Despite increased scrutiny of its Title IX office, an audit says that Michigan State University (MSU) did not properly certify reports of alleged sexual misconduct by a school employee.
Since the scandal broke involving former Team USA gymnastics doctor (and MSU employee) Larry Nassar, both the Office of Civil Rights and the state legislature mandated changes.
The lawmakers added language in its annual appropriations bill requiring universities to document in writing that one member of the governing board and the president review all Title IX reports of alleged sexual misconduct by an employee. The board member and president had to confirm in writing that the review occurred. In addition, the federal Office of Civil Rights required MSU to review these reports for three academic years, starting with 2019-2020.
The state can withhold 10% of the university’s annual operations funding for failing to properly certify Title IX reports.
Circumventing the Title IX Process
An audit released by the MSU Board of Trustees in September 2022 found that an unnamed MSU executive used verbal confirmation, not written, that a board member had reviewed misconduct reports involving staff. The audit stated that the executive “circumvented the established process.”
The Board of Trustees has since hired an outside law firm to review the institution’s Title IX certification responsibilities:
- Provide guidance in reviewing Title IX reports
- Identify shortfalls in the process
- Recommend ways to improve the process
University President Samuel Stanley was asked to retire early over the certification issue and the former business school dean’s mishandling of sexual misconduct reports. His contract is set to expire in 2024. As of this writing, Stanley remains president of MSU. He has said he complied with the state’s certification process for the past two years and pointed the finger at unnamed trustees for failing their obligations. He also claimed he reviewed all required Title IX reports.
In addition to the 2022 certification, the Board of Trustees has reviewed germane reports for fiscal year 2021. Stanley has re-certified that the school has satisfied state law requirements.
Audit Finds Multiple Compliance Violations
The chief audit officer found that the Title IX office lacked a comprehensive process workflow policy. More than a dozen cases may not have been “reviewed and/or the certification form may not have been completed,” according to the audit. The report included 12 recommendations to improve compliance through better case review and certification processes.
Inconsistency Hurts All Parties in a Title IX Case
From coast to coast, inconsistency is the norm in school Title IX offices. Reports in multiple states (Maryland, California, New Mexico ) point to the harm caused by a lack of process and transparency. Negative experiences with the Title IX office leave students and employees with the perception that the office is unhelpful and untrustworthy.
Each university and other educational institutions have a great deal of flexibility in how they conduct Title IX. The differences among schools create an uncertain landscape for reporters and respondents alike. Exacerbating the confusion is when schools do not always follow their own stated processes. All parties are left wondering what will happen and when it will happen. Students and employees who do not retain legal advice are particularly vulnerable to being pushed around by the system.
Do Not Get Lost in a Lack of Title IX Process
At Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC, we aggressively defend the rights of students, faculty members, employees, contractors, and others targeted by Title IX investigations. Unlike the criminal justice system, Title IX offers few built-in procedural protections. We fight for our client’s rights for due process that is fair for everyone involved.
If you are accused of violating Title IX on a school campus, contact us right away. Reach out to us online or call (737) 200-2332. We represent clients around the U.S.