Community & Resources

Title IX Criminal Law v. College Process

A Plain Language Explanation of Distinctions Between the New York State Penal Law and the College Disciplinary Processes [1]

Published: October 28, 2015

New York State Education Law Article 129-B requires that college or other officials explain differences between college processes and the criminal justice process in addressing sexual and interpersonal violence. [2]

There are significant differences between the two systems because they have different, important goals. In the criminal justice system, prosecutors pursue cases when they believe there is sufficient evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an individual has committed a criminal act. A person who is convicted of a crime will face criminal penalties, such as incarceration, probation, or the imposition of a fine. The college disciplinary process seeks to determine whether an individual has violated college policy. In this process, a preponderance of the evidence standard of proof is used to determine responsibility. A person who is found to have violated college policy may be suspended, expelled or otherwise restricted from full participation in the college community. This document is intended to help explain the differences between the criminal justice system and college disciplinary processes.

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[1] This document was jointly developed by Chantelle Cleary, Title IX Coordinator, University at Albany; Lori Fox, General Counsel, Teachers College; Rachel J. Nash, Associate General Counsel, City University of New York; Andrea Stagg, Deputy General Counsel, Barnard College; and Joseph Storch, Associate Counsel, State University of New York. The document may be publically shared and used for non-commercial educational purposes.

[2] “Every institution shall ensure that reporting individuals are advised of their right to:
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Have emergency access to a Title IX Coordinator or other appropriate official trained in interviewing victims of sexual assault who shall be available upon the first instance of disclosure by a reporting individual to provide information regarding options to proceed, and, where applicable, the importance of preserving evidence and obtaining a sexual assault forensic examination as soon as possible, and detailing that the criminal justice process utilizes different standards of proof and evidence and that any questions about whether a specific incident violated the penal law should be addressed to law enforcement or to the district attorney. Such official shall also explain whether he or she is authorized to offer the reporting individual confidentiality or privacy, and shall inform the reporting individual of other reporting options…” New York State Education Law §6444 (1)(b) (emphasis added).

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