There is an increasing amount of national attention being paid to the means by which American colleges address allegations of misconduct on campus, and the ways in which disciplinary bodies often fail to deliver a fair and just outcome to those accused of wrongdoing. More and more, students who believe they have been treated unfairly by college disciplinary boards are taking legal action. Numerous students have filed federal lawsuits under Title IX for the permanent personal and professional harm they’ve suffered as the result of unfair summary proceedings against them after an accusation of sexual assault. Now, some lawmakers are taking steps to change the process by which claims of on-campus sexual assault are investigated.
Putting investigations into the hands of law enforcement
The new law, proposed to the Georgia state legislature by state representative Earl Ehrhart, would require that, when certain employees of a university learn of alleged felonies, they would be required to report this information to local law enforcement. However, the House-passed version does not allow the identity of the victim to be reported unless the victim consents. The legislation states that “no disciplinary investigation shall obstruct or
prejudice an ongoing criminal investigation.” It is not clear what is meant by this language. Rep. Ehrhart asserts that the bill would make sure schools are “in the business of educating, not investigating sexual assaults,” as he believes they are now. Critics say that the bill and its provisions will have a “chilling effect” on reporting sexual assault and on university investigations.
Investigations are here to stay
With a new presidential administration, there has been some suggestion that White House proposals similar in purpose to Rep. Ehrhart’s will make academic investigations of university sexual misconduct a thing of the past. Regardless of what actions the new administration may take regarding policy on Title IX, it is likely that aggressive investigations will continue at many institutions of higher learning. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities and NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, held a panel discussion on Capitol Hill recently to discuss continued aggressive investigations of Title IX claims. The college presidents at this discussion agreed that they would continue to use lower burdens of proof in academic investigation than those used in the criminal justice system and pursue investigations even if President Obama’s 2011 guidance on Title IX was reversed by the Trump administration. There continue to be very real dangers faced by anyone investigated in a campus disciplinary proceeding that may require the aid of an attorney.
If you’ve been accused of misconduct on a college campus, seek representation to help ensure that your future remains bright by contacting Charlottesville college student, faculty, and staff defense lawyers at St. John, Bowling, Lawrence & Quagliana, LLP at 434-296-7138.