Procedures for Handling Reports of Sexual Misconduct

General Information

Whittier College encourages reporting of Sexual Misconduct. All complaints of alleged Sexual Misconduct will be investigated by a trained Title IX Investigator(s). The investigation procedures described will apply to all complaints involving students, administrators, staff, or faculty members. With regard to the adjudication process, sanctions to be imposed and the related appeal process, when the Respondent, who is faculty, administrator or staff, is found responsible for a violation of this Policy, the Faculty (in the case of a faculty-respondent) and Employee (in the case of a staff or administrator-respondent) Handbooks shall take precedence over this policy.

As necessary, the College reserves the right to initiate a complaint, to serve as Complainant, and to initiate conduct proceedings without a formal complaint by the alleged victim of Sexual Misconduct. The College shall investigate alleged incidents of Sexual Misconduct that it knew or reasonably should have known of.

Upon receipt of a complaint of conduct that could be considered sexual misconduct under this Policy, or the initiation of such a complaint by the College, the Title IX Coordinator shall open a formal case file and assign Title IX Investigators who will direct the investigation and confer with the Title IX Coordinator on any interim action that may be needed.

The College aims to complete the complaint process within 60 days, unless multiple Complainants, incidents, or an appeal are involved. At the discretion of the Title IX Coordinator, the process may be extended when necessary. 

Interim Actions

When a complaint of alleged Sexual Misconduct is reported to a Title IX Coordinator or Title IX Investigator(s), the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) may provide interim remedies intended to address the short-term or long-term effects of the conduct on the Complainant and the community, and to prevent future victimization. Interim remedies may be used, when in the judgment of the Title IX Coordinator (or designee), the safety or well-being of any member(s) or the College community may be jeopardized by the presence on campus of the Respondent or of the ongoing activity of a student organization whose behavior is in question.

Interim actions may include, but are not limited to, referral to counseling and health services or the Employee Assistance Program, education to the community, altering housing or work arrangements, providing campus escorts, implementing contact limitations between parties, offering adjustments to academic deadlines, course schedules, etc.

The College may impose an interim suspension on a student, employee or organization pending the completion of the investigation, issuance of findings or appeal. In all cases in which an interim suspension is imposed, the student, employee, or student organization will be given the opportunity to meet with the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) prior to the suspension being imposed, or as soon thereafter as reasonably possible, to show cause why the suspension should not be implemented. The Title IX Coordinator (or designee) has sole discretion to implement or stay an interim suspension under this Policy. Violation of an interim suspension may result in expulsion or termination.

During an interim suspension, a student or employee may be denied access to College housing and/or campus facilities, privileges and events, and a student may be denied the ability to attend classes. The Title IX Coordinator (or designee) will use his or her best efforts to determine if alternative coursework options are available for a student not allowed to attend classes. 

Informal Resolution

Informal resolution is not appropriate for sexual assault, but may be used for less serious, yet inappropriate, behaviors and is allowed as an alternative to the formal resolution process when  requested by the alleged victim. The Title IX Coordinator (or designee) will determine if informal resolution is appropriate, based on the willingness of the parties, the nature of the conduct at issue and the susceptibility of the conduct to resolution. An informal resolution will involve a dialogue with the parties to determine if an effective resolution can be reached. Sanctions may be imposed and records will be kept of any resolution that is reached, and failure to abide by the accord can result in appropriate responsive actions. It is not necessary to pursue informal resolution first in order to pursue a complaint and anyone participating in an informal resolution can stop that process at any time and request that the formal process proceed.

Title IX Investigation and Adjudication

Upon receipt of a complaint that involves alleged Sexual Misconduct, the following steps will be taken: 

