Equity Investigation & Hearing Process

Investigation Process 

The University uses investigations to resolve equity [non – Title IX] complaints. Investigations are used to determine: (1) whether or not the conduct occurred, and (2) if the conduct occurred, what actions the University will take, which includes imposing disciplinary consequences on the respondent and providing remedies to the complainant. 

A "Complainant" is an individual who is the focus of the conduct prohibited by the University’s Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, and Retaliation or who experiences the negative effects of prohibited conduct.  A Complainant may or may not be the person who initially makes a report of prohibited conduct. 

A "Respondent" is an individual who is alleged to have engaged in conduct prohibited by the University’s Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, and Retaliation. 

All individuals leading the Equity response from the initial investigation to the completion of the process (i.e., investigation, decision, appeal), have received relevant training on how to conduct an investigation and hearing process that protects the safety of individuals and promotes accountability. The proceedings will be conducted by individuals who do not have an undisclosed conflict of interest or bias for or against the complainant or the respondent. If the complainant or respondent believes any individual in the proceeding is not suited to perform their role because of bias or conflict of interest, they must notify the Director of Equity upon learning the identity of the individual and their role. 

Please click the link below to view the Equity Process Flow Chart (August 2020). 

Equity Process Flowchart (Sept 2020).pdf 

Standard of Evidence 

The standard of evidence used in equity investigations will be the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, wherein the investigators are to determine whether it is more likely than not that the behavior in question occurred and constituted a violation of University policy. 

Limited Immunity 

To encourage and support the reporting of incidents of equity discrimination and harassment, students who participate as witnesses or complainants in equity investigations will not be held accountable (limited immunity) for violations of the Student Code of Conduct that may have occurred at the time of or as a result of the incident in question (for example, being under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or other controlled substances), unless the University determines that the violation was egregious.  Egregious violations include, but are not limited to, actions that places the health or safety of another other person at risk. 

Investigation 

The University will investigate when it receives a report of equity discrimination or harassment unless a request for alternative resolution is made. In most cases, the University will assign two individuals to act as investigators. The investigators will interview the complainant, respondent, and pertinent witnesses, and review any relevant written or other documentary evidence. 

Investigators prepare Investigation Report which include investigation finding and recommended sanctions. Investigators review their Investigation Report with complainants and respondents prior to finalization.    

Review of Investigation Report 

At the conclusion of the investigation the investigator(s) will submit an Investigation Report to the Director of Equity.  After a final Investigation Report is submitted, the Director of Equity will give the Complainant and Respondent an opportunity to be heard.  The opportunity to be heard may come through individual meetings or may come in the form of a live hearing.  The exact method of how the parties will be heard will be determined by the Director of Equity in consultation with the parties.  If there is no agreement among the parties, there will be a live hearing.  Regardless of which method is chosen, both parties will have an equal opportunity to participate.  The Director of Equity will assume a Respondent is not responsible (a presumption of innocence) for the alleged policy violation unless there is sufficient evidence to overcome that presumption.  The burden is on the Complainant and/or University to present sufficient evidence to persuade the Director of Equity that the Respondent is responsible for violating University policy.   

Selection of Hearing Panel and Hearing Process 

After review of the Investigation report a Hearing Panel will be appointed.  Hearing Panel consist of a three-member hearing panel of faculty and staff members as well as a non-voting Hearing Chair. The Office of Equity & Title IX will do its best to diversify each Panel—both in terms of social identities and affiliations within the University. Complainant(s) and respondent(s) will be provided a list of all potential panel members prior to the Hearing Panel and will be given the opportunity to express concern about any potential panel member’s ability to act impartially in hearing their case. Decisions related to panel members’ participation in their hearing will be made by the Office of Equity & Title IX. The Chair may remove any individual who impedes the hearing process. The Chair will act to promote a civil and respectful proceedings.  

During a hearing the complainant(s) and respondent(s) will have the following rights: 

Receive advance notice of the alleged violation(s) and the date of the hearing. 

The opportunity to present their version of the events in question to the Panel. 

Have an Advisor present. That Advisor may be an attorney. 

Audio or video accommodations will be made such that complainant(s) and respondent(s) do not have to be in the presence of the other. 

Not participate in or answer any questions during a hearing. 

Question any statements or witnesses presented. 

Challenge the objectivity of the hearing. 

Appeal the outcome of the hearing. 

Outline of Hearing Procedures:  

The Chair shall present the complaint and state the charge(s). 

