Investigation and Resolution of Complaints when the Accused Person is a Student
Filing of The Complaint
Reporting a Sexual Misconduct Complaint or Report
Complainants and witnesses are encouraged to report sexual misconduct as soon as possible in order to maximize the college’s ability to respond promptly and effectively. By reporting the sexual misconduct, you help protect yourself and others from future harm. Reporting an issue is the best way for the college and the community to help an individual receive the resources and interim measures available to them. Reporting the incident is a separate step from choosing to go through the college conduct process. At the time a report is made, a complainant does not have to decide whether or not to request any particular course of disciplinary action or whether to proceed with any disciplinary action at all. The complainant will also be provided with a written document explaining the process, their rights and options, and available resources.
An incident of sexual misconduct does not have to occur on campus to be reported to the college. Furthermore, the college understands that some incidents of sexual misconduct involve interactions between only the complainant and the respondent and are not witnessed by other people. Lack of corroborating evidence or witness accounts should not discourage individuals from reporting sexual misconduct. Reports of sexual misconduct will be assessed, investigated, and decided appropriately even when the only individuals involved are the complainant and the respondent.
The college knows that the decision whether or not to report sexual misconduct is personal and that there are many barriers, both individual and societal, to reporting. The college will approach the initial assessment of any report with a sincere effort to understand the perspective and experiences of each individual involved. College officials will make every effort to respect a complainant’s autonomy in making decisions and provide support that will allow a complainant to provide a full, detailed, and accurate report that will aid college officials in assessing the complaint.
If the accused is a Coe student, the Title IX Coordinator or their designee will notify the respondent that an alleged incident of sexual misconduct has been reported to the college. During this communication, a complainant may choose not to have their identity divulged. Individuals may make an anonymous report without disclosing their name, identifying the Respondent (if known) or requesting any action. Depending on the level of information available and a complainant’s willingness to divulge their identity, anonymity may impact the college’s ability to pursue appropriate action. Where a complainant requests that their name or other identifying information not be shared with the respondent, the college will balance this request with a respondent’s right to confront their accuser and to know the allegations being charged against them. The Dean of Students, as a Title IX deputy and overseer of the college conduct process, is the person responsible for evaluating requests for confidentiality. The Dean of Students may consult with other appropriate college officials and legal counsel as necessary when analyzing such a request.
If a complainant chooses to divulge their identity, the Dean of Students may consider interim measures, discussed below, while the complaint is investigated. Remedial measures can include a “no-contact” order between the complainant and respondent. This requires that the respondent and complainant refrain from interacting while the investigation and resolution is pending.
The final determination of how to proceed and what method of resolution is appropriate once a complaint has been filed and initially assessed will be left to the college. The Director of Human Resources will coordinate cases where a faculty or staff member is named as a respondent. The Dean of Students will coordinate cases were a student is named as the respondent. While the college will consider the complainant’s expressed preference for resolution, the college may initiate an investigation on its own initiative when justified, such as when a respondent may have been involved in serious or repeated conduct or may pose a threat to the college community. If the college determines a course of disciplinary action or resolution that is less severe than the wishes of the complainant, the complainant may request further or heightened disciplinary action. At any time, the complainant has the right to request that the college initiate a formal investigation under the procedures outlined in this policy.
Once a complaint is made, the college will endeavor to conclude its processes and reach a resolution within a reasonable period. This timeframe may be impacted by the college’s calendar and is based on the circumstances surrounding the complaint. Both parties will be given periodic updates throughout the process.
Complainants and respondents are entitled the same opportunities to consult with and be accompanied by one advisor/support person of their choice throughout each and every step in the sexual misconduct disciplinary process. This includes assistance in the preparation of any written materials and attending any meeting with the investigator(s) or other college personnel.
However, an advisor may not actively participate in any meeting or proceedings. The advisor may be any individual, including an attorney, who is not a witness or otherwise involved in the events that are the subject of the complaint or is otherwise involved in the disciplinary process under this policy. The advisor can be a trained victim advocate through a community agency such as the Riverview Center. Advisors are not permitted to speak to, question, or otherwise communicate with other parties or witnesses during the course of any investigation without express authority from the Title IX Coordinator or designee. A support person or advisor may be required to meet with the Title IX Coordinator in advance to understand the parameters of their role, privacy restrictions under FERPA, and the provisions of this policy.