  • Determine the identity and contact information of the Complainant, whether that is the initiator, the alleged victim, or a College proxy or representative;
  • Provide the Complainant, Respondent, and witnesses a list of rights, as well as the option to have 48 hours to review their rights before an interview or waive this right to make an immediate report.
  • Determine the incident(s) that led to the complaint, when and where it occurred, potential witnesses, and the desired remedy;
  • Determine the potential Policy violations based on the information provided by the Complainant. If, at this stage, the Title IX Investigators(s), after consultation with the Title IX Coordinator, determines there is insufficient evidence, even if all of the facts alleged by the Complainant are true, to support a finding that the Policy has been violated, this determination shall be presented to the Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Title IX Coordinators assigned to the case and, if the Title IX Coordinator agrees, the complaint should be closed with no further action other than to notify the Complainant that there was insufficient evidence to proceed;
  • Assuming sufficient information exists to proceed with an investigation of the complaint, commence a thorough, reliable and impartial investigation by interviewing the Accused and witnesses as well as follow-up interviews of any persons involved in the process as needed. The Accused should be interviewed no sooner than 48 hours after he or she has been provided notice of the potential Policy violations being considered and his or her right to have an advisor or support person present at the interview. This advisor or support person may be anyone of the Accused’s choosing but this person may not speak on behalf of the Accused at the interview. This right to be interviewed no sooner than 48 hours after having received such notice may be expressly waived by the Accused should he or she wish to proceed with an interview at an earlier time. An Accused may request additional time before being interviewed which request shall not be unreasonably or arbitrarily denied;
  • Complete the investigation as promptly as possible given the circumstances. Should the complaint be made within 20 business days of the end of the academic year and the complaint involves students or other College constituents that are not available during the summer break, either as Complainant, Respondent or as witnesses, every effort will be made to complete the investigation before the end of the academic year, but if not possible, it will be completed within 30 days after the start of the next academic year unless the Title IX Coordinator determines additional time is needed;
  • Following the completion of the investigation, the Title IX investigators shall submit their report to the Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Board who will meet to determine, based on a preponderance of the evidence standard, whether a Policy violation has occurred. Preponderance of the evidence means whether it was more likely than not, based on the information presented, that a violation occurred;
  • If a determination is made by the Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Board that there was no Policy violation, present the findings in writing, including a summary of the facts and legal basis, to the Complainant and Respondent, simultaneously if possible. Upon doing so, the process will end unless there is an appeal as set forth below. At this stage, and if the Complainant desires, and the Title IX Coordinator determines there is reasonable cause, the Title IX Coordinator may also refer the allegation for informal resolution. In such a case, since the Respondent was not found responsible for any Policy violation, there will be no record of any sanctions imposed or of any adverse finding of responsibility in any student file maintained on Respondent;
  • If a determination is made by the Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Board  that there has been a violation of the Policy, present the findings in writing, including a summary of the facts and legal basis, to the Complainant and Respondent, simultaneously if possible;
  • Where the Respondent is a student, the Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Board will also determine the appropriate sanctions for the violation and provide these to the Respondent and Complainant in writing, simultaneously if possible;
  • The Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Board Officers will also include written instructions about the timeframe within which sanction(s) must be complied with, whether or not either person chooses to submit an appeal. Should a Respondent wish to have any sanctions stayed pending an appeal, the Respondent must make such request to the Title IX or Deputy Title IX Coordinator assigned to the matter.

If the imposition of sanctions on the Respondent is not sufficient to end the Sexual Misconduct, the Title IX Coordinator, in consultation with the Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Board Officers, will determine and implement any additional actions needed to prevent its recurrence and remedy its effects on the Complainant and the College community.

Sanctions

The Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Board will determine the appropriate sanctions in all cases adjudicated under this Policy.. Generally speaking, the College considers non-consensual sexual intercourse involving the use of force or threats of intimidation to be the most serious violations, and therefore typically imposes the most severe sanctions, including but not limited to suspension or expulsion, for students, and termination of employees. However, the College reserves the right to impose any level of sanction, ranging from a reprimand up to and including suspension or expulsion/termination, for any act of sexual misconduct based on the totality of the facts and circumstances of the particular complaint. 

The following are the usual sanctions that may be imposed upon students or organizations singly or in combination. If an appeal is filed, the Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Board and Appellate Officer reserve the right to impose any sanction(s), based on the totality of the circumstances, including but not limited to how egregious the behavior, prior disciplinary record, and any mitigating circumstances.