The Chair shall read any written response submitted by the complainant(s) and respondent(s). 

The complainant(s) shall be given the opportunity to make an opening statement. 

The respondent(s) shall be given the opportunity to make an opening statement. 

The investigators will provide the Hearing Panel an overview of their Investigation Report including their investigation findings and rationale.  Investigators will answer questions posed by the Panel.  

Hearing Panel poses questions submitted by the complainant(s) and respondent(s). 

The parties are allowed to personally question or cross-examine each other during the hearing via their advisor or by submitting questions to be asked by the Hearing Panel on their behalf. The Hearing Panel will screen the questions submitted by the parties and only ask those it deems appropriate and relevant to the case. Questioning about the complainant’s sexual history with anyone other than the respondent is not permitted. The University also recognizes that the mere fact of a current or previous consensual dating or sexual relationship between the two parties does not itself imply consent or preclude a finding of sexual violence. 

Hearing Panel poses questions for witnesses, if hearing panel determines it is necessary. 

If the Hearing Panel determines that witnesses should be interviewed directly by the panel the witness will be notified in advance.  Both the complainant(s) and respondent(s) will be informed of any witness being called to the Hearing Panel.  Each party can ask questions of any witness after the Hearing Panel’s questions are concluded.  

The complainant(s) shall be given the opportunity to make a closing statement. 

The respondent(s) shall be given the opportunity to make a closing statement. 

The Chair shall conclude the hearing. 

The Hearing Panel shall enter closed deliberations. All findings of fact and any determination(s) of violation(s) shall be decided by a majority vote. 

The Hearing Panel will submit a written decision (the “Decision”) no later than seven (7) calendar days after the hearing. The decision will be based on whether it is “more likely than not” that the University’s policy was violated.  The written decision will include a summary of findings and will describe any consequences or corrective action (sanctions) to be taken, as well as any other recommendations. 

Both the complainant(s) or respondent(s) will have the right to appeal any decision made by a Hearing Panel on the following grounds: (1) evidence not previously available to, and not withheld by the appealing party from, the investigators (or Hearing Panel) that could influence the outcome; (2) material defects in the process leading to the decision; or (3) consideration of whether the sanction is disproportionate to the findings. 

Appeal 

The complainant and respondent each have a right to appeal the Decision. If an appeal is made, it must be in writing and it must be received by the Director of Equity no later than seven (7) calendar days after the Decision is received.  The Director of Equity does not decide on the appeal, but will appoint a senior administrator at the University to render a decision.  

Appeals are not for the purpose of having a second investigation or a second review of all facts. The only proper bases for appeal include: (1) evidence not previously available to, and not withheld by the appealing party from, the investigators (or Hearing Panel) that could influence the outcome; (2) material defects in the process leading to the decision; or (3) consideration of whether the sanction is disproportionate to the findings. 

If any party submits a timely first appeal, the opposing party(ies) will be notified of the appeal and provided a copy of the written appeal.  The opposing party(ies) will have five (5) calendar days to submit to the Director of Equity a response to the appeal; a response to the appeal is not required.  The senior administrator who hears the appeal will have seven (7) calendar days from the date that all appeal materials have been submitted to provide a written decision. 

Advisor 

During the investigation (and any following proceedings), a complainant and a respondent are entitled to be accompanied by an Advisor.  An “Advisor” is any person chosen by a Complainant or Respondent to assist the party in navigating the procedures called for in this policy.  Commonly, an Advisor is a professor or other University employee, a parent/relative, a friend, or an attorney).  Any costs for an Advisor (e.g., an attorney’s fee or travel for a member of the family) are at the Complainant’s or Respondent’s own expense.  Advisors do not directly participate in proceedings under this policy (except for conducting cross-examinations during hearings pursuant to Section III(C)(3)) but provide emotional support and behind-the-scenes guidance.  An individual who has a conflict of interest cannot simultaneously serve as an Advisor.  For example, a friend who is a witness in a matter cannot serve as an Advisor for that matter. Advisors who do not abide by these restrictions, who are disruptive, or who otherwise fail to abide by reasonable directions provided by individuals authorized to conduct investigations or proceedings under the Policy, will be removed and a substitute Advisor may be selected.  

Timing 

Proceedings will ordinarily be completed within the time frame, as set forth in the University’s Policy. However, with good cause, reasonable extensions of the time for completion of the proceedings will be permitted. In such cases, the complainant and respondent will be provided with written notice, by the appropriate university official, of the extension and the reason for the extension.  

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