The complainant or respondent may change their advisor at any point during the process. The college reserves the right to dismiss an advisor who is disruptive to the proceedings or who does not abide by the restrictions in this policy. It is expected that the advisor will understand and abide by the expectations of privacy involved in the proceeding and will act with appropriate decorum at all stages. An advisor will be asked to sign an affirmation that they understand their role in the process.
Interim Measures and Protecting the Complainant
After a complainant files a sexual misconduct complaint or report, the college may impose reasonable interim measures that will assist or eliminate the alleged hostile environment and protect the parties involved while the resolution process unfolds. Interim measures are actions taken by the college to support students while an investigation is occurring. Potential interim measures include, but are not limited to:
- Access to medical or counseling services on and off campus;
- Imposition of a college no-contact order;
- Assistance in obtaining a civil protection order;
- Facilitating a meeting with law enforcement;
- Rescheduling of exams and assignments;
- Providing alternative course completion options;
- Changing class schedules or transferring sections, including the ability to drop a course without penalty;
- Changing work or job assignments or schedules;
- Changing or removal from a student’s college-owned residence;
- Assistance in other relocation;
- Limiting an individual or organizations’ access to college facilities or participation in college activities;
- Voluntary leave of absence;
- Providing an escort to and from classes, work, home or activities;
- Providing academic support services;
- Interim suspension pending the final outcome of a formal resolution process.
A complainant may request specific interim measures when making a sexual misconduct complaint at any point during the process. The college is obligated to provide reasonable interim measures regardless of whether a report has been made to local law enforcement. Requests for interim measures should be made to the Dean of Students. The college will keep interim measures confidential to the greatest extent possible. If it is necessary to disclose personal information to provide an interim measure, the college will endeavor to notify the complainant before doing so. The college may also impose interim measures of its own volition.
Additionally, if a complainant has obtained a court order related to the respondent, the complainant should provide such information to the Dean of Students. The college will take all reasonable and legal action to assist with compliance of the order.
The Title IX Coordinator and other administrators, will ensure that the college responds to every sexual misconduct complaint or report in a timely manner that treats every individual with respect.
The first step in response to a sexual misconduct complaint or report is an initial assessment. The initial assessment will consider the nature of the report, the complainant’s preferences for resolution, and the most appropriate course of action given the information available. The appropriate course of action may change over time, as further information gathering, analysis, or investigation reveal more information surrounding the alleged sexual misconduct. The final decision on the course of action will be made by the Dean of Students, the Title IX Coordinator, or another designated official. At the initial assessment stage, and throughout any investigation or disciplinary proceeding, only those who “need to know” are given information about the issues.
The college may, at its discretion, record any investigations, interviews, meetings or any other in-person proceedings that occur during the sexual misconduct process. The college will transcribe these recordings, and upon confirmation from the recorded party that the transcription is accurate, the recordings will be destroyed after the disciplinary process concludes.
Notice to Respondent of a Sexual Misconduct Complaint and/or Investigation
The Title IX Coordinator or his/her designee will notify the respondent that a complaint has been filed against them, the name of the complainant, if known, the nature of the allegations in the complaint, and, if it is known at that time, how the case will proceed. During this initial meeting with the Title IX Coordinator or designee, the respondent will have the opportunity to review the sexual misconduct charge, provide information about the incident, and accept or deny responsibility for the violation.
Respondents in a sexual misconduct investigation and administrative review proceeding are expected to participate in the investigation and administrative review process. The investigation and administrative review proceeding will still occur even if a respondent chooses not to participate or chooses to leave Coe College.
Informal means of resolution, such as mediation, may be used in lieu of the formal investigation and determination procedure or, in some circumstances, utilized even after the formal process has already commenced. The following standards apply to any informal resolution method that is utilized:
- The decision about whether to pursue Informal or Formal Resolution will be made by the Dean of Students or Human Resources Director (depending on the status of the Respondent) in consultation with other administrators at the College, such as the Title IX Coordinator, as needed.
- The complainant will not be required to “work out” the problem directly with the respondent.
- Either party may terminate the informal process at any time and elevate the complaint to the formal investigation procedures described below.
