Procedures for Handling Reports of Sexual Misconduct

General Information

Whittier College will investigate any complaint of alleged Sexual Misconduct (referred to as a “grievance”) that is received by a College Grievance Officer.  The investigation procedures described will apply to all grievances involving students, administrators, staff, or faculty members.  With regard to 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 apply.

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 which it knew or reasonably should have known of them.

Upon receipt of a grievance, or the initiation of a grievance by the College, the Grievance Officer shall open a formal case file and assign a Case Officer who will direct the investigation and confer with the Grievance Officer on any interim action that may be needed.

The College aims to complete the grievance 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. 

All parties involved in the grievance procedure will receive periodic status updates.

Annually, by September 30th of each academic year, the Title IX grievance process for resolving complaints of Sexual Misconduct will be communicated to faculty, staff, administrators and students.

Interim Actions

When a report of Sexual Misconduct is reported to a College Grievance Officer, 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.

Initial meetings with the Complainant are followed up with written documentation of the matters discussed including a summary of the Complainant's options and support resources available. 

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, altering 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 is grounds for 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 often used for less serious, yet inappropriate, behaviors and is encouraged as an alternative to the formal resolution process.  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. 

Informal resolution may not be the primary resolution mechanism used to address complaints of sexual assault  or in other cases involving serious violations of this Policy that involve physical violence, though it may be made available after the formal process is completed should the parties and the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) believe that it could be beneficial.  It is not necessary to pursue informal resolution first in order to pursue a grievance and anyone participating in an informal resolution can stop that process at any time and request that the formal process proceed.

Investigation and Findings

The Case Officer will take the following steps and conduct the investigation within 20 business days, unless the Grievance Officer determines additional time is required:

  • Determine the identity and contact information of the Complainant, whether that is the initiator, the alleged victim, or a College proxy or representative;
  • Request from the Complainant, unless the Case Officer deems it would be inappropriate or unhelpful, a statement in writing describing the incident(s) that led to the grievance, 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 Case Officer, after consultation with the Grievance Officer, 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 Coordinator if the accused person is a staff member or administrator) and, if the Title IX Coordinator agrees, the grievance 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 grievance, commence a thorough, reliable and impartial investigation by developing  a strategic investigation plan, including a witness list, evidence list, intended timeframe, and proposed order of interviews for all witnesses and the Respondent, (who shall be given at least notice 48 hours before the interview and who shall be informed of the right to have a representative or support person present at the interview) of the grievance filed against him or her and the potential Policy violations being considered;
  • Advise everyone interviewed during the investigation of the grievance, including the Complainant and the Respondent and any witnesses, that the matter is confidential.
  • Complete the investigation promptly, without unreasonable deviation from the intended timeline.  Should the grievance be made within 20 business days of the end of the academic year and the grievance 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;

Within ten days following the completion of the investigation, unless more time is deemed needed by the Grievance Officer, the following actions shall be taken:

  • The Case Officer shall make a recommendation to the Grievance Officer, based on a preponderance of the evidence standard, whether a Policy violation is more likely than not;
  • If a determination is made by the Case Officer and Grievance Officer,  based on a preponderance of the evidence standard, that it is more likely than not 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;
  • If a determination is made by the Case Officer and the Grievance Officer, that it is more likely than not, based on a preponderance of the evidence standard, 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 Associate Dean of Students and the Dean of Students will meet to determine the appropriate sanctions for the violation.
  • If the imposition of sanctions on the Respondent is not sufficient to end the Sexual Misconduct, the Title IX Coordinator, in consultation with the Grievance Officer and Case Officer, will determine and implement any additional actions needed to prevent its recurrence and remedy its effects on the Complainant and the College community.

Sanctions

Sanctions or responsive actions where a student is the Respondent will be determined by the Associate Dean of Students and the Dean of Students. Factors considered when determining a sanction/responsive action may include:

  • The nature, severity of, and circumstances surrounding the violation
  • An individual’s disciplinary history
  • Previous complaints or allegations involving similar conduct
  • The need for sanctions/responsive actions to bring an end to the misconduct
  • The need for sanctions/responsive actions to prevent the future recurrence of the misconduct
  • The need to remedy the effects of the discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation on the victim and the community
  • Any other information deemed relevant by the decision makers

The following are the usual sanctions that may be imposed upon students or organizations singly or in combination:

  • 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.
  • Probation: A written reprimand for violation of the Code of Student Conduct, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 grievance pending, or as a sanction if the student is found responsible for an alleged violation.
  • 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.
  • Organizational Sanctions. Deactivation, de-recognition, loss of all privileges (including registration), for a specified period of time.
  • 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 withdraw if that student has a grievance pending for violation of this Policy, the Policy on Nondiscrimination, or for charges under the Code of Student Conduct.  Should a student decide to leave 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 grievance 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 a federal law, 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, a sanction is imposed on the accused student and the sanction directly relates to the harassed student, such as the accused student being required to stay away from the harassed student or the accused student is transferred to other classes or another residence hall, said limited information may be provided to the harassed student.  Additionally, the College observes the legal exceptions as follows:

  • 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

In cases where the Respondent is a student, requests for appeal considerations by the Complainant or the Respondent must be submitted in writing to the Title IX Coordinator.  Where the Respondent is a member of the administration or staff of the College, an appeal by the Complainant must be submitted in writing to the designated Deputy Title IX Coordinators whose constituents do not include the Complainant.  A Respondent who is a member of the faculty, administration or staff of the College may or may not have the right to appeal, depending on the provisions of the Faculty or Employee Handbook.  The appeal must be submitted within three business days of the delivery of the written decision and sanction imposed, unless, prior to the expiration of the three days, a request for additional time is submitted to the Title IX or Deputy Title IX Coordinator who considers the appeal and that person determines that reasonable cause exists for granting additional time.  

The Title IX Coordinator hearing the appeal will consider all appeal requests, but appeals are limited to the following:

  • A procedural error or omission occurred that significantly impacted the investigation and decision-making process (e.g. substantiated bias, material deviation from established procedures, etc.).
  • To consider new evidence, unknown or 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.
  • The sanctions imposed are substantially disproportionate to the severity of the violation.
  • To determine whether the decision was based on substantial information that was sufficient to establish that the violation of this Policy occurred. The original finding and sanction/responsive actions will stand if the appeal is not timely or is not based on the grounds listed above, and such a decision is final.  When any party requests an appeal, the other party (parties) will be notified. The party requesting appeal must show that the grounds for an appeal request have been met, and the other party or parties may show the grounds have not been met, or that additional grounds are met.  The original finding and sanction are presumed to have been decided reasonably and appropriately.

Where the Title IX Coordinator hearing the appeal finds that at least one of the grounds is met, and proceeds, additional principles governing the finding and decision on appeal include the following:

  • 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.
  • Appeals are not intended to be a full re-investigation of the grievance. In most cases, appeals are confined to a review of the written documentation and findings generated in the original investigation, and pertinent documentation regarding the grounds for appeal. Appeals granted based on new evidence should normally be remanded to the original decision makers for reconsideration.  In the event the Title IX Coordinator determines, in the case of bias, prejudice or other grounds establishing that a new investigation, Case Officer, or Grievance Officer is needed, the Title IX Coordinator may direct a new investigation be conducted and/or that a new Case Officer or Grievance Officer be appointed.
  • Sanctions imposed are implemented immediately unless the Title IX Coordinator stays their implementation in extraordinary circumstances, pending the outcome of the appeal.
  • The Title IX Coordinator will normally render a written decision on the appeal to all parties within 3 business days from submission of the appeal.
  • All parties should be informed of whether the grounds for an appeal are accepted and the results of the appeal decision.
  • 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 will only be lifted when compliance is achieved to the satisfaction of the Title IX Coordinator. .  

Records

If the investigation following any complaint does not result in a finding of a violation of this Policy, the records relating to the grievance 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 personnel file of the Respondent.  Written documentation generated as a result of a grievance, 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 compliance officer, is limited by Title IX, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (Buckley Amendment), and various state statues 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 Compliance Officer/Director of Human Resources.  In implementing this Policy, a record of all grievances 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. 

Statement of Complainant’s Rights
Statement of Rights of Alleged Victim

Subject to other provisions in this Policy, alleged victims of Sexual Misconduct have the following rights:

