Formal complaints asserted against students under the University’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy or the Student Conduct Code alleging sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking are overseen by the Gender Equity and Title IX Compliance Office (“Office”). The Office may refer complaints that fall outside of the scope of Title IX to the Student Gender Equity Grievance Process (SSGEGP). The processes described below are designed to provide for equitable investigation, hearing and resolution of such complaints.
Filing a Complaint
1. To file a Formal Complaint against a student (“Respondent”), an individual (“Complainant”) must submit to the Office a written, signed complaint setting forth allegations of conduct in violation of University policy and a request that the University investigate the complaint. The Formal Complaint must include all allegations by the Complainant against the Respondent; any subsequent complaint by the Complainant against the Respondent that could have been asserted in a prior complaint may be barred.
2. The Office will notify all parties of the Formal Complaint and conduct a preliminary review to determine whether the conduct alleged is prohibited under Title IX. If necessary, the Office may seek additional information from the Complainant or Respondent. If the Formal Complaint does not allege conduct prohibited under Title IX, the Office may refer it for investigation through the SGEGP or other University processes, or dismiss the Formal Complaint. Whether the Formal Complaint alleges conduct that is prohibited under Title IX, or other circumstances exist warranting dismissal, is a determination made solely by the Office. The Office’s decision to dismiss the Formal Complaint may be appealed as further described below.
3. The SGEGP will apply to Formal Complaints submitted to the Office on or after August 14, 2020, alleging conduct that is not prohibited by Title IX but otherwise is in violation of University policy.
4. The Office will issue a Notice of Complaint providing information about the allegations and processes that will be followed.
5. Any party or witness may be accompanied by a support person of their choice at any meeting or interview throughout the investigation process. The support person may not take an active role in any part of the process and may not serve as a witness or a party to the same incident in the same pending matter.
6. Support persons may not contact the Investigator or any member of the Hearing Panel while the complaint is pending. Support persons may not contact other Support Persons in the same matter, except as authorized by the Office. Support persons who do not abide by these guidelines and the Rules of Decorum may be excluded from the SSGEGP.
Investigation and Report
7. If a Notice of Complaint is issued, the Office will assign an Investigator to investigate the allegations of the Formal Complaint. The Investigator may interview and obtain documents from the parties and other witnesses.
8. After completing the preliminary investigation, the Investigator will provide all parties an opportunity to inspect and review the evidence obtained as part of the investigation that is directly related to the Formal Complaint. The parties may, within 10 calendar days after that review, submit a written statement on the evidence to the Investigator for consideration prior to the Investigator’s completion of an investigation report.
9. The Investigator will prepare an investigation report. The investigation report will describe the relevant facts gathered during the course of the investigation, and will contain summaries of all interviews conducted by the Investigator, and any written statements and other relevant evidence provided to the Investigator by parties or witnesses. It will not set forth any conclusion or opinion as to whether the evidence establishes a violation of University policy.
10. The Investigator will provide the investigation report, upon completion, to the Office. The Office will conduct an administrative review of the investigation report to address compliance with this process and completeness. The Office may request of the Investigator clarifications, follow up, and/or additional investigation. When any such follow-up is complete, at least 10 calendar days prior to the pre-hearing conference, the Office will submit the investigation report to the parties and the Hearing Panel.
11. The Office will convene a three-member Hearing Panel to conduct a hearing on the Formal Complaint. One of the Hearing Panel members will be the Hearing Chair, who is appointed by the Office and trained to investigate complaints involving alleged violations of University policy. The Hearing Chair presides over the hearing and serves as a voting member of the Hearing Panel.
12. The other two Hearing Panel members will be appointed by the Office from the University Sexual Harassment Investigation Board (USHIB). The USHIB is comprised of faculty, staff, and students appointed by the Chancellor to two-year terms and trained to investigate allegations of violations of University policy. Those two members ordinarily will be selected based on the status of the parties (i.e., faculty member, staff member, student).
13. The Hearing Chair will hold a pre-hearing conference with the parties.
14. At the time it delivers the investigation report, the Office will provide to the parties the name and title of each member of the Hearing Panel. The Title IX Coordinator, investigator, and members of the Hearing Panel will be free of any material conflicts of interest or material bias. Any party who believes one or more of these University officials has a material conflict of interest or material bias must raise the concern in their written response to the investigation report so that the University may evaluate the concern and find a substitute, if appropriate.
15. At least seven calendar days prior to the pre-hearing conference, parties may submit to the Office a written response to the investigation report, which will be distributed to the Hearing Panel and other party.
16. To facilitate efficiency during the hearing, parties shall submit to the Hearing Chair at least two calendar days prior to the pre-hearing conference, their proposed questions to be asked of another party or witness by the Hearing Panel.
17. At the pre-hearing conference, the Hearing Chair may rule on whether the parties’ proposed questions will be asked at the hearing based on relevance, including on the basis they are repetitive or abusive. The parties may also address any other matters that may require resolution by the Hearing Chair. The Hearing Chair may elect to address such questions or topics outside the presence of other parties or in writing directed to the requesting party only.