- Informal resolution in the form of mediation, even on a voluntary basis, will not be used to resolve complaints alleging sexual assault.
- Informal Resolution can include, but is not limited to, options such as the following:
- Jointly meeting informally with the complainant and respondent in order to find a mutually agreeable solution;
- A representative from the college meeting with the respondent individually in an effort to act as an intercessor on behalf of the complainant;
- Voluntarily agreed upon separation of the complainant and respondent;
- Referral of the parties or party to counseling programs;
- Conducting educational and/or training programs; or
- An agreement for corrective action.
If an informal resolution is sought, it may prevent the need for a full investigation of the incident and provide a faster outcome. When a complaint has been informally resolved, parties will be asked to sign a document acknowledging the mutually agreed upon resolution. The informal resolution process will not invoke the college’s disciplinary process.
Formal Resolution Investigation
If formal disciplinary action is pursued, the allegation of sexual misconduct will be fully investigated and resolved via the process appropriate to the respondent’s affiliation with the college. The purpose of the investigation is to determine and establish whether there is a basis for believing that it is more likely than not that the violations alleged in the complaint have occurred.
The college will be prompt, fair, and impartial in its Investigation and resolution of sexual misconduct reports. College officials involved will discharge their obligations under these procedures fairly and impartially. Identified conflicts of interest will be disclosed to the College, addressed and, if necessary, other appropriate individuals will be designated to fill the role of a potentially conflicted official. Sexual misconduct investigations are conducted by trained investigator(s) or other officials who receive training on issues related to sexual misconduct.
The Title IX Coordinator or his/her designee will choose one or more investigator(s) to review and investigate all details of a complaint. The investigator(s) are trained staff, faculty, or attorneys that will be chosen based on availability and knowledge of the case. The Dean of Students can serve as an investigator, as deemed appropriate by the Title IX Coordinator. Both the complainant and the respondent may petition, in writing, to the Title IX Coordinator to have any investigator removed on the basis of bias or a conflict of interest. In the event that any investigator needs to be removed from the investigation for any reason, an alternative investigator will be selected by the Title IX Coordinator. If a sexual misconduct complaint is filed during the summer, members of the previous investigation teams may be called to serve as investigator(s).
Statements, Evidence, and Witnesses
At the outset of the sexual misconduct complaint investigation, the complainant and respondent are both given the opportunity to submit a written statement regarding the incident. This includes identifying potential witnesses or those who may have relevant information about the investigation (the “incident statement”). These incident statements will be provided to the investigator and are accessible to each party for review upon request.
Any party receiving any written statements, including the incident statement, or information gathered during the investigation must keep such written material or information confidential. The written material may be shared with a complainant or respondent’s support person or advisor. However, written material may not be disclosed to any person without the consent of the complainant, respondent, and the college. While the college seeks to keep all written accounts of the incident confidential, complainants and respondents can talk freely about the incident. The college encourages complainants and respondents to seek the counsel of those they trust. Any written material or information received by any party in the course of the sexual misconduct investigation or administrative review proceedings must be returned to the college upon final resolution of the sexual misconduct complaint. Failure to return written material or information may result in separate disciplinary action.
In addition to providing written incident statements to the investigator(s), the investigation may involve in-person interviews with the complainant, the respondent, or other identified witnesses. During the investigation, both the respondent and the complainant may identify relevant witnesses. Witnesses must have observed the acts in question or have information relevant to the incident and cannot be participating solely to speak about an individual’s character. If it is clear a witness would not contribute relevant information about the case, the investigator(s) may choose not to interview the witness. Generally, each party has a right to know the witnesses identified by the other party. However, if there are compelling safety reasons, a witness’ identity may not be revealed to a party. These interviews will be kept confidential and will be conducted by the investigator(s) on an individual basis. The first investigatory interviews will be scheduled as soon as possible in order to capture as much timely information as possible.
Also during the investigation, the parties are encouraged to provide any other relevant evidence, including but not limited to, correspondence between the parties and physical evidence. Before the investigation closes, the complainant may, in addition to the initial written incident statement, write an impact statement. The impact statement will provide the investigator(s) with information about the incident and provide the complainant an opportunity to express the impact of the alleged sexual misconduct.
