How is a grievance resolved

Resolving a Sexual Misconduct Grievance

The resolution process offers two pathways: Administrative Resolution and Hearing Panel. Administrative Resolutions are appropriate for less severe violations, including but not limited to non-consensual sexual contact and some forms of exploitation.  

Option 1: Administrative Resolution

When a reporter elects for an Administrative Resolution, a dean provides appropriate notice to the respondent.

Administrative Resolution provides an opportunity for the reporter to address concerns with the respondent, and the process is facilitated by a dean of students, or a designee. Administrative resolution allows the reporter to communicate their feelings and perceptions regarding the alleged incident, and their wishes and expectations regarding protection in the future. The respondent will have an opportunity to respond.

  1. Administrative Resolution Where Respondent Accepts Responsibility. If, during the Administrative Resolution proceedings, the respondent chooses to acknowledge their actions and accept responsibility for the alleged violation, the Administrative Resolution will be concluded and the dean of students will propose a sanction. If both the reporter and the respondent agree to such proposed sanction, the report will be resolved without any further rights of appeal by either party. If either the reporter or the respondent objects to the proposed sanction, the dean of students will convene the hearing panel to recommend appropriate sanctions. The dean will issue a notice of action.  

  2. Administrative Resolution Where Respondent Contests Responsibility. If, during the Administrative Resolution, the respondent contests the report of alleged sexual misconduct, a dean of students may nevertheless impose a no-contact order and other interim remedial measures based on information derived from initial information gathered and taken together with any other relevant information in the possession of the University.

Option 2: Hearing Panel

When a reporter elects for a Hearing Panel, their report will be forwarded by a dean to the investigator, who will commence a prompt, thorough, fair, impartial, and reliable investigation.

Notice: Once an investigation is initiated and before the respondent is interviewed, the dean of students office will notify the reporter and the respondent, in writing, of the commencement of an investigation. Such notice will (1) identify the reporter and the respondent; (2) specify the date, location and nature of the alleged incident to the extent known; (3) identify the investigator; (4) identify the process facilitator; (5) indicate that the reporter has elected a hearing panel; (6) explain the prohibition against retaliation against either party or any witness in the investigation; (7) instruct the parties not to destroy any potentially relevant evidence (including electronic evidence and photographs) in any format; and (8) provide a copy of this policy.

Note on Changing Pathways to Resolution: At any time prior to the completion of the investigator’s report (and if the conditions for electing Administrative Resolution are otherwise met), the reporter may decide to change their election from hearing panel to administrative resolution by so notifying the investigator.

Opportunity to Accept Responsibility by Respondent: The respondent, upon learning of the report (and at any time prior to the completion of the investigation and the receipt of the investigator’s report), may elect to terminate the hearing panel process by accepting responsibility for the conduct alleged in the report. If the respondent accepts such responsibility, the case may be referred to the hearing panel, which will recommend a sanction to the dean.

Investigations and Reports

Preliminary information: Investigations usually begin with preliminary information, including written statements, reports and/or other information about the incident initially gathered by the student life staff, the Title IX Coordinator or a dean of students. Preliminary reports can be used for determining the need for interim measures or for administrative resolution.

Investigation:Full investigations are requested and delegated by either the Dean of Students or the Title IX Coordinator. The investigation portion of the process typically takes up to 20 class days. The investigator will meet separately with both the reporter and respondent as well as any identified witnesses. The investigator will gather initial information and ensure that the reporter and the respondent have submitted a written statement regarding the incident. The investigator will review each statement with the individual submitting it. As determined by the investigator, those identified witnesses who have immediate knowledge of the event will be asked to submit written statements. The investigator will review any such statement with the witness. The investigator may take notes on any of these meetings. The investigator uses statements and other evidence submitted by all parties to produce a preliminary report.

Review and response:The investigator makes copies of the preliminary report available to each of the parties and the process facilitator, simultaneously. Each of the parties may submit a written statement to the investigator within three (3) class days of the date on which the investigator’s report was provided to them. The purpose of such statements is to allow the parties an opportunity to address any perceived factual errors or omissions in the investigator’s report and to disclose any evidence that was not previously known or available to the investigator. The investigator will review statements to evaluate relevance and if relevant, then distribute copies of any such statements to both parties and the process facilitator, simultaneously.

Investigation concluded and submitted: After the reporter and respondent have reviewed and submitted responses in investigator produces their final report. The final report will state the factual findings of the investigator, will summarize the information obtained through the investigation, and will attach copies, where available, of relevant supporting documentation. The Title IX Coordinator and/or University’s General Counsel may review the investigator’s report before it is finalized.

What information may be redacted:  The past sexual history or sexual character of a party will not be deemed relevant in the investigation or hearing unless such information is determined to be highly relevant by the investigator and Title IX Coordinator.

What prior conduct violations can be included: While previous conduct violations by the accused individual are not generally relevant as information about the present report, the dean of students and/or the Title IX Coordinator may supply previous report information to the investigator and/or the hearing panel only if:

  • The accused was previously found to be responsible, or

  • The previous incident was substantially similar to the present allegation, or

  • Information indicates a pattern of behavior and substantial conformity with that pattern by the accused individual.

