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Informal and Formal Grievance Process

Voluntary Informal Resolution Encouraged But Not Required: Before pursuing the formal complaint process, students are encouraged to voluntarily pursue every reasonable effort to constructively resolve issues with other students, faculty, staff, or administrators. If deemed to be practical and safe, the problem or grievance should first be discussed with the individual or other individual(s) involved.  If satisfactory resolution is not reached after discussion with the individual(s), the student may contact the individual’s direct supervisor in an attempt to resolve the complaint.  If these efforts are unsuccessful or deemed impractical, the formal complaint process may be initiated.  The University does not require a student to contact any other person involved or that person’s supervisor if doing so is impracticable, if the student believes that the conduct cannot be effectively addressed through informal means, or if the aggrieved student decides it is his/her bests interests not to do so.

Formal Grievance Process: JSU’s Title IX Coordinator is designated to respond to concerns, complaints and grievances regarding discrimination and sexual misconduct.  While notice of a formal statement of grievance (complaint) can be made in person to an appropriate official (President, Vice Presidents, Associate Vice Presidents, Judicial Coordinator, University Police, Athletic Director, Human Resources, Faculty and Supervisory Staff), students are strongly encouraged to submit grievances in writing or by email to the Title IX Coordinator, 102 Bibb Graves Hall, 256.782.5020 or tbking@jsu.edu.

Strict compliance with the structure or content of a complaint is not required. The following structure, however, will be helpful to the Title IX Coordinator in initiating, undertaking and concluding a timely investigation. The complaint should clearly and concisely describe the alleged incident(s), when and where it (they) occurred, and may state any desired remedy sought.  The grievance should be signed by the Complainant or, in the case of an email submission, sent in letter format and should contain the name and all contact information for the Complainant.  Any supporting documentation and evidence should be referenced within the body of the formal grievance.  Additionally, the Complainant should submit any supporting materials in writing as quickly as is practicable. Undue delay in submitting a complaint complicates the investigation.

The Complainant’s supporting documentation should clearly demonstrate all informal efforts, if any, to resolve the issue(s) with the person involved and the person’s supervisor.  This includes names, dates and times of attempted or actual contact along with a description of the discussion and the manner of communication made in the course of each effort. 

Upon receipt of a grievance the Title IX Coordinator will open a formal case file and coordinate any interim action, accommodations for the alleged victim, or other necessary remedial short-term actions necessary to ensure the wellbeing of such victim or Complainant and to protect the integrity of the investigation.

The Title IX Coordinator will take the following steps, perhaps among others:

  • Determine the identity and contact information of a reported victim or reported victims.
  • Implement any initial remedial actions necessary to ensure safety of persons or integrity of evidence, whether requested or deemed necessary.
  • Conduct immediate initial investigation to determine if there is reasonable cause to charge the accused individual and what policy violations should be alleged as part of the complaint. If there is insufficient evidence to support reasonable cause of a policy violation or Title IX violation (i.e., a complaint alleging conduct that is not a violation of University policy or Title IX) the grievance will be closed with no further action.
  • Where a complaint facially states sufficient facts to establish reasonable cause to believe a violation occurred, meet with the Complainant to finalize the complaint and prepare a notice to the individual(s) accused.
  • Deliver the notice of the opening of an investigation to the person or persons accused of a violation or violations.
  • Commence a thorough, reliable and impartial investigation by developing a strategic investigation plan, including a witness list, evidence list, intended timeframe, and order of interviews for all witnesses and the accused individual, who may be given notice of charges prior to or at the time of the interview.
  • Use the preponderance of evidence standard in conducting the investigation (i.e., more likely than not that the accused individual violated University policy or Title IX as alleged).
  • Complete the investigation promptly without unreasonable deviation from the intended timeline.
  • Provide a summary of findings to the Judicial Coordinator for presentation to the accused individual for acceptance or rejection.
  • Share the written findings with and update both the Complainant and the accused individual on the status of the investigation and the outcome.

Where the accused individual is found not responsible for the alleged violation(s), the investigation should be closed.  Where the accused individual accepts the finding that he/she violated University policy, the Judicial Coordinator will impose appropriate sanctions.  The University will act to end any sexual misconduct, harassment or discrimination, prevent a recurrence, and remedy its effects on the victim and the University community.

In the event that the accused individual rejects the findings, in part or entirely, the Judicial Coordinator will convene a hearing within two weeks (the University's goal is to set a hearing within a week to ten days) to determine whether the accused individual is in violation of the misconduct alleged.  In the discretion of the Judicial Coordinator, a hearing may be before the Judicial Coordinator alone or conducted before a panel convened for that purpose in accordance with University policy governing disciplinary hearings; however, where the Judicial Coordinator initially elects to hear a complaint without a panel, he must so advise the complainant and the accused in the formal notice of the setting of the disciplinary hearing. In such case, either the complainant or an accused may request a hearing be conducted before a panel provided such a request is made in writing no later than twenty-four (24) hours prior to the date and time set by the Judicial Coordinator, weekends, holidays and university closings excepted.

At the hearing, the findings of the investigation will be admitted, but are not binding on the decider(s) of fact.  The hearing will determine whether it is more likely than not that the accused individual violated University policy as alleged.  The goal of the hearing is to provide an equitable resolution via a fundamentally fair and neutral process, respecting the civil and legal rights of all participants.

Where an accused individual is found in violation, the Judicial Coordinator will impose appropriate sanctions.  The University will act to end the misconduct or discrimination, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects on the victim and the University community.  If the accused individual disagrees with the Judicial Coordinator’s decision and/or the sanctions imposed, he/she may appeal to the Provost & Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs. (P&VPASA) as described below.  As further set forth below, if the accused individual disagrees with the P&VPASA’s decision, he/she may appeal to the President who shall review the investigative and adjudicatory process for adherence to the requirements of due process only.  The President’s decision is final.

Elaboration on Student Participation in the Investigative Process

The Title IX Coordinator will contact or request a meeting with the initiator of the formal grievance (Complainant), and the alleged victim (if different people).  The Title IX Coordinator also may contact or request a meeting with relevant University staff, students, or others as part of the investigation.  The Complainant may request at any time to meet with and discuss the allegations of the grievance with the Title IX Coordinator or any case officers in the event of an ongoing criminal investigation and may offer any documentation, witnesses, or other materials in support of the complaint.  The Complainant has the option to have an advocate or attorney present during a meeting with the Title IX Coordinator but must advise the Title IX Coordinator of the identity of any advocate before the date of any meeting where such a person is expected to be present.  During a meeting with the Title IX Coordinator, an attorney may give advice to the Complainant, however, an attorney is not allowed to speak or argue for the Complainant.  These procedures are entirely administrative in nature and are not considered legal proceedings.  No audio or video recording of any kind, other than as required by institutional procedure, is permitted.  The Title IX Coordinator may remove anyone disrupting the meeting from the discussion.  All these same opportunities and privileges extend to all parties to the investigation and are applicable to any judicial hearing with the Judicial Coordinator.

FORMAL HEARINGS OF A COMPLAINT

Disciplinary hearings for charged violations of this policy will be conducted in the same procedural manner as other disciplinary hearings. Where this policy calls for or requires procedures that differ or require expedited review, this policy shall control.

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