Before the investigation closes, the respondent may write a responsive statement that provides information on the incident in light of the allegations made by the complainant. This written responsive statement is in addition to any initial written incident statement provided by the respondent.
Investigation Summary Report
At the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator(s) will prepare a written investigation summary report based on interviews with the complainant, respondent, witnesses, and other materials reviewed. In order to prevent those involved from having to recall their experience more times than necessary, the investigator(s) will attempt to include all relevant information in their investigation summary report. The investigation summary report will provide detailed information, will identify potential policy violations, and will assess areas of agreement and disagreement between the parties, witnesses, and other available information. While the investigator(s) may identify possible policy violations, the investigator(s) do not make any findings or determinations of responsibility.
The complainant and the respondent will both have an opportunity to review the investigation summary report. The college will notify each party in writing when the investigation summary is available and the party may review, access, and obtain copies of the investigation summary report at a time and place designated by the college. The complainant and the respondent may provide written comments within seven (7) business days after the receipt of the investigation summary report. This review period may be extended for good cause shown by either party. The college may request and/or require the investigator(s) to conduct additional investigation or follow-up as appropriate, based on the written comments of the parties. If follow-up is appropriate, the investigation summary report may be amended to reflect additional information or to make necessary edits or corrections, as appropriate. The final investigation summary report is then submitted to the Title IX Coordinator and Dean of Students.
Administrative Review Panel
Following review of the investigation report by the Title IX Coordinator and Dean of Students, the complaint will progress to an administrative review panel. The college will appoint an administrative review panel of three (3) individuals comprised of one faculty member, one staff member, and one student to determine whether the respondent is responsible for a violation of the sexual misconduct policy. If the respondent is found responsible for violating the sexual misconduct policy, the administrative review panel, in consultation with the Title IX Coordinator, will determine the consequences and/or sanctions to be imposed.
If the respondent or complainant has reason to believe that any member of the administrative review panel has a perceived bias or conflict of interest, they can submit, in writing to the Dean of Students, a request to change any member of the panel at any point in this process. This request will be reviewed by the Dean of Students and Title IX Coordinator and, if necessary, another panel member will be designated.
The administrative review process will be conducted in the following manner:
- The administrative review panel will receive all investigation materials from the investigator(s) for review. These materials include any statements, interviews, and material evidence submitted during the investigation process, as well as the investigation summary report.
- The administrative review panel, or its designee, may request more information from any parties/students, including the complainant, the respondent, or identified witnesses, involved in the case. Both parties will be notified of any additional interviews. Alternatively, the administrative review panel may not need to speak to the complainant, the respondent, and/or identified witnesses involved in order to make a decision.
- The administrative review panel is only able to make decisions on responsibility and/or sanctions based on the information provided during the investigation.
- After gathering and reviewing all evidence, the administrative review panel will make a determination as to whether a violation of the sexual misconduct policy has occurred. The burden of proof is the preponderance of evidence. Under this standard, responsibility is determined on a “is it more likely than not” basis.
- In order to limit information shared about students, the Dean of Students and/or Title IX Coordinator may replace student names with non-identifiable names in the report and investigation materials.
- As soon as possible after the conclusion of the administrative review proceeding, the administrative review panel will notify the complainant and the respondent in writing that a determination has been made, and what, if any, sanctions will be imposed on the respondent (if applicable). This will be done as close to simultaneously as possible. In the event that the respondent is found to have violated a policy, the complainant will be informed of any sanctions that are directly related to the complainant (e.g., no contact order, suspension of respondent, etc.), but may not be informed of sanctions that do not directly affect the complainant.
- Any sanctions will be imposed on the respondent in accordance to the seriousness of the behavior. Sanctions may range from written reprimand to expulsion from the college.
- Complainants in sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, stalking, and relationship violence incidents have an absolute right to be informed of the outcome and sanctions of the administrative review proceeding, in writing, without condition or limitation.
Students who bring any sort of sexual misconduct complaint against faculty or staff may be informed of the outcome and sanction without limitation, because FERPA does not apply to faculty or staff information.
Remedies, Enforcement, and Sanctions
If, following the procedures outlined above, Coe College determines that sexual misconduct has occurred, the college will, as quickly as is reasonable, take such action as is appropriate to eliminate the conduct, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects. The enforcement, including remedies and sanctions, will be based on the nature of the incident, any prior conduct violations, sanctions resulting from similar prior cases, and any other relevant facts. Depending on the severity of the case, sanctions may include but are not limited to:
- Oral or written reprimand.
