What’s at stake if you’re accused of inappropriate behavior?
When someone is accused of inappropriate sexual behavior on today’s college campuses, the stakes are unimaginably high. Decisions made behind closed doors by university leaders can destroy a student’s personal and professional future.
“It will damage your ability to finish your education, and may compromise it completely,” says Andrew T. Miltenberg, an attorney who specializes in defending students accused of sexual misconduct at college.
A college transcript that shows disciplinary sanctions based on allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment “will affect your ability to go into any of a dozen different career paths,” including graduate schools in law, medicine, and business, says Miltenberg. Yet with the guidance of an expert attorney, students and their families may be able to avoid these extreme penalties.
Miltenberg emphasizes to clients that college disciplinary hearings are starkly different from the criminal cases depicted on shows like “Law and Order.” In state and federal courts, there are guidelines that judges follow when setting penalties for convictions. But that’s not the case with college disciplinary hearings prompted by federal regulations known as Title IX. Each institution decides for itself how Title IX offenses and penalties are handled. The consequences for students found guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault can range from losing academic credits to being expelled from school, sometimes without a refund on tuition or student loans.
When a student’s record includes disciplinary action related to Title IX, they may have a tough time transferring to a different college, Miltenberg says. Students must report the previous accusations and penalties as part of the transfer application process. That means charges and penalties related to sexual behavior at their old school become part of their student history at anew school and can remain on their permanent record. That’s why it’s important to consult with an attorney, preferably one who has experience with Title IX hearings and can negotiate on behalf of the accused student.
A disciplinary report in a student’s record may also close off potential careers, including law enforcement, the military, and government service. “When you apply to any college, graduate program, and most jobs, there is a question about whether you have ever been subject to disciplinary action at any institution,” Miltenberg explains. “If the answer is yes, it doesn’t bode well for you, whether it’s getting into that particular school or getting a job.”
Miltenberg says that even students that are found innocent of sexual misbehavior can fall victim to gossip and rumors. Accusing whispers can continue to affect a student’s life on campus and find their way into search engines, where they may impact their future almost as much as if they’d been found guilty.
“Because of the current national dialogue on sexual assault and sexual harassment, mere allegations are generally enough to destroy someone’s credibility,” Miltenberg says. “We see this all the time.”
Accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment in colleges and universities are serious matters. Families that learn their student may become the target of an investigation should immediately contact an attorney with extensive experience with Title IX disciplinary cases. Andrew T. Miltenberg, Esq., and his partners in Nesenoff & Miltenberg, LLP are always available for information, support, and aggressive legal assistance.