Risks and Rewards of the Single-investigator Model

Since the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, college and K-12 administrators have grappled with how to process, investigate, and adjudicate Title IX cases in a way that not only complies with federal law, but doesn’t deplete the budget or resources.

Biden’s proposed Title IX regulations allow for a single-investigator model, and some professionals wonder if it provides the solution to balance cost and compliance. As schools await the finalized ruling, debate ensues on the benefits and risks of this approach.

Currently forbidden in 2020 regulations, the single-investigator model allows one person to both investigate and adjudicate a case. This system could present a favorable option for schools to streamline Title IX procedures, but many fear that due process could get lost along the way.

Single-Investigator Model Benefits

Possible benefits of this approach include increased efficiency, possible reduced trauma for parties, and cost reduction.

Efficiency and Timeliness

Utilizing one person for an investigation and its decision-making could allow for a more efficient, streamlined resolution. Current regulations state that cases should be completed within a “reasonably prompt timeframe,” which translates to anywhere from several months to the entire academic year. This lengthy time frame often already serves as a barrier to reporting, and a faster resolution would allow for a more manageable and approachable process. 

Reduced Trauma for Involved Parties

In traditional adjudication processes, multiple individuals form a Title IX team, which includes an Investigator, Coordinator, and Hearing Panel. For involved parties, explaining their involvement in a case to several officials could create prolonged traumatic experiences. The single-investigator model, by contrast, minimizes the number of people directly involved, which could prove less emotionally taxing for survivors, witnesses, and respondents.

Reduced Costs

Conducting investigations through a single investigator may be more cost-effective for educational institutions. Panels or committees often require more resources, including training and compensating multiple individuals. A streamlined process can help institutions allocate resources more efficiently.

Concerns with the Model

Many Title IX experts argue that the single-investigator model is against best practices and is a threat to parties’ due process rights. 

Possible Bias 

One of the most significant concerns raised about the single-investigator model is the potential for bias and lack of objectivity. Critics argue that having a sole decision-maker may lead to a subjective evaluation of evidence, raising doubts about the fairness of the investigation and decision.

Limited Perspectives

In cases where multiple perspectives are essential for a comprehensive understanding of a case, relying on a single investigator may result in overlooking crucial information. A panel or committee might bring diverse viewpoints and experiences to the table, enhancing the overall integrity of the decision-making process.

Lack of Checks and Balances

The single-investigator model lacks the checks and balances inherent in a panel structure. With no external oversight, there’s an increased risk of unaddressed errors, which could undermine the credibility of the investigation process and raise questions about its integrity.

Potential for Inconsistent Outcomes

While consistency is a potential strength of the single-investigator model, it can also lead to consistent errors or biases. If a single investigator consistently makes decisions that later prove to be flawed, the lack of diversity in perspectives may perpetuate those mistakes over time.

How We Can Help

For up-to-date information on all Title IX changes and how they affect you and your institution, join us for Title IX Thursdays on the first Thursday of every month.

For more information about our Title IX consulting services, including advising, hearing adjudication, and investigation, contact us at info@titleixconsult.com.