TITLE IX – Grievance Procedures

PREFACE

The University of Saint Francis process for handling allegations of sexual misconduct involves an immediate initial investigation to determine if there is reasonable cause to believe the nondiscrimination policy has been violated. If so, the university will initiate a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation. This investigation is designed to provide a fair and reliable determination about whether the University nondiscrimination policy has been violated. If so, the University will implement a prompt and effective remedy designed to end the discrimination, prevent its recurrence and address its effects.

Formal and Informal Grievance Procedure for Student Complaints

This procedure is intended to apply to student grievances against employees, employee civil rights grievances against students, student-on-student civil rights grievances, student grievances against visitors or guests, and guest or visitor grievances against students. All other grievances by students against students or employees against students will be addressed through the student conduct procedures located elsewhere in the Student Code of Conduct. In the event that an employee is taking classes or should a student also be an employee (as in the case of work-study, a TA, an RA, etc.), procedures applicable to employee-on-employee grievances through the Department of Human Resources may also be applicable. It is the practice of this institution to bring employee and student grievance mechanisms together for joint resolution. In such cases sanctions may result in an individual’s capacity to continue as a student, as an employee, or both.

Informal Dispute Resolution Efforts: A Useful First Step before Filing Formal Complaints

In cases other than sexual assault, before pursuing the formal complaint process, every reasonable effort should be made to constructively resolve issues with faculty, staff, or administrators, including following procedures for formal appeal. Whenever possible and safe, the problem or complaint should first be discussed with the individual involved in the complaint. If satisfactory resolution is not reached after discussion with the individual, the student should contact the individual’s direct supervisor to attempt to resolve the complaint. If these efforts are unsuccessful, the formal complaint process may be initiated. The University does not require a student to contact the person involved or that person’s supervisor if doing so is impracticable, or if the student is uncomfortable or believes that the conduct cannot be effectively addressed through informal means.

Formal Grievance Process

  1. INTRODUCTION

    Formal complaints of sexual misconduct by a student are made to the Title IX Coordinator, 260-399-7700 ext.6745. When a complaint of sexual misconduct is filed with the Title IX Coordinator, the Coordinator will designate two (2) Investigators to investigate the complaint. The Investigators will be selected from a pool of University of Saint Francis faculty and staff members who have been certified through training on investigating alleged cases of sexual misconduct and Title IX. 

  2. FACT-FINDING INQUIRY

    Following receipt of a complaint, the Investigators will gather relevant evidence to determine whether sexual misconduct rules were violated. This inquiry should normally be completed within fourteen (14) calendar days. If the inquiry cannot be completed within that time, the Investigators will inform the Reporting Party and the Responding Party. The inquiry generally shall include interviews with the parties if available, interviews with witnesses as needed, and a review of relevant documents (including social media) as appropriate. Disclosure of facts to parties and witnesses shall be limited to what is reasonably necessary to conduct a fair and thorough inquiry. The parties should aspire to protect the integrity of the inquiry and treat the matter with discretion and judgment. The inquiry process is not open to the public. The student accused of sexual misconduct (the Responding Party) will be notified in writing by the Investigators of the allegations and explain the conduct procedures for allegations of sexual misconduct. The Responding Party has the right to meet with the Investigators and tell his/her side of the story, to submit documents and other relevant evidence for consideration by the Investigators, to bring an advisor to the meeting with the Investigators, and to identify witnesses who may have information relevant to the complaint. While the Investigator’s inquiry is pending, the Reporting Party and the Responding Party each have the right to know, upon request, the status of the inquiry. At any time during the inquiry, the Investigators may recommend that interim protections or remedies for the Reporting Party to be provided by appropriate University officials. These protections or remedies may include, but are not limited to, separating the parties, placing limitations on contact between the parties, or making alternative working, academic, or housing arrangements. Failure to comply with the terms of interim protections may be considered a separate violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy. 