  • The right to an investigation and appropriate resolution of all credible complaints of  Sexual Misconduct made in good faith to College Grievance officers;
  • The right to be treated with respect by College officials;
  • The right of both the alleged victim and the accused to have the same opportunity to have others present (in support or advisory roles) during the investigation process;
  • The right not to be discouraged by College officials from reporting alleged violations to both on-campus and off-campus authorities;
  • The right to be informed of the outcome and sanction of any complaint involving sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, and domestic/dating violence, usually within 24 hours of the decision;
  • The right to be informed by College officials of options to notify proper law enforcement authorities, including on-campus and local police, and the option to be assisted by campus authorities in notifying such authorities, if the student so chooses.  This also includes the right not to report, if this is the victim’s desire;
  • The right to be notified of available counseling, mental health or services for victims of sexual assault, both on campus and in the community;
  • The right to notification of and options for, and available assistance in, changing academic and living situations after an alleged harassment, discrimination or sexual assault incident, if so requested by the alleged victim and if such changes are reasonably available (no formal complaint or investigation, campus or criminal, need occur before this option is available).  Resolution may include:
  • Change of an on-campus student’s housing to a different campus location;
  • Assistance from the College support staff in completing the relocation;
  • Arranging to dissolve a housing contract and pro-rating a refund;
  • Exam (paper, assignment) rescheduling;
  • Taking an incomplete in a class;
  • Transferring class sections;
  • Temporary withdrawal;
  • Alternative course completion options
  • The right not to have irrelevant prior sexual history considered in the decision-making process;
  • The right not to have any complaint of sexual assault mediated (as opposed to adjudicated);
  • The right to make a victim-impact statement to the Case Officer and Grievance Officer when sanctions are being determined;
  • The right to a campus restraining order against another person who has engaged in or threatens to engage in stalking, threatening, harassing or other improper behavior that presents a danger to the welfare of the complaining  individual or others;
  • The right to have complaints of Sexual Misconduct responded to quickly and with sensitivity by Campus Safety.
  • The right to appeal the finding and sanction of the Case Officer and Grievance Officer, in accordance with the standards for appeal established by the College;
  • The right to review all documentary evidence available regarding the complaint, subject to the confidentiality limitations imposed by state and federal law, at least 48 hours prior to the meeting/proceeding at which the decision is made;
  • The right to be informed of the names of all witnesses within 48 hours of the meeting/proceeding, except in cases where a witness’ identity will not be revealed to the accused  for compelling safety reasons (this does not include the name of the alleged victim/complainant, which will always be revealed);
  • The right to preservation of privacy, to the extent possible and allowed by law;
  • The right to confidentiality subject to the other provisions in this policy;
  • The right to petition that the Case Officer be removed on the basis of demonstrated bias;
  • The right to bring a representative to all phases of the investigation and meeting/proceeding;
  • The right to present relevant witnesses to the meeting/proceeding, including expert witnesses;
  • The right to be fully informed of campus conduct rules and procedures as well as the nature and extent of all alleged violations contained within the complaint;
  • The right to have the College compel the presence of student, faculty and staff witnesses, and the right to ask questions, directly or indirectly, of witnesses (including the accused), and the right to challenge documentary evidence.
  • The right to have complaints involving sexual misconduct or sexual harassment heard by a Case Officer who has received annual sexual misconduct adjudication training;
  • The right to have College policies and procedures followed without material deviation;
  • The right to be informed in advance of any public release of information regarding the Complaint;
  • The right not to have released to the public any personal information about the Complainant, without his or her consent.

Statement of the Accused Individual's Rights

Subject to other provisions in this Policy, persons accused of discrimination or harassment has the following rights:

  • The right to an investigation and appropriate resolution of all credible complaints of misconduct or discrimination made in good faith to College administrators against the accused individual;
  • The right to be treated with respect by College officials;
  • The right to be informed of and have access to campus resources for medical, counseling, and advisory services;
  • The right to be fully informed of the nature, rules and procedures of the campus investigative process and to timely written notice of all alleged violations within the complaint, including the nature of the violation and possible sanctions; 
  • The right to a meeting/proceeding on the complaint, including timely notice of the date, and adequate time for preparation; 
  • The right not to have irrelevant prior sexual history considered as evidence in a meeting/proceeding;
  • The right to make an impact statement at the campus meeting/proceeding and to have that statement considered by the Case Officer in determining its sanction;
  • The right to appeal the finding and sanction of the Case Officer in accordance with the standards for appeal established by the College;
  • The right to review all documentary evidence available regarding the complaint, subject to the confidentiality limitations imposed by state and federal law, at least 48 hours prior to the meeting/proceeding at which the decision was made;
  • The right to be informed of the names of all witnesses within 48 hours of the meeting/proceeding, except in cases where a witness’ identity will not be revealed to the accused student for compelling safety reasons (this does not include the name of the alleged victim/complainant, which will always be revealed);
  • The right to confidentiality subject to the other provisions in this policy;
  • The right to petition that the Case Officer be removed on the basis of bias;
  • The right to have the College compel the presence of student, faculty and staff witnesses, and the right to ask questions, directly or indirectly, of witnesses, and the right to challenge documentary evidence.
  • The right to have complaints involving sexual misconduct or sexual harassment heard by a Case Officer who has received annual sexual misconduct adjudication training;
  • The right to have College policies and procedures followed without material deviation;
  • The right to have a representative to accompany and assist in this process.  This representative can be anyone;
  • The right to a fundamentally fair process, as defined in these procedures;
  • The right to an outcome based solely on evidence obtained through the investigation process.  Such evidence shall be credible, relevant, based in fact, and without prejudice;
  • The right to written notice of the outcome and sanction as set forth and subject to the limitations described in this Policy.
  • The right to be informed in advance, when possible, of any public release of information regarding the complaint.

Revision

These policies and procedures will be reviewed and updated annually by the Title IX Coordinator.  The Title IX Coordinator may make minor modifications to procedure that do not materially jeopardize the fairness owed to any party. However, the Title IX Coordinator may also vary procedures materially with notice (on the institutional web site, with appropriate date of effect identified) upon determining that changes to law or regulation require Policy or procedural alterations not reflected in this Policy and procedure.  Procedures in effect at the time of its implementation will apply.  Policy in effect at the time of the offense will apply even if the Policy is changed subsequently, unless the parties consent to be bound by the current Policy. 

This Policy was edited on May 28, 2014