Navigating an Investigation
Navigating a Title IX Investigation and Formal Process as a Respondent
- Decision to Investigate
Most often, it is the Complainant who elects to undergo the formal investigative process; occasionally, the Title IX Case Review Panel assesses a case and decides that an investigation is the appropriate University response. In either case, the Respondent will be made aware of an investigation through a written Notice of Investigation. A member of the Office of Sexual Misconduct, Prevention and Response will then reach out to the Respondent in order to set up a meeting and explain that process.
Two phases comprise the formal process–investigation and conduct. Throughout the entire process, the Complainant's and Respondent's Title IX Rights apply. The investigator for your case will be able to answer any questions you have about the process, so please be in contact with them as the process develops.
- Investigation Phase
Interviews, Documentation Gathering, and Questions
Following your meeting with the investigator, that person will begin to conduct interviews and gather information surrounding the allegation. Evidence may be requested and collected, and interviews will be conducted with you as well as the Complainant(s) in the case. Witnesses provided by any party may also be interviewed to uncover more information around the allegation as well as the context in which the alleged misconduct occurred. Throughout the investigation phase, Title IX Resource People may be contacted to assist with accommodations or to facilitate reviews.
Draft Investigation Report and Review
After the interviews, evidence collection, and follow-up meetings, the investigator drafts his or her report. All complainant and respondent parties will be allowed to review the draft for accuracy and add any information that they feel is pertinent to the investigation. If needed, the investigator may return to the evidence collection phase, speaking with new witnesses, or incorporating new material to the draft. Once included, the parties will again be able to review the draft. This may be completed up to three times before the report is finalized.
Final Investigation Report
Once finalized, the full Investigation Report is sent to the Office of Student Conduct for review.
- Conduct Phase
Conduct Case Manager Review
Once reviews are complete and the report reflects all updates, the Investigator sends the finalized investigation report to the Office of Student Conduct for a decision on whether to charge and sanction the Respondent. The assigned Conduct Case Manager reads the finalized investigation report and uses a Reasonable Belief standard (given the facts, is it likely that there was a policy violation?) to determine whether to issue a charge and, if a charge is issued, an appropriate sanction.
If the Conduct case Manager determines that there is a reasonable basis to believe that a violation occurred, the Conduct Phase moves on; if there is no reasonable belief, there will be no charge.
Charge and Recommended Sanction
At this stage, if charged, you, as the Respondent have two options.
- You can choose to accept responsibility for a conduct violation, or
- You can challenge the case manager’s finding.
If you accept responsibility, the process will end without a hearing. A person’s willingness to accept responsibility may also be considered when determining sanctions. Then, if either party wishes, they may request a sanction review, and the proposed sanction will be compared with sanctions in similar cases.
Alternatively, the Respondent may contest. In this case, a Hearing will convene to decide the case on the Preponderance of Evidence standard (often called the “50% and a feather” standard).
The Hearing Panel is made up of between three and five University volunteers from amongst staff and faculty who have been specially trained to hold Title IX Conduct hearings. At the hearing, the Panel will ask questions to get clarification around the findings of the report. The Panel weighs whether or not the evidence provided both in their questioning and within the report meets both the University’s definition of a Conduct violation (as defined in the Code of Conduct) and rises to the level of a Preponderance of Evidence. After deliberating, the Panel will issue its finding, sanction (if any), and rationale in writing. Either the Complainant or the Respondent may appeal the Hearing decision.
Once the Hearing is over and the appeals (if any) are heard, the case is considered closed. If a sanction is warranted, the Respondent will be made aware of what is required and assisted or advised as to how to meet the requirements of the Panel by Conduct personnel. If a sanction is not given, the case ends.
Navigating a Student Conduct Process
If you have received a call or email from the Office of Student Conduct to schedule a conference with a case manager, this means that the Office of Student Conduct has received a report about an incident in which you or your organization may have been involved as a participant or a witness. Here are some guidelines about what you can expect and how to navigate the student conduct process.