25 million civil suit against Columbia for mishandling the process which he reported was settled for a considerable sum. 

Consequences of a Title IX Violation for Professors and Staff

The consequences of a Title IX violation for a professor or other staff member are similarly significant. A professor might be immediately suspended based upon the complaint of a single student. If found to have violated Title IX, a professor can lose his or her job – even if tenured – and have an extremely difficult time finding a position in the competitive higher education job market with a Title IX violation on their record. In addition to also facing potential civil or criminal charges, a professor or staff member could face fines and work restrictions, all in addition to the personal and professional reputational damage that can come as a result of even an unproven allegation. 

Contact one of our Experienced Title IX Attorneys

The attorneys of Zweiback, Fiset & Zalduendo understand the stress, anxiety, and fear that comes with a Title IX disciplinary proceeding – or even the threat of such a hearing – and we provide zealous counsel and representation to help our clients avoid negative outcomes and move on with their lives. 

If you are a student, professor, administrator, or staff member who is facing or potentially facing the prospect of a Title IX disciplinary proceeding based on allegations of sexual misconduct, professional misconduct, academic misconduct, code of conduct violations, discrimination, or other violations, it is important to take decisive action to protect your interests. The approach of attempting to “go it alone” in the hope that the issue will be quietly resolved in a positive manner without the help of experienced counsel and guidance can result in irreversible negative consequences that can impact your professional life for decades to come.

Contact our office to speak with an experienced Title IX defense attorney regarding your situation today.

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