More and more, students across the country have been speaking out against what they believe are unfair and one-sided investigations of sexual assault charges conducted by college administrators. These students claim that charges and disciplinary actions taken against them based on little more than one person’s account can have permanent negative effects on their future careers and personal lives, and they are demanding compensation for the losses they’ve suffered or anticipate suffering. Recently, a student at the University of Cincinnati filed a federal lawsuit against the school’s administration for what he claims was a bungled investigation into a sexual assault that resulted in long-term damage to his future prospects.
The man, who has remained anonymous, asserts that the University of Cincinnati’s handling of charges leveled against him by a graduate student caused him serious and undeserved damage. The man was suspended for two years after a panel composed by the University of Cincinnati found him guilty of committing the assault of a woman who has not been publicly named. The lawsuit states that the university, “encouraged by federal officials, has instituted solutions to sexual violence against women that abrogate the civil rights of men and treat men differently than women.” The man is requesting that the court force the university to overturn the suspension and pay him money damages to compensate him for the losses he suffered to his reputation, as well as the reduction in what he can expect to make in wages along the course of his lifetime.
While criminal justice prosecutions offer accused persons certain protections under US and state constitutions, on-campus proceedings are conducted according to the rules devised by that particular university and offer far fewer assurances of fairness to those potentially facing discipline. When conducting hearings on sexual assault, universities follow the guidelines laid out in Title IX, the federal law barring sex discrimination on university campuses. Unlike a criminal trial, where prosecutors must prove that the accused is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” on-campus disciplinary boards need only show with a “preponderance of the evidence” that the accused committed the act. Unlike a criminal trial, the accused has no right to face their accuser in an on-campus proceeding. An accuser can also appeal a panel’s conclusion that the accused was not guilty, which is typically not available after a criminal trial. These discrepancies strike many experts as leading to unfair results with major consequences for the accused, who may have a hard time obtaining an education or a job after being found guilty by an on-campus disciplinary board. With scant procedural safeguards for accused students, it is critical that those facing allegations of rape or sexual assault on campus find skilled and experienced legal help to represent them before disciplinary boards.
If you’ve been accused of assault or another crime by an on-campus disciplinary board at the University of Virginia or another college, make sure your rights and future are protected, and contact the seasoned and experienced Charlottesville college student and faculty defense attorneys at St. John, Bowling, Lawrence & Quagliana LLP for a consultation on your case, at 434-296-7138.