  3. DECISION BY THE INVESTIGATORS

    Upon completing the inquiry, the Investigators will make a recommendation/determination as to whether the Responding Party violated the sexual misconduct policy, and if so, what sanctions are applicable. The standard of proof the Investigators will use in making this determination is preponderance of evidence.

    The Investigators may recommend to resolve the complaint in one of three ways:

    1. a recommendation to dismiss the sexual misconduct allegations without sanctions;
    2. a finding by the Investigators that there is insufficient evidence to make a finding of responsibility;
    3. a finding by the Investigators that the Responding Party violated the sexual misconduct policy (and possibly other policies) and sanctions should be imposed.

    The findings will be presented to both the Reporting Party and the Responding Party in the form of a letter. The Responding Party and/or the Reporting Party have the choice to accept the findings of the Investigators, and the presented sanctions, if applicable, or they can appeal the findings and presented sanctions on one (or more) of the following grounds for appeal:

    • A procedural (or substantive error) occurred that significantly impacted the outcome (e.g. substantiated bias, material deviation from established procedures that likely affected the outcome, etc.);
    • To consider new evidence, unavailable during the original hearing or investigation, that could substantially impact the original finding or sanction. A summary of this new evidence and its potential impact must be included;
      Note: Failure to provide information during or participate in an investigation or a hearing, even resulting from concern over pending criminal or civil proceedings, does not make evidence “unavailable” at the time of the hearing. The Vice President for Student Affairs (or designee) is expected to consult with the hearing officer to inquire as to whether the new evidence would, in the opinion of the hearing officer, have substantially impacted the original finding or sanction.
    • The sanctions imposed are substantially outside the parameters or guidelines set by the Title IX Policy and the Code of Student Conduct for this type of offense or the cumulative conduct record of the responding student.

    The Responding Party and/or the Reporting Party have the right to submit a letter of appeal to the Title IX Coordinator/Vice President for Student Affairs (or designee) within five (5) business days of receiving the outcome letter. The letter of appeal should identify the grounds for the appeal, as well as relevant supporting information.

    If this deadline passes without an appeal request, the decision becomes final. A copy of the report, with information related to third parties deleted, will be sent to the Reporting Party, the Responding Party, and kept in the Title IX Coordinator’s files.

  4. DISMISSAL OF COMPLAINT

    If, after completing the inquiry, the Investigators determine that the preponderance of evidence does not show that the Responding Party violated the sexual misconduct policy, they may make the recommendation to dismiss the sexual misconduct allegations. If the Investigators recommend dismissal of the sexual misconduct allegations but determine that the Responding Party may have violated other, non-sexual misconduct policies, they may refer the matter to the Vice President for Student Affairs (or designee) for further proceedings and possible sanctions imposed for Code of Student Conduct violations. The findings of fact shall be summarized in a letter to the Responding Party and the Reporting Party. The Investigators shall inform the Reporting Party in writing of the outcome of the inquiry. The Investigator’s letter to the Reporting Party shall reference the student conduct procedures for allegations of sexual misconduct and set a deadline of five (5) business days after the letter is sent to appeal the finding and/or sanction(s). If the Reporting Party appeals the finding of non-responsibility, they must present to the Title IX Coordinator, in writing, that they request to appeal this finding and wish to have the case reviewed by an appeal officer. Upon receipt of this written request, the Title IX Coordinator may compile all relevant materials related to the appeal and provide it to the appeal officer.

    If this deadline passes without an appeal, the decision to dismiss will become final. If the case is to be dismissed, a copy of the report, with information related to third parties deleted, will be sent to the Reporting Party, the Responding Party, and kept in the Title IX Coordinator’s files.

  5. FORMAL HEARING PROCEDURE

    In cases of grievance against a student, the formal conduct procedures in the Code of Student Conduct will be followed.

    In cases of grievance against employees, the formal procedures are as follows, and are administered in collaboration with the University’s employment policies.

