As a student, a university disciplinary hearing may not seem like something that would require an attorney. So many students receive a “Notice of Allegations” or “Notice of Disciplinary Hearing” and simply think that it is another thing they must attend before going onto the next task. Unfortunately, so many students learn the hard way that this is not true. Whether it be a university disciplinary action or a Notice of Title IX allegation, these actions can have long-term repercussions on your university experience. These hearings are important, and it is vital that you know how to approach the process from whatever side you are on.
Under a university’s code of conduct, Title IX cases arise when there are allegations of sexual assault or sexual misconduct. These accusations must have occurred on campus but can come from a variety of types of relationships. Allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct can arise from a casual, short-term relationship all the way up to long-term, romantic relationships. Whether you are making a complaint, or are faced with a notice of allegations, it is important to know what you should do from the very start.
DO: Get an attorney. Under the new federal mandates concerning Title IX, universities are required to provide some sort of advisor to assist you in this process. However, that advisor is not always a legal professional. Some schools provide administrative staff members or members of the office of community standards. While these individuals will be familiar with the procedures and process, they are not trained legal professionals. It is essential that you have someone by your side to assist in cross-examination of the opposing party and truly help detail what happened. An attorney can better assist with statement and argument preparation and how to properly present your evidence to the university. No matter your side, it is essential that you are prepared and organized prior to your hearing.
DON’T: Make any statements without your advisor present. Whether you are speaking with the investigator as the victim, or responding to the complaint as the accused, everything you say is recorded. Some Title IX cases last months and it is often difficult to remember what you may have said months prior. It is essential that you are clear, concise, and consistent with your evidence. An attorney can assist to ensure your statements are organized and consistent. With any Title IX hearing, credibility and consistency are highly debated issues. Make sure that your story and evidence are adequately prepared and vetted prior to going on record.
DO: Prepare your witnesses. In any Title IX case, witness testimony is crucial. Witnesses are individuals the university will view as neutral sources of information since they are not making, or defending against, an allegation. Consequently, what a witness says holds a lot of weight. It is important that you and your advisor interview witnesses, hear what they have to say, and properly analyze whether that witness may harm or help your case. Title IX cases are often won by the side with supporting and corroborating witness testimony. Do not go into a hearing ill-prepared on the witness front.
DON’T: Procrastinate. There are multiple steps to a Title IX case. It begins with an initial complaint. Following the complaint, a university investigator is assigned the case and begins their examination of the allegations. After speaking with both sides and any witnesses, the investigator gives the parties an opportunity to comment on the preliminary investigation. After comments are submitted, the investigation is finalized, and the investigator makes the recommendation for a Title IX hearing. If the recommendation is for a hearing, the university will schedule a hearing with each party and multiple board members from the university. As is clear, there are multiple steps in this process. Do not fall behind or fail to act during the different stages of the case. Ignoring the issues or failing to prepare could be detrimental for your case.
We here at Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima have experience with Title IX cases all throughout Ohio. Our attorneys have worked Title IX cases at Miami University, the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University, the University of Dayton, and even as far as Cleveland State University. This experience comes on both sides of the aisle as well – representing victims and accused individuals to successful outcomes. No matter what side you are on, these cases are tremendously stressful and full of anxiety. It is key that you have someone by your side to lead the way and guide you through this process. If you have questions about Title IX or university disciplinary hearings, please give us a call at 513-932-2115. Our consultations are free and we would be honored to help you.