Title IX Allegations
When students and their parents contact our office for representation for a Title IX allegation, typically, the first question we hear is: what happens if I’m found responsible for a Title IX violation?
Understandably, the unknown consequences are always frightening.
Before stressing yourself out further, we like to reiterate to our clients that it’s too soon to start thinking about the worst case scenarios. Optimistically, we are proud that we have a long list of students who were found not responsible of the allegations lodged against them. Even more so, just because a student receives a notice of a Title IX investigation doesn’t mean that a formal process will occur. Many cases are resolved in informal resolution processes, where students are able to mediate their disputes and mutually agree on how to move forward.
However, not every case has a perfect ending. So, it’s important to know that there are many possible consequences to being found responsible for a Title IX violation. In fact, findings of responsibility can carry consequences far beyond the sanctions imposed by the institution. For purposes of making this simple, here are various sanctions that directly occur by the college and the indirect implications that occur beyond the university.
Sanctions Imposed by Colleges and Universities
Warning and Academic Probation
The least severe sanctions are warnings and being placed on academic probation. Typically, there is a temporary mark on the transcript that is removed once probation is over. Some schools can restrict a student’s ability to hold a leadership role during this time. However, we have seen many students being placed on probation, serve the time without incident and then complete school without any further hiccups. If, however, a student does get in trouble after being placed on probation, the sanction can be much more serious for a repeat offender.
Some institutions will impose a suspension on a student for either a semester or a discrete number of semesters. While this can interrupt a student’s education, this “time-out” period can be a reset time for a student to reflect, perhaps take some time to focus on therapy or other issues, and return to college with more appreciation of how special it is to be able to receive higher education. For those cases centered around alcohol and drugs, time off of school can be spent attending alcohol rehabilitation and drug addiction treatment.
This is one of the most serious consequences of a finding of responsibility. In layman’s terms, this is when a student is kicked out of school, with some expulsions carrying a provision that the student may never reapply again to the college or university.
Revocation or Withholding of a Degree
This is the ultimate of serious sanctions. A student could get all the way to the end of his or her studies and not be allowed to walk at graduation and receive a diploma. Four years of studies quickly go down the drain. When this happens, the result is completely shocking.
Loss of Financial Aid or Scholarships
This sanction occurs when there is either a suspension or an expulsion. In fact, loss of merit scholarships can occur any time a student violates a condition of the scholarship, conditions which often require that the student remains in good standing and is not in violation of a school’s disciplinary policy.
Other Implications of a Finding of Responsibility
Being Removed from Greek Life or Other Social Organizations
Many fraternities and sororities, as well as other student organizations, will not want to remain affiliated with a student who has been found responsible for a Title IX violation. This consequence can be particularly painful for those students whose entire social support structure is his or her Greek organization. In fact, the problem becomes worse for those students who live with other Greek members and are asked to move out of a house because they are no longer welcome in the community.
Being Removed from ROTC
This is a particularly serious sanction. For those students who receive a military scholarship from ROTC, the government might ask the student to repay the money and if the student cannot do so, the student might have to work-off the scholarship by enlisting in military service.
Being Removed from an Athletic Team
Student athletes have a lot to lose from a Title IX finding of responsibility. We have represented many college athletes with dreams of a professional career. If that athlete does not play during a season, they lose opportunities of being recruited. Also, a student athlete has only a few years of eligibility, which could be derailed by a Title IX finding.
Mark on Transcript
Marks on transcript may affect the ability to be accepted by a graduate or professional school. Budding doctors and lawyers have a lot to lose from a Title IX finding. Many graduate applications will ask if the student has been disciplined, and in a highly competitive climate to get accepted into graduate school, a mark of discipline can translate into a denial of graduate school admission.
Loss of Employment
In our post-Harvey Weinstein world, many employers don’t want their reputation tarnished by hiring someone with a sexual harassment or sexual assault finding on campus. Sadly, news travels fast, and many students find gaining acceptance, especially in government positions or those that require special licensure, difficult with a tarnished transcript.
Cancel Culture on Social Media
We are seeing this consequence more and more. Many times even a rumor of a Title IX finding, much less a real finding, leads to bad publicity on social media sites. Many students find themselves canceled both on and off campus. Once a rumor hits of a Title IX finding, students find themselves completely shunned by peers. These students find that those who were their good friends suddenly “ghost” them and don’t want to be affiliated with the so-called campus “rapist.”
What Should a Student Do Under These Circumstances?
It’s not unusual for students to feel depressed during this time. The minute our clients get a sniff of a Title IX charge and contact our office, we encourage them to seek out mental health support. At the same time, it’s important to stay strong and work hard to defend against allegations. We have many articles and downloads on how to prepare and work through Title IX allegations.
Here are just a few concluding thoughts: never give up hope when accused of a violation, find an advisor that you feel a connection to and have confidence is knowledgeable about mounting a defense and make sure you get the proper mental health and emotional support during the process.
To discuss the Title IX process further, please contact Susan Stone (SCS@kjk.com; 216.736.7220) or Kristina Supler (KWS@kjk.com; 216.736.7217).