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Defenseless in the face of sexual misconduct accusations

Instead of going to a job interview, you went to the campus security office for an interrogation. Instead of preparing for an internship, you prepared a defense statement. Instead of feeling excited about your future, you are now dreading it.

Facing accusations of sexual misconduct is not what you expected to happen when you went away to college. Nevertheless, you are now learning how powerful such an accusation can be.

Disciplinary hearings may deny your right to due process

The federal law known as Title IX prohibits sexual harassment or discrimination at any government agency. Because of the tremendous political pressure federally funded colleges feel to implement Title IX policies, the definition of sexual misconduct may be very broad. In addition, many students who face accusations of sexual misconduct report unfair treatment at their disciplinary hearings. For example:

  • You may have no opportunity to respond to the accusations.
  • The school may not allow you to see the incident report or to examine any evidence the college has against you.
  • The disciplinary board may forbid you to call anyone to be a witness for you.
  • The board may not allow you to have a lawyer present to represent you.
  • The board may not allow you to speak to or cross-examine anyone who testifies against you.

These are examples of violations of your right to due process. While a college disciplinary hearing is not a matter of criminal record, there are serious and potentially life-long repercussions if the panel finds you responsible for committing sexual assault.

Two proposed laws to fight college "rape culture"

Some lawmakers have proposed legislation requiring colleges to include on transcripts any disciplinary measures taken against students accused of sexual misconduct. The purpose of the bill is to prevent sexual predators from moving to other campuses when colleges expel them for misconduct. Other institutions would have the right to deny admission to you because of the negative mark on your transcripts.

Lawmakers who oppose the legislation point out that it violates federal right to privacy acts, and that it effectively punishes you for a crime of which you were never convicted in a court of law. Opponents are introducing counter-legislation that would require police - not college disciplinary committees - to handle all sexual misconduct cases. Then, if victims refuse to involve law enforcement, the college may not subject the accused to campus disciplinary hearings.

Meanwhile, you have the right to contact an attorney for advice and assistance in defending yourself against accusations that could potentially derail your plans and damage your future. Your attorney will ensure that your rights are protected and that you have a solid defense against the allegations.

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