18. Following the pre-hearing conference, and prior to the hearing, the parties will be provided a Pre-Hearing Order that identifies the list of witnesses, documents and other evidence for use during the hearing. The Hearing Chair, at their sole discretion, may also memorialize any other rulings made during the pre-hearing conference, including the relevance of proposed questions to be posed by the Hearing Panel to another party or witness. Such rulings in the Pre-Hearing Order are subject to reconsideration during the hearing and, based on circumstances presented, may be revised by the Hearing Chair.
19. The Office, in consultation with the Hearing Chair, will set the time and the location or manner of the hearing. The hearing may be conducted in person or remotely.
20. Only the following persons may be present during the hearing: the Hearing Panel; the parties and support persons; witnesses and their support persons; a member of the Office; and, a member of the Office of the Vice Chancellor and General Counsel (as advisor to the Hearing Panel). Witnesses and their support persons may be present only when being questioned, unless the Hearing Chair authorizes them to be present for another portion of the hearing.
21. All evidence gathered during the investigation, regardless of whether it is identified in the Pre-Hearing Order, will be made available for the parties’ inspection and review during the hearing. Subject to the Hearing Chair’s determination of relevance, all parties will have equal opportunity to refer to such evidence during the hearing.
22. The Hearing Chair may, on their own initiative, direct any University employee or student to appear as a witness at the hearing.
23. The Hearing Chair may recess a hearing if they conclude that the Hearing Panel requires additional evidence or information.
24. The procedure at the hearing is as follows:
a. The Hearing Chair will call for questioning of the Complainant, the Respondent, and any additional witnesses deemed relevant. The questions will include those submitted by the parties that have not been excluded.
b. The Hearing Panel may ask questions of any party or witness at any time during the hearing, and may also recall witnesses and/or direct that additional witnesses be called to provide evidence.
c. In reaching its decision, the Hearing Panel may not draw any inferences based solely on a party’s or witness’s absence from the hearing or refusal to answer any questions at the hearing.
d. Rules of procedure applicable in court proceedings, including formal rules of evidence, are not applicable to the hearing.
e. If a hearing is conducted in person, the Hearing Chair in their discretion may decide that the parties will be seated in separate rooms, with technology enabling the participants simultaneously to see and hear each other.
25. Only relevant evidence that tends to prove or disprove the allegations shall be allowed at the hearing and considered by the Hearing Panel. Except in unusual circumstances, prior conduct of the parties unrelated to the Formal Complaint before the Hearing Panel shall not be considered in reaching a decision. Questions and evidence about a party’s sexual predisposition or prior sexual behavior are not relevant and will be excluded, unless such questions and evidence are offered to prove that someone other than the Respondent committed the alleged conduct, or if the questions and evidence concern specific incidents of the parties’ prior sexual behavior with respect to each other and are offered with respect to the issue of consent.
26. The Hearing Panel shall determine whether the evidence establishes that the Respondent more likely than not engaged in conduct in violation of University policy. The Hearing Panel will issue to the Office a written decision, which outlines the basis for its decision. A majority vote of the members of the Hearing Panel shall be required for a decision.
27. If the Hearing Panel does not determine it is more likely than not that the Respondent engaged in conduct in violation of University policy, the Respondent shall be found not responsible.
28. If the Hearing Panel determines that it is more likely than not that the Respondent engaged in conduct in violation of University policy, the Hearing Panel will draft a written decision that includes (i) the identification of the allegations constituting a violation of University policy; (ii) a description of the procedural steps taken in the investigation, including a description of the methods used to gather evidence and the hearings held; (iii) findings of fact supporting the Hearing Panel’s determination; (iv) conclusions regarding the allegations of the Formal Complaint; and (v) a statement of, and rationale for, the result as to each allegation.
29. If the Hearing Panel determines the Respondent more likely than not engaged in conduct in violation of University Policy, the Office will notify the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, who will confer with the Dean of the Respondent’s school or their designee, and determine appropriate sanctions.
30. Sanctions may include, among others, probation, educational training, restitution, monetary fines, disciplinary activity limitation, permanent removal from student housing, suspension, and expulsion.
31. The written decision including sanctions, if applicable, will then be forwarded to the parties. The Hearing Panel and, if applicable, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, will endeavor to issue the decision as soon as reasonably practicable.
32. Within seven calendar days after the Office dismisses a Formal Complaint or the parties are provided the final decision, the parties may appeal the dismissal of the Formal Complaint, the Hearing Panel’s decision and, if applicable, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs’ sanction decision, to the Provost.
33. The scope of review on appeal shall be limited to determining whether: (i) procedural irregularity materially affected the outcome of the matter; (ii) there exists new evidence that was not reasonably available at the time the determination regarding responsibility or dismissal of the Formal Complaint was made, that could affect the outcome of the matter; (iii) the Office, Investigator, or Hearing Panel members had a conflict of interest or bias for or against complainants or respondents generally or the Complainant or Respondent that affected the outcome of the matter; and/or (iv) the sanctions imposed are inappropriate.
