Title IX Grievance Resolution Process including Procedures

Overview of the Grievance Resolution Process

Title IX Coordinator’s Authority / Shared Responsibility: All complaints or reports of discriminatory conduct and/or harassment will be investigated promptly and neutrally. Unless a conflict exists, an administrative investigation will be conducted by the University’s Title IX Coordinator. Should a conflict exist whereby the Title IX Coordinator is unable to discharge the responsibilities of that position, the President will appoint an alternate member of the University administration to conduct the investigation. Reasonable efforts will be undertaken to interview all individuals possessing relevant information. Where criminal misconduct is alleged or found to exist, the Title IX Coordinator’s investigation may include information received from, exchanged with or obtained in cooperation with responsible law enforcement agencies or the University Counsel.

Timely Resolution: The generally accepted standard to resolve formal Title IX complaints will be thirty (30) days from the date of the receipt of a complaint unless extenuating circumstances necessitate additional time up to (60) days. If additional time is required for complaint resolution, the reason for and anticipated duration of the delay shall be made known to the individuals directly involved – usually a Complainant (victim) and Respondent (individual accused)1. University officials and employees directly involved or who have supervisory or legal responsibility may be informed of progress on a need-to- know basis. In rare circumstances resolution of a complaint may take longer than the goals set due to unavailability of parties or witnesses, University closings (scheduled and unscheduled) or other compelling reasons. In such cases, notice of unanticipated delays shall be given to persons directly involved or affected.

Concurrent Remedies: Nothing herein shall prohibit a Complainant from filing or pursuing a criminal or civil complaint at the same time a Title IX grievance complaint investigation is underway.

Not a Substitute for Non-Title IX Disciplinary Process: The Title IX grievance process is intended to apply to student civil right grievances against employees, employee civil rights grievances against students, student-on- student civil rights grievances, student civil rights grievances against visitors or guests, and guest or visitor civil rights grievances against students. All other grievances by students against students will be addressed through the student code of conduct procedures as outlined in the student handbook. The most current and accurate version of the student handbook is located online at http://www.jsu.edu/studentaffairs/handbook.html.

Possible Dual Responsibility With Human Resources: In the event an employee is taking classes or should a student also be an employee (e.g., work study, Graduate Assistant, Resident Assistant), procedures applicable to employee-on-employee grievances through the Department of Human Resources may also be applicable. It is the practice of JSU to bring employee and student grievance mechanisms together for joint resolution in such cases. Sanctions may result in an individual’s capacity as a student, as an employee, or both.

* While a “complainant” is normally the alleged “victim” of an incident, that may not always be the case. For the purposes of this document, however, complainant and victim will be used synonymously (complainant and alleged victim being the same individual).

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 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, Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics, 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, 256.782.5769 or jlargo@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 (i.e. a complaint alleging conduct that is not a violation of University policy) 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.
  • Complete the investigation promptly without unreasonable deviation from the intended timeline.
  • Provide a summary of findings to the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics for presentation to the accused individual for acceptance or rejection.
  • Share the findings with and update the Complainant 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 Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics 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 Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics will convene a hearing to determine whether the accused individual is in violation of the misconduct alleged. In the discretion of the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics, a hearing may be before the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics alone or conducted before a panel convened for that purpose in accordance with University policy governing disciplinary hearings; however, where the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics 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 Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics, 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 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 Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics 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 Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics’s decision and/or the sanctions imposed, he/she may appeal to the Vice President for Student Affairs (VPSA). If the accused individual disagrees with the VPSA’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 Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics.

Formal Hearings of 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.

Grounds, Procedure and Timeframes for Filing an Appeal

The decision of the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics may be appealed by petitioning the Vice President for Student Affairs (VPSA) to review the decision. All sanctions imposed by the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics will be in effect during the appeal unless imposition of sanctions is stayed by the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics upon request and a finding made by him/her that a stay is reasonable and can be allowed without jeopardizing safety other persons or the integrity of the educational mission of the University. The decision whether to grant a stay is in the sole discretion of the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics but is subject to expedited review by the VPSA, if requested. In cases where the appeal results in reinstatement to the institution or of privileges, all reasonable attempts will be made to restore the Respondent-student to their prior status, recognizing that some opportunities lost may be irretrievable in the short term.