    Hearings are conducted according to the following guidelines:

    1. Responding parties shall be given notice of their specific charges and the formal hearing date at least five (5) calendar days in advance.
    2. The Reporting Party and the Responding Party shall be given the opportunity to view all documents prior to their hearing or as information is presented.
    3. Hearings shall be conducted in private.
    4. The Reporting Party and the Responding Party have the right to be assisted by an advisor. The advisor may be a member of the University or an external individual. The Complainant and/or the Respondent is responsible for presenting his/her own case and, therefore, the advisor is not permitted to speak or participate directly in any hearings.
    5. The Reporting Party and Responding Party may be kept in separate rooms during the hearing.
    6. Pertinent records, exhibits, written statements and witnesses may be accepted as evidence for consideration at the discretion of the hearing officer.
    7. The hearing officer examines all witnesses and both the Reporting Party and Responding Party may request the hearing officer to ask certain questions, which the hearing officer, in their discretion, may elect to do.
    8. All procedural questions are subject to the final decision of the Title IX Coordinator.
    9. After the hearing the hearing officer shall determine, by a preponderance of evidence, whether the Responding Party is responsible for each alleged violation of the Code.
    10. A tape recording of the hearing may be made to ensure accuracy of all proceedings. The record shall be the property of the University and housed in the Office of Student Affairs.
    11. If the Responding Party fails to appear for a scheduled hearing, evidence in support of the charges shall be presented and considered by the hearing officer.
  6. INTERIM DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURES

    At any time, interim action may be taken by the University administration for allegations of Title IX violations when a Respondent represents a threat of serious harm to self or others, is facing allegations of serious criminal activity, to preserve the integrity of an investigation, to preserve University of Saint Francis property and/or to prevent disruption of, or interference with, the normal operations of the University of Saint Francis. Interim actions can include separation from the institution or restrictions on participation in the community pending the outcome of the hearing.  

  7. APPEALS

    Appeals are permitted from both the Reporting Party and the Responding Party. Appeals are made to the Title IX Coordinator or designee and are heard by an appeals officer. Requests for appeals must be submitted by the Reporting Party or the Responding Party in writing to the Title IX Coordinator or designee within five (5) business days of the of the outcome letter notifying the Responding Party and the Reporting Party of the findings and imposed sanctions. Failure to appeal within the allotted time will render the original finding and imposed sanctions final and conclusive.

    Appeal Criteria:

    Appeals to the Title IX Coordinator or designee must meet one of the following criteria:

    1. Established administrative procedures were not followed that would have a significant impact on the outcome of the hearing.
    2. New evidence that was not available or could not have been discovered through diligent investigation before or during the hearing that merits or warrants reevaluation of the case and that would have a significant impact on the outcome of the hearing.
    3. The sanction(s) imposed were clearly disproportionate to the violation found. This criterion is only to be considered in cases where the sanction is suspension or expulsion/termination.

    Appeals:

    The appeal officer may affirm or change the findings and/or sanctions of the original hearing officer according to the permissible grounds. Procedural or substantive errors should be corrected, new evidence should be considered, and sanctions should be proportionate to the severity of the violation.

    All decisions of the appeal officer are to be made within five (5) days of submission to the appeal officer and are final, as are any decisions made by the Title IX Coordinator (or designee).

  8. SANCTIONS 

    Examples of sanctions for students found to be responsible for sexual misconduct include, but are not limited to: expulsion, suspension, interim suspension, loss of University housing, restrictions, loss of privileges, or restitution. Examples of sanctions for employees found to be responsible for sexual misconduct include, but are not limited to: termination, suspension, loss of privileges, or restitution. Mediation (i.e., bringing the parties together) cannot be used as a remedy in cases of sexual misconduct.

  9. REPORT

    An inquiry will result in a written report that, at a minimum, includes a statement of the allegations and issues, the positions of the parties, a summary of the evidence, findings of fact, and a determination by the Investigators as to whether University policy has been violated. The report may also recommend actions to resolve the complaint, including educational programs, remedies for the Reporting Party, and other sanctions as appropriate. The case records will be maintained in the Office of the Title IX Coordinator (or designee).