34. To initiate the appeal process, a party must submit a written appeal to the Office explaining the basis of and support for the appeal. The Office will provide a copy of the appeal to the other party. Within seven calendar days of receipt of the appeal, the other party may submit a written response to the appeal to the Office, which will distribute it to the appealing party. The Office will provide the appeal submissions to the Provost.
35. The Provost will review the parties’ submissions and issue a written decision on the appeal to the parties, with a copy to the Office. The Provost’s decision shall be final and unreviewable.
36. The Provost will endeavor to issue the recommendations and decision on appeal as soon as reasonably practicable.
37. During the investigation and hearing, there shall be a presumption that the Respondent did not engage in the alleged conduct in violation of University policy.
38. All written submissions required by these processes shall not exceed ten single-spaced pages (excluding any evidentiary materials), using at least 12-point font and one-inch margins. All written submissions required by these processes must be prepared personally by the party and must include an attestation to that effect.
39. The University will endeavor to conclude the SGEGP within 120 calendar days and the appeals process within 30 calendar days of the parties’ final submissions. The timeframes and deadlines set out these processes may be extended for good cause shown, with written notice to the parties explaining the delay or extension and the reasons for such action. Good cause may include considerations such as the absence of a party, a party’s support person or a witness; concurrent law enforcement activity; or, the need for language assistance or accommodation of disabilities. Proceedings will not be unduly delayed by the unavailability of a particular Advisor.
40. In implementing these processes in any particular case, reasonable modifications of or departures from the processes may be made by the University in an effort to ensure a fair and efficient process. Such modifications may include, but are not limited to, adjustment of deadlines or rescheduling of interviews, conferences or hearings.
41. If a Complainant chooses to file a criminal report with the Washington University Police Department or other law enforcement agency with respect to the same or related conduct alleged in the Formal Complaint, they may simultaneously pursue the criminal and SGEGP complaint. Ordinarily the University will not delay SGEGP proceedings if criminal charges are filed, but may in its discretion postpone them while criminal proceedings are pending.
42. At any point before, during, or after the proceedings described above, the University may determine that supportive measures are necessary and appropriate to prevent and/or respond to allegations of conduct in violation of University policy. Depending on the specific nature of the allegation, such measures may include but are not limited to: implementation of a no-contact order or temporary leave of absence, temporary changes to job or course assignments, medical or counseling services, and additional training and education. Such measures for parties and witnesses will be implemented in accordance with applicable University policies.
43. The Office may remove a respondent from an education program or activity on an emergency basis, whether or not a Formal Complaint has been filed, based on an individualized safety and risk analysis and determination that a respondent presents an immediate threat to the physical health or safety of any student or other individual arising from the allegations of conduct in violation of University policy. If the Office makes such finding that justifies removal of a respondent, it must provide that respondent with notice and an opportunity to challenge the decision immediately following the removal. The Dean of the School or College in which that respondent is enrolled will be notified of the temporary removal.
44. Ordinarily a respondent shall not be subject to more than one Formal Complaint and hearing concerning the same act or series of related acts. The Office may in its discretion consolidate multiple related complaints into a single proceeding. Nothing in this provision shall prohibit a separate complaint or hearing arising from alleged acts that take place or are discovered after proceedings on an earlier complaint have been completed.
45. No party, Support Person or witness may record any part of any interview, conference, hearing or other proceeding. The University will create a verbatim record (which may be in the form of an audio recording or transcript) of the pre-hearing conference and the hearing. Hearing Panel deliberations shall not be recorded. All recordings shall remain the property of the University. The recordings may be made available to the parties for review upon written request. If a party wishes to listen to any portion of the recordings, they may schedule an appointment with the Office to listen to the recording. While doing so, they may take notes but may not otherwise create or retain a copy of the recording in any way. Exceptions to this prohibition may be made following a written request, at the sole discretion of the Office.
46. Documents and other records pertaining to the SGEGP ordinarily will be destroyed after a period of 10 years from the date of final disposition of a complaint. The University may provide records or information regarding the matter to other persons or entities in accordance with the law.
Retaliation and Protection of Rights
47. The University will not tolerate retaliation against persons who report conduct in violation of University policy, or against those who testify, assist, or participate in any investigation, proceeding, or hearing under these processes. In this context, retaliation means any action to intimidate, threaten, coerce, or discriminate against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by Title IX, University policy, or these processes, or because the individual has made a report or complaint, testified, assisted, or participated or refused to participate in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this process.
48. The University seeks to protect the rights of all persons, including both complainants and respondents, to fair procedures. Allegations of conduct in violation of University policy may have injurious and far-reaching effects on the education, careers and lives of those accused. Such allegations must be made in good faith and not out of malice. Knowingly making a false or frivolous complaint alleging conduct in violation of University policy, whether in a formal or informal context, will be treated as a serious offense.