The decision of the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics may be appealed by written petition only (verbal notice or email notices are not adequate) and may be pursued by either a Complainant or an accused Respondent. Both Respondents or Complainants may petition the VPSA for a review of the decision of the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics, or the sanctions imposed, which petition for review must be filed (physically received) within three (3) business days (no later than close of business of the third day) following the appealing party receiving the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics’s written findings and final decision. The P&VPASA will share the appeal documents filed with the other party, who may file a response thereto in a similar manner within three (3) business days of notice of the same. The VPSA will initially determine if the appeal meets the limited grounds of appealability and is timely. The original findings and sanctions imposed shall stand if the appeal is determined not to be timely or substantively eligible for review. If so found, the decision may be appealed to the President for a review of that finding alone. In such event, if the President sustains the decision of the VPSA, the appeal will be dismissed with finality and the VPSA so advised. If the appeal is found by the VPSA to have standing (timely and stating a proper ground for review), upon request of the VPSA the investigative and judicial records shall be promptly forwarded by the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics for review. The Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics’s decision shall be accorded a presumption of correctness, and the party requesting review by the filing of an appeal must affirmatively demonstrate (as opposed to simply allege) procedural or substantive error. Grounds for appeal are as follows and are exclusive of any others:

  1. A procedural or substantive error occurred in either the investigative or adjudicatory process that significantly impacted the outcome of the hearing (e.g. substantial bias, material deviation from established procedures, the findings and decision are contrary to the great weight of the evidence, etc.)
  2. To consider new evidence it must be newly discovered evidence (unavailable during the original hearing or investigation) that could substantially impact the original findings, decision or sanction. A summary of this new evidence and its probable impact must be included in the notice of appeal. Evidence that was known or reasonably should have been known and available at the time of the investigation or original hearing but is only now disclosed (newly disclosed evidence as opposed to newly discovered evidence) shall not be deemed to be sufficient.
  3. The sanctions imposed are substantially disproportionate to the severity of the violation found.

If the VPSA determines that new additional evidence should be considered, he/she shall return the complaint to the Title IX Coordinator to investigate or Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics to consider in light of the new evidence only.

If the VPSA determines that a material procedural or substantive error occurred, he/she may return the matter to the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics with instructions to reconvene a hearing to cure the error. In rare cases, where the procedural or substantive error cannot be cured by the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics, the VPSA shall order a new hearing on the complaint. The results of a reconvened or new hearing can be appealed to the VPSA in the same manner as the original appeal.

If the VPSA is of the opinion that the sanctions imposed are inadequate or disproportionate to the severity of the violation, he/she shall return the matter with an explanation of his/her reasons for doing so to the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics, who may then increase, decrease or otherwise modify the sanctions.

The procedures governing the hearing of appeals include the following:

  • All parties shall be timely informed of the status of requests for appeal, the status of the appeal considerations and review, and the results of the appeal decision in all phases of the process. Unless a principal party to the process (Complainant, Respondent) advises otherwise, notices may be made by utilizing the email address of a party on file with the Registrar.
  • The submission of new evidence or finding of procedural error in the investigative process where the result of the investigation or Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics’s decision is reasonably caused to be called into question should be resolved in light most favorable to the party appealing and considered as an opportunity to return the appeal to the Title IX Coordinator or Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics for clarification or reconsideration where appropriate; however, appellate review is not an opportunity for the VPSA to substitute her/his judgment for that of the original hearing body merely because he/she may disagree with their finding and/or sanctions. Appeal decisions are to be deferential to the original hearing body, making changes to the findings only where there is clear error and to the sanction only if there is a compelling justification to do so.
  • Appeals are conducted by review only and not by the VPSA conducting a rehearing of the evidence, and in most cases are confined to a review of the record of the original hearing and pertinent documentation regarding the grounds for appeal.
  • Sanctions imposed by the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics are implemented immediately unless the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics or VPSA stays implementation for good cause in extraordinary circumstances pending the outcome of the appeal.
  • The VPSA will render a written decision on the appeal to all parties within seven (7) business days from receipt of an appeal notice, or where a response is filed by the other principal to the disciplinary hearing (Complainant or Respondent, as applicable) then within seven (7) business days of the receipt of said response, time being of the essence. Timeframes and deadlines may be extended for compelling reason or to comply with requirements of due process. Notice of any extensions shall be promptly given to persons involved.

Should an appeal result in the matter being returned to the Title IX Coordinator or Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics by the VPSA for additional investigation or adjudication, further investigation by the Title IX Coordinator and/or consideration by the Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics shall be finalized and notice given within seven (7) business days and the VPSA so informed. Appeal of any final decisions made following a return shall be filed in the same manner as the original appeal.

The decision of the VPSA is final in all regards, except a limited appeal may lie to the President whose review is limited solely to a determination that the parties involved were afforded substantial due process, which decision shall be final. Should the President determine that there was a lack of substantial due process, he/she shall so inform the VPSA and shall return the matter to the VPSA with instructions.

All investigatory and adjudicatory proceedings shall be concluded within sixty
(60) days of the filing of a complaint, absent compelling reason for delay.

To prevent delay caused by the unavailability of any JSU official designated herein, the President may designate and temporarily appoint another University official to discharge the duties of the unavailable official.