Notice on insufficient evidence:In some cases, the Dean of Students may determine that there is insufficient evidence to warrant continuing toward a hearing panel. The reporter will have a final opportunity to offer new information (such as additional evidence, information, or names of witnesses); in the absence of any new information, the investigation will end and the case will be suspended.

Pathways to Resolution after Investigation

The Dean of Students has two paths to resolve grievances: (1) Administrative Resolution or (2) Hearing Panel.  

  1. Administrative Resolution: If the respondent accepts responsibility for the report or does not accept responsibility for the report, but waives a hearing before the hearing panel, the case can be administratively resolved. The process follows the same path as the hearing panel, but the process only engages the Dean of Students or a designee.

  2. Hearing Panel Resolution: If there will be a hearing panel review, then with at least five (5) class days notice to both the reporter and respondent, a dean of students will convene the hearing panel for the hearing.

The hearing panel is comprised of a dean of students, and faculty or staff who all are trained to hear cases. The dean chairing the process will select two committee members to review the incident. There are no students on the hearing panel because of the private nature of these cases. The chairperson should avoid selecting board members who have a close relationship with the students involved or who are closely connected to the issue being reviewed and who might have a difficult time rendering an impartial decision. Participants and committee members should discuss the composition of the committee with a dean prior to a hearing. If a committee member has a demonstrable personal bias for or against either party, the dean chairing the committee will not allow that member to serve.

Confidentiality & the Hearing Panel

Throughout the process for resolving a report of sexual misconduct, reasonable efforts will be made to maintain students’ confidentiality. At different times in the process, however, it may be important to discuss the alleged incident with witnesses and/or others who have information that is pertinent to the case; or on a need-to-know basis. All students involved in the process are strongly urged to use discretion in discussing the incident or the identities of other student involved in the process. In a small community, public discussion of sexual misconduct cases can be very hurtful and deter others from reporting sexual misconduct.

Hearing Panel Process

  • The investigator meets with the dean, hearing panel, and the process facilitator to talk through the investigative process and to answer questions regarding the report.

  • A designated dean of students chairs the conduct hearing and advises the students of the allegation, and clarifies any questions of procedure.

  • The reporter shares an oral statement; followed by any questions that the dean or hearing panel member may have for the reporter.

  • The respondent shares an oral statement; followed by any questions that the dean or hearing panel member may have for the respondent.

  • The dean and hearing panel members may choose to hear from witnesses that it deems most relevant. The dean and hearing panel will make that determination based upon the report and the oral statements from the reporter and the respondent.

  • If necessary, the dean and hearing panel members may recall the reporter, respondent, or any witness for further questioning.

  • All parties involvedthe reporter and respondent and any witnesses, will never be in the hearing room at the same time.

  • Efforts will also be made to ensure that the students will not wait in the same area outside the hearing room.

  • Hearings of the committee (but not the committee's deliberations) will be recorded.

  • The hearing concludes.

  • The dean and hearing panel carefully evaluates and weighs evidence to determine responsibility based on a preponderance of evidence. If found responsible, the committee will recommend an appropriate sanction to the chair.

  • The dean makes a final decision about sanctions, if applicable, and notifies both parties of the decision and sanctions.

Resolution of the Case

Outcome Letters

The Dean of Students will provide written notification to the reporter and respondent of the determination of responsibility as well as any sanctions that may apply. If the student is to be suspended or expelled, the individual must vacate campus within 24 hours, even if the student appeals the decision. Proceedings and decisions will not be disclosed except on a need to know basis. All notes and written material from the hearing will be collected and held by the Dean of Students for seven years, at which time they will be destroyed or, at the dean’s discretion, preserved. All such records are part of the educational record of all students involved, and protected from disclosure under a federal law, FERPA. However, FERPA permits the University to disclose the following:

  • reporters have a right to be informed of the outcome, in writing, and to be informed of any sanctions that directly relate to them, and to essential findings supporting the outcome when the outcome is one of violation and/or it is equitable to share the essential findings with all parties.

  • The University may release publicly the name, nature of the violation, and the sanction for any student who is found in violation of a college policy that is a "crime of violence," including: arson, burglary, robbery, criminal homicide, sex offenses, assault, intimidation (which may encompass stalking and/or bullying), hazing, destruction/damage/vandalism of property, and kidnapping/abduction. The University will release this information to the reporter in any of these offenses regardless of the outcome.

Parental Notification

The University reserves the right to notify parents/guardians of dependent students regarding any health or safety risk, change in student status, or conduct situation, particularly alcohol and other drug violations. The University may also notify parents/guardians of non-dependent students who are under age 21 of alcohol and/or drug policy violations. When a student is not dependent, the University will contact parents/guardians to inform them of situations in which there is a significant and articulable health and/or safety risk. The University also reserves the right to designate which college officials have a need to know about individual conduct reports pursuant to FERPA.