Process for Investigating and Resolving Disputed Reports

4.6.5.2 Process for Investigating and Resolving Disputed Reports

Jurisdiction: Each institution shall take necessary and appropriate action to protect the safety and well-being of its community. Accordingly, student conduct should be addressed when such acts occur on institution property, at institution-sponsored or affiliated events, or otherwise violate the institution’s student conduct policies, regardless as to where such conduct occurs. If the student has admitted responsibility and has voluntarily decided to participate in the informal process, the procedures outlined in this section will not apply.

Access to Advisors: The Respondent and Complainant (where applicable), as parties to these proceedings, shall have the right to have an advisor (who may or may not be an attorney) of the party’s choosing, and at their own expense, for the express purpose of providing advice and counsel. The advisor may be present during meetings and proceedings during the investigatory and/or resolution process at which his or her advisee is present. The advisor may advise their advisee in any manner, including providing questions, suggestions, and guidance on responses to any questions posed to the advisee, but shall not participate directly during the investigation or hearing process.

Initial Evaluation of Student Conduct Reports: Regardless of how an institution becomes aware of alleged misconduct, the institution shall ensure a prompt, fair, and impartial review and resolution of complaints alleging student misconduct. Where a report of student misconduct has been made to the appropriate department and/or person, the institution shall review the complaint to determine whether the allegation(s) describes conduct in violation of the institution’s policies and/or code of conduct. If the reported conduct would not be a violation of the institution’s policies and/or code of conduct, even if true, then the report should be dismissed. Otherwise, a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation, and review shall be conducted into each complaint received to determine whether charges against the Respondent should be brought.

Any report that involves allegation(s) of conduct that could lead to the suspension or expulsion of the Respondent(s) in an initial violation must be promptly reported to the System Director of Equity & Investigations (“System Director”) by the institution. The System Director will work with the institution to determine whether any interim measure(s) are necessary, to assign an investigator and may collaboratively supervise the investigation with the appropriate institution professional (e.g., the Title IX Coordinator, Dean of Students). If an allegation is not initially identified as one that could lead to suspension or expulsion of the Respondent(s), but facts arise during the course of the investigation that would require notice to the System Director, then the institution shall report that case to the System Director or their designee prior to proceeding.

Interim Measures

Interim measures may be implemented by the institution at any point after the institution becomes aware of the alleged student misconduct and should be designed to protect any student or other individual in the USG community. To the extent interim measures are imposed, they should minimize the burden on both the Complaint (where applicable) and the Respondent, where feasible. Interim measures may include, but are not limited to:

  1. Change of housing assignment;

  2. Issuance of a “no contact” directive;

  3. Restrictions or bars to entering certain institution property;

  4. Changes to academic or employment arrangements, schedules, or supervision;

  5. Interim suspension; and

  6. Other measures designed to promote the safety and well-being of the parties and the institution’s community.

An interim suspension should only occur where necessary to maintain safety and should be limited to those situations where the respondent poses a serious and immediate danger or threat to persons or property. In making such an assessment, the institution should consider the existence of a significant risk to the health or safety of the Complainant (where applicable) or the campus community; the nature, duration, and severity of the risk; the probability of potential injury; and whether less restrictive means can be used to significantly mitigate the risk.

Before an interim suspension is issued, the institution must make all reasonable efforts to give the Respondent the opportunity to be heard on whether the Respondent’s presence on campus poses a danger. If an interim suspension is issued, the terms of the suspension take effect immediately. The Respondent shall receive notice of the interim suspension and the opportunity to respond to the interim suspension.

Within three business days of receiving a challenge the institution will determine whether the interim suspension should continue.

Investigation

Throughout any investigation and resolution proceedings, a party shall receive written notice of the alleged misconduct, shall be provided an opportunity to respond, and shall be allowed to remain silent or otherwise not participate in or during the investigation and resolution process without an adverse inference resulting. If a party chooses to remain silent or otherwise not participate in an investigation, the investigation may still proceed, and policy charges may still result and be resolved. Timely and equal access to information that will be used during the investigation will be provided to the Complainant (where applicable), Respondent.

Where the potential sanctions for the alleged misconduct may involve a suspension or expulsion (even if such sanctions were to be held “in abeyance,” such as probationary suspension or expulsion) the institution’s investigation and resolution procedures must provide the additional minimal safeguards outlined below.

  1. The Complainant (where applicable) and Respondent shall be provided with written notice of the complaint/allegations, pending investigation, possible charges, possible sanctions, and available support services. The notice should also include the identity of any investigator(s) involved. Notice should be provided via institution email to the address on file.