  1. Warning: A formal statement that the behavior was unacceptable and a warning that further infractions of any College Policy, procedure or directive will result in more severe sanctions/responsive actions.
  2. Censure: Notice that violation of any institutional regulation within a stated period of time may result in a referral to Title IX Investigators and Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Board for disciplinary action and is likely to result in severe sanctions such as suspension or expulsion. Students on censure may not be able to hold any positions in student leadership, such as Student Senate, Clubs, Organizations, Societies or Resident Advisor. Additional restrictions on involvement in campus activities may also be applied as part of the sanctioning process.
  3. Probation: A written reprimand for violation of this Policy, providing for more severe disciplinary sanctions in the event that the student or organization is found in viola­tion of any College Policy, procedure or directive within a specified period of time. Terms of the probation will be specified and may include denial of specified social privileges, exclusion from co-­curricular activities, non-contact orders, and/or other measures deemed appropriate.
  4. No Contact Order: An order that one student refrain from direct or indirect contact with another student or students when on campus, on property leased or controlled by the College, or at off-campus College-sponsored activities or events.
  5. Campus Restraining Order: An order that one student stay a certain amount of distance away from another student or students when on campus or on property leased or controlled by the College, or at off-campus College-sponsored activities or events.
  6. Suspension: Termination of student status for a definite period of time not to exceed two years, and/or until specific criteria is met. Students who return from suspension are automatically placed on probation through the remainder of their tenure at the College. Students suspended from the College are not eligible for a refund of tuition, housing, board, or other fees.
  7. Expulsion: Permanent termination of student status, revocation of rights to be on campus for any reason or attend College-sponsored events. This sanction will be noted as a Conduct Expulsion on the student’s official transcript. Students expelled from the College are not eligible for a refund of tuition, housing, board, or other fees.
  8. Withholding Diploma. The College may withhold a student's diploma for a specified period of time and/or deny a student the right to participate in commencement activities if the student has a complaint pending, or as a sanction if the student is found responsible for an alleged violation.
  9. Revocation of Degree. The College reserves the right to revoke a degree awarded from the College for fraud, misrepresentation or other violation of College policies, procedures or directives in obtaining the degree, or for other serious violations committed by a student prior to graduation.
  10. Organizational Sanctions. Deactivation, de-recognition, loss of all privileges (including registration), for a specified period of time.
  11. Other Actions: In addition to or in place of the above sanctions, the College may assign any other sanctions as deemed appropriate.

Withdrawal by a Student While Charges Pending

The College does not permit a student to formally withdraw if that student has a complaint pending for violation of this Policy, the Policy on Nondiscrimination, or for charges under the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Should a student decide to leave the College and not participate in the investigation and findings phase of this process, the process will nonetheless proceed in the student’s absence to a reasonable resolution and that student will not be permitted to return to the College unless all sanctions have been satisfied.

Resignation by Faculty, Staff or Administrators

Should an employee resign while a complaint is pending, the records of the Title IX Coordinator will reflect that status.

Notification of Outcome

As set forth above, the parties will be notified in writing of whether a determination was made to take further action. The outcome of a campus investigation, however, is part of the educational record of the accused student, and is protected from release under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). If there is a direct conflict, however, between the requirements of FERPA and the requirements of Title IX, such that enforcement of FERPA would interfere with the primary purpose of Title IX to eliminate sex-based discrimination in schools, the requirements of Title IX override any conflicting FERPA provisions. For example, if a sanction (final or interim) is imposed on the accused and the sanction directly relates to the alleged victim such as the accused student being required to stay away from the alleged victim or the accused student is transferred to other classes or another residence hall, that  limited information may be provided to the alleged victim. Additionally, the College observes the following legal exceptions:

Persons complaining of sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, and domestic/dating violence incidents have an absolute right to be informed of the outcome of the investigation and sanctions, in writing, without condition or limitation.

The College may release publicly the name, nature of the violation and the sanction for any student who is found in violation of a College policy that is a “crime of violence,” including:  arson, burglary, robbery, criminal homicide, sex offenses, assault, destruction/damage/vandalism of property and kidnapping/abduction. The College will release this information to the Complainant in any of these offenses regardless of the outcome.

Appeals

The Complainant and/or Respondent may appeal the final outcome and/or the sanctions given as a result of a Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Board. The appeal must be in writing (which can include email) and submitted to the Appellate Officer specified in the Notification of Outcome letter, within five (5) business  days of the delivery of the Notification of Outcome letter to the Complainant and Respondent. A request for additional time to appeal may be submitted to the Appellate Officer prior to the expiration of five (5) business days who will determine if reasonable cause exists for granting additional time.

