The University of Connecticut received 127 reports in 2017 of sexual assault, 67 cases of intimate partner violence, and 15 incidents of stalking. This amounts to 219 claims of Title IX violations. UConn expelled five students for Title IX violations and imposed lesser sanctions on other students.
So how does Connecticut’s flagship university handle Title IX matters?
Like most schools, the University of Connecticut has a full website providing Title IX information and resources to its students, faculty, and the public. It informs students about the violations, how to make a claim, how to access campus resources, and how to provide support to friends.
Complainants are given the option of reporting sexual misconduct to the university, law enforcement, or both. The Title IX coordinator and dean of students may take immediate steps with “interim actions” while an investigation is pending. These include a no-contact order, altering housing, or academic arrangements. Students who violate interim actions are considered to have committed a new violation of the Student Code.
UConn applies the preponderance of the evidence standard, meaning that the student conduct officer makes his or her decision based on whether it is “more likely than not” that the accused is responsible.
To decide claims, UConn uses what is called the “single investigator model.” This means that a single administrator, the student conduct officer, investigates the case, weighs the credibility of the witnesses, and decides what the evidence says. The student conduct officer ultimately decides whether the accused student is responsible or not responsible. Practically speaking, this means that any case at UConn is won or lost during the investigation phase.
After completing the investigation—which UConn commits to doing within 35 business days, or approximately seven weeks—the student conduct officer also decides whether the matter can be concluded by informal resolution, called a case resolution form or “administrative agreement” at UConn. These arrangements to resolve the case must be agreed to by both the accusing student and the accused. Accused students who agree to this method waive their right to any further appeal.
However, both students have a right to demand a full administrative hearing. In addition, the student conduct officer can recommend a full hearing.
An alleged violation then goes before a “hearing body” of university officials. But the hearing panel is not a blank slate, and its purpose is a narrow one under UConn’s version of the single investigator model. Its purpose is to review the final investigation report to determine if it was fair, impartial, and reliable. If there is sufficient information to support the single investigator’s findings, the hearing panel will uphold the initial decisions of the single investigator. It is very hard to overturn a finding of responsibility at this stage.
Prior to the hearing, both the accused student and the accuser have an opportunity to view the report of the student conduct officer. Each may respond in writing, propose additional evidence, and dispute or correct the report. Students have a right to propose witnesses to testify in their support, but the hearing panel is not required to hear them. Students may present documents or other evidence, but the hearing panel is not required to consider it. There is no right of cross-examination, although a student may “suggest” questions to the hearing panel, which the hearing panel may then elect to pose to witnesses.
Students can be accompanied by a “support person;” as such, a lawyer can be present at this hearing. However, most of the legal counsel’s work must take place before the hearing. UConn stipulates that the support person cannot directly address the hearing body or otherwise participate in the hearing. The hearing body also has the ability to remove anyone considered “unnecessary or obstructive to the proceedings.”
Several kinds of student misconduct may result in separation from the university. These include providing alcohol to minors, selling drugs, inciting a riot, and physical assault. UConn’s precedent for sanctions of sexual assault is expulsion.
UConn resolves academic misconduct in a slightly different matter, before a board comprised of faculty, students, and a hearing advisor. The hearings and investigations are similar to those for other code violations, including the ability to present evidence and appeal a finding. However, it is ultimately the instructor who determines the consequences if a student is found responsible. Sanctions typically involve a failing grade for all or part of a course.