  2. Upon receipt of the written notice, the Respondent shall have at least three business days to respond in writing. In that response, the Respondent shall have the right to admit or to deny the allegations, and to set forth a defense with facts, witnesses, and supporting materials. A non-response will be considered a general denial of the alleged misconduct. Any Complainant (where applicable) shall also be provided three business days to respond to or to supplement the notice.

  3. If the Respondent admits responsibility, the process may proceed to the sanctioning phase or may be informally resolved, if appropriate.

  4. If at any point the investigator determines there is insufficient evidence to support a charge or to warrant further consideration of discipline, then the complaint should be dismissed.

  5. An investigator shall conduct a thorough investigation and should retain written notes and/or obtain written or recorded statements from each interview. The investigator shall also keep a record of any party’s proffered witnesses not interviewed, along with a brief, written explanation of why the witnesses were not interviewed.

  6. The initial investigation report shall be provided to the Respondent and the Complainant (where applicable). This report should clearly indicate any resulting charges (or alternatively, a determination of no charges), as well as the facts and evidence in support thereof, witness statements, and possible sanctions. For purposes of this Policy, a charge is not a finding of responsibility, but indicates that there is sufficient evidence to warrant further consideration and adjudication.

  7. The final investigation report should be provided to the misconduct panel or hearing officer for consideration in adjudicating the charges brought against the Respondent. A copy shall also be provided to the respondent and Complainant (where applicable) before any hearing. The investigator may testify as a witness regarding the investigation and findings, but shall otherwise have no part in the hearing process and shall not attempt to otherwise influence the proceedings outside of providing testimony during the hearing.

Resolution/Hearing

In no case shall a hearing to resolve charge(s) of student misconduct take place before the investigative report has been finalized.

Where the Respondent indicates that they contest the charges, the matter shall be set for a hearing and once the investigative report has been finalized and copies provided to the Respondent and Complainant (where applicable); however, the Complainant (where applicable) and Respondent may have the option of selecting informal resolution as a possible resolution in certain student misconduct cases where they mutually agree, except where deemed inappropriate by the Vice President for Student Affairs (or their designee) or the System Director.

Where a case is not resolved through informal resolution or informal resolution is not available due to the nature of the charges, the Respondent shall have the option of having the charges heard either by an administrator (Hearing Officer) or a Hearing Panel. If an administrative hearing is requested, the Respondent shall use their discretion to determine whether the case should be heard by a Hearing Panel. Notice of the date, time, and location of the hearing shall be provided to the Respondent and Complainant (where applicable) at least five business days prior to the hearing. Notice shall be provided via institution email where applicable. Hearings shall be conducted in person or via conferencing technology as reasonably available. Additionally, the following standards will apply to any such hearing:

The Respondent and Complainant (where applicable) shall have the right to present witnesses and evidence to the hearing officer or panel. Witness testimony, if provided, shall pertain to knowledge and facts directly associated with the case being heard. The Respondent and Complainant (where applicable) shall have the right to confront any witnesses, including the other party, by submitting written questions to the Hearing Officer or Hearing Panel for consideration. Advisors may actively assist in drafting questions. The Hearing Officer or Hearing Panel shall ask the questions as written and will limit questions only if they are unrelated to determining the veracity of the charge leveled against the Respondent(s). In any event, the Hearing Officer or Hearing Panel shall err on the side of asking all submitted questions and must document the reason for not asking any particular questions.

  1. Where the Hearing Officer or Hearing Panel determines that a party or witness is unavailable and unable to be present due to extenuating circumstances, the Hearing Officer or Hearing Panel may establish special procedures for providing testimony from a separate location. In doing so, the Hearing Officer or Hearing Panel must determine whether there is a valid basis for the unavailability, ensure proper sequestration in a manner that ensures testimony has not been tainted, and make a determination that such an arrangement will not unfairly disadvantage any party. Should it be reasonably believed that a party or witness who is not physically present has presented tainted testimony, the Hearing Officer or Hearing Panel will disregard or discount the testimony.

  2. Formal judicial rules of evidence do not apply to the investigatory or resolution process.

  3. The standard of review shall be a preponderance of the evidence.

  4. Institutions should maintain documentation of the proceedings, which may include written findings of fact, transcripts, audio recordings, and/or video recordings.

  5. Following a hearing, both the Respondent and Complainant (where applicable) shall be simultaneously provided a written decision via institution email (where applicable) of the outcome and any resulting sanctions. The decision should include details on how to appeal, as outlined below. Additionally, the written decision must summarize the evidence relied on in support of the outcome and the rationale for the resulting sanction. The same form will be completed, regardless of whether the student opts for a hearing panel or an administrative proceeding.