- Required compliance: carrying out of a college regulation or administrative directive, such as educational activity or counseling, as a condition for avoiding further disciplinary action and/or remaining in good standing.
- Fines or restitution: reimbursement for damage to or misappropriation of property. May also take the form of college service or other compensation and may be combined with other sanctions.
- Community service: assignment to work on or off-campus.
- No contact orders.
- Removal from college housing without a refund
- Removal and/or deregistration from a class or classes without a refund
- Disciplinary warning: written notice that continuation of misconduct in general or repetition of specified conduct has been found unacceptable within the specified period of time stated in the warning. Failure to comply may be cause for further disciplinary action.
- Disciplinary probation: the most severe and serious warning a student may receive and still remain enrolled in the college. During the period of probation, disciplinary probation may be accompanied by other conditions as determined by the college. Violation of the terms of disciplinary probation or the infraction of any college regulation during the probation period may be grounds for suspension or expulsion.
- Suspension: separation from the college for a specified period of time. Readmission must be applied for and may be contingent upon compliance with specific conditions.
- Expulsion: permanent termination of enrollment from the college.
- Any other available and appropriate sanction, as set forth in the Student Reference Book.
- Termination of employment with the College
Either the complainant or the respondent has the right to appeal the administrative review panel’s determination. In order to appeal, a written letter stating the purpose of the appeal must be submitted to the Title IX Coordinator’s office within seven (7) business days of receiving the determination letter. The appeal letter shall consist of a concise and complete written statement of the grounds for the appeal. The appeal letter should be submitted by email to the Title IX Coordinator.
Appeals will only be considered if made on one or more of the following grounds:
- Newly discovered evidence, not available at the time evidence was presented to the administrative review panel, that would result in a different outcome;
- Procedural errors that had a material impact on the outcome; or
- Fairness of sanctions (a student may appeal specific sanctions while accepting other sanctions)
The appeal letter must state which of the aforementioned grounds the appeal is based upon. Appeals of the administrative review panel’s decision shall be heard by the appeals board. The board is comprised of three individuals which include one faculty member, one staff member, and one student. All members of this board will be different from the members of the administrative review panel. Based on the appeal letter, the appeals board may deny the appeal without further consideration if it was not timely filed or not made on appropriate grounds. If the appeals board determines that an appeal should be accepted, it will notify both parties. If the appeal is accepted, the non-appealing party will be given an opportunity to respond in writing to the other party’s appeal. Any response by the non-appealing party must be submitted within seven (7) business days of the receipt of the notice of acceptance of the appeal. Any written appeals or response statements will be sent to the opposing party.
Once an appeal has been accepted, the appeals board may review the appeal letter, any responses, and the record of the investigation and the administrative review process. The appeals board may also request additional interviews with the complainant, the respondent, or identified witnesses. Upon such review, the appeals board can affirm the original findings, alter the findings, and/or alter the outcome depending on the basis of the appeal. If the appeals board finds that new evidence is available or that procedural errors occurred, it can remand the case to the administrative review panel for reconsideration.
At its discretion, the appeals board can schedule an in-person appeal hearing with the complainant and the respondent present. An in-person appeal hearing will be scheduled for no sooner than the expiration of any appeal response deadline, or no sooner than two business days after receipt of any appeal response, whichever is later. In the event the appeals board determines that an in-person appeal hearing is warranted, both parties will be notified in writing of the time and place of the in-person appeal hearing. Both parties will be permitted to be present and make a statement at the in-person appeal hearing. The appellant (the appealing party) will make their statement first, followed by the appellee (the non-appealing party). The appeals board will determine whether a responsive statement by the both parties will be permitted. The appeals board is free to ask questions of either party during the in-person appeal. The parties will not be permitted to question the other party. Both parties can issue questions that they wish to be asked of the other party to the board. The board can deem whether or not the question is appropriate to be asked.
All the decisions by the appeals board shall be final and binding on the parties. The parties will be as simultaneously as possible notified of the decision of the appeals board in writing within three business days of a decision being made, and this notification will include any changes that may have been made to the prior decision.