Special Grievance Procedures

a. University as Complainant

As necessary, JSU reserves the right to initiate a complaint, to serve as complainant and to initiate conduct proceedings without a formal complaint by a reputed victim of misconduct.

b. False Reports

JSU will not tolerate intentional false reporting of incidents or violations. It is a violation of the University’s sexual misconduct and discrimination policies to make an intentionally false report of any applicable violation. Making an intentionally false report may also violate state criminal statutes and civil defamation laws.

c. Immunity for Victims and Witnesses

JSU encourages the reporting of all policy violations by victims and witnesses, especially those involving sexual misconduct or discrimination. Sometimes, victims or witnesses are hesitant to report to University officials or participate in grievance processes because they fear that they themselves may be accused of policy violations, such as underage drinking at the time of the incident. It is in the best interest of this community that as many victims as possible choose to report to University officials, and that witnesses come forward to share what they know. To encourage reporting, the University pursues a policy of offering victims and witnesses of sexual misconduct and discrimination, in particular, limited immunity from being charged for policy violations related to the alleged misconduct where they may have been involved only to a minor degree or involved in misconduct not directly related to the violation(s) under investigation or charged. While violations cannot be overlooked, the University will, if appropriate, provide educational rather than punitive responses, in such cases.

d. Bystander Engagement

The welfare of students in our community is of paramount importance. At times, students on and off-campus may need assistance. JSU encourages students to offer help and assistance to others in need. Sometimes, students are hesitant to offer assistance to others for fear that they may get themselves in trouble (for example, a student who has been drinking underage might hesitate to help take a sexual misconduct victim to the hospital or University Police). The University pursues a policy of limited immunity for students who offer to help others in need. While policy violations cannot be overlooked, the University will provide educational options, rather than punishment, to those who offer their assistance to others in need.

e. Parental Notification

JSU reserves the right to notify parents/guardians of dependent students regarding any health or safety risks to the student, a change in student status or conduct situation, particularly alcohol and other drug violations. The University may also notify parents/guardians of non-dependent students who are under 21 of alcohol and/or drug policy violations. Where a student is not dependent, the University will contact parents/guardians to inform them of situations in which there is significant health and safety risk. The University also reserves the right to designate which University officials have a need to know about individual conduct complaints pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

f. Notification of Outcomes

The outcome of an administrative investigation and/or hearing is part of the educational record of the accused individual, and is protected from release under federal law, FERPA. However, JSU observes legal exceptions as follows:

    • Complainants in non-consensual sexual contact/intercourse incidents have an absolute right to be informed of the outcome, essential findings, and sanctions of the hearing, in writing, without condition or limitation.
    • Complainants in a sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, stalking, relationship violence and any other gender-based offense have an absolute right to be informed of the outcome, in writing, and to be informed of any sanctions that directly relate to them, and to essential findings supporting the outcome when the outcome is one of violation and/or is equitable to share the essential findings with all parties.
    • JSU may release the name, nature of the violation and the sanction for any student who is found in violation of the sexual misconduct policy. The University will release this information to the Complainant in any of these offenses regardless of the outcome.
    • JSU reserves the right to release to appropriate law enforcement agencies and/or the District Attorney the filing of a complaint involving sexual misconduct, or the results of an investigation or disciplinary proceeding where it appears criminal misconduct may be involved.

g. Alternative Testimony Options

For sexual misconduct complaints, and other complaints of an extreme sensitive nature, whether the alleged victim is serving as the Complainant or as a witness, alternative testimony options will be given, such as placing a privacy screen in the hearing room, or allowing the alleged victim to testify outside the physical presence of the accused individual, such as Skype. While these options are intended to help make the alleged victim more comfortable, they are not intended to and shall not be utilized to work to the disadvantage of the accused individual.

h. Past Sexual History/Character

The past sexual history or sexual character of a party will not be admissible by the other party in the investigation or hearing unless such information is determined to be highly relevant by the Title IX Coordinator or Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics. All such information sought to be admitted will be presumed irrelevant, and any request to overcome this presumption by the parties must be included in the complaint/response or a subsequent written request, and must be reviewed in advance of the hearing by the Title IX Coordinator. While previous conduct violations by the accused individual are not generally admissible as information about the present alleged violation, the Title IX Coordinator or Director of Community Standards and Student Ethics may consider it or allow it to be presented only if:

• The accused was previously found to be responsible for the conduct.
• The previous incident was substantially similar to the present allegation.
• Information indicates a pattern of behavior and substantial conformity with that pattern by the accused individual.

If you have questions regarding any item specified in this policy please contact:

Title IX Coordinator, Jennifer Argo, 102 Bibb Graves Hall
(256) 782-5769