General dissatisfaction with the outcome of the decision made is not grounds for appeal. Instead, appeals are limited to the following four reasons:

  • A procedural error, omission or irregularity that undermined the Complainant’s or Respondent’s ability to present his or her allegations or defense; 
  • Insufficient evidence to support the finding(s) of “responsible” or “not responsible” based on the preponderance of the evidence standard;
  • New information sufficient to alter the decision or sanction, unknown or unavailable during the time of the original investigation and adjudication. A summary of this new evidence and its potential impact must be included.
  • The sanctions imposed are substantially disproportionate to the severity of the violation.

Where the Appellate Officer decides that the grounds for appeal have not been met, the Appellate Officer, upon consultation with the Title IX Coordinator, will notify the appealing party that the decision of the Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Board is final. The Appellate Officer will use his or her best efforts to decide the appeal within seven (7) business days of submission of the appeal but this timeframe may be longer depending on the totality of the circumstances.

Where the Appellate officer decides the appeal has merit based on the grounds stated above, the other party shall be given written notice of the fact that there has been an appeal filed, and on which of the four ground(s) stated above the Appellate Officer will decide the appeal. Within three (5) business days of submission of that notice, the non-appealing party may submit an additional statement to be considered by the Appellate Officer before a final decision is made. It will be at the sole discretion of the Appellate Officer whether to consider, and what weight to give to, any additional statement submitted by that party.

Where the Appellate Officer finds that at least one of the four grounds for appeal have been met, s/he has the following options:

  • Appeal(s) granted based on grounds 1 and 3 above (new evidence or procedural irregularities) should normally be remanded to the original Title IX investigators and Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Board for reconsideration. In the event the Title IX Coordinator determines, in the case of bias, prejudice, or other grounds establishing that a new investigation, is needed, the Title IX Coordinator may direct a new investigation be conducted and/or that new Title IX investigators and Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Board Officers be appointed. As with an original investigation, the parties will be entitled to review all of the evidence considered by the Title IX investigators.
  • Determine whether the sanctions imposed should be stayed pending the outcome of the appeal.
  • Where the Appellate Officer determines that the sanctions imposed were substantially disproportionate to the severity of the violation, the Appellate Officer may impose more, less or different sanctions.
  • Where the Appellate Officer determines that there was insufficient evidence to support the finding that the Respondent was responsible for some form of Sexual Misconduct, reverse the finding and eliminate the sanctions.

Deference shall be given to the original decision, making changes to the finding only where there is clear error and to the sanction/responsive action only if there is a compelling justification to do so. Once an appeal is decided the outcome is final; further appeals are not permitted.

Failure to Complete Sanctions/Comply with Responsive Actions

All respondents are expected to comply with conduct sanctions/responsive/corrective actions within the time frame specified. Failure to follow through on conduct sanctions/responsive/corrective actions by the date specified, whether by refusal, neglect or any other reason, may result in additional sanctions/responsive/corrective actions and/or suspension, expulsion and/or termination from the College and may be noted on a student’s official transcript. A suspension can only be lifted when compliance is achieved to the satisfaction of the Title IX Coordinator or his or her designee.

Records

If the investigation following any complaint does not result in a finding of a violation of this Policy, the records relating to the complaint and the investigation will not become a part of any individual’s personnel or student record. If the Respondent is found to have violated this Policy, those records of the case will become part of the permanent student or personnel file of the Respondent. Written documentation generated as a result of a complaint, as well as the resolutions, will be kept by the Title IX Coordinator for seven years. Student records will be kept for seven years in a locked, confidential location in the Dean of Students Office. Access to personnel and student files and the records maintained by the Title IX Coordinator, is limited by Title IX, FERPA and various state statutes and common law. These restrictions on the disclosure are designed to protect students, employees, and the College. Questions regarding access to records may be directed to the Title IX Coordinator. In implementing this Policy, a record of all complaints and the final resolution, will be kept by the Title IX Coordinator indefinitely in the Title IX Coordinator database located in the Human Resources Office. 

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