Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Complaint Resolution Procedures
I. General Principles
These Complaint Resolution Procedures apply to the resolution of all reports under the Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Policy. They apply to the resolution of complaints against students, faculty, administrators, staff and third parties, and they are the exclusive means of resolving complaints of sexual misconduct at Columbia College. To the extent there are any inconsistencies between these Complaint Resolution Procedures and other College grievance, complaint or discipline procedures, these Complaint Resolution Procedures will control the resolution of complaints alleging violations of the Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Policy.
For the purposes of these Complaint Resolution Procedures, "Investigating Officer" means the Title IX Coordinator and/or individual(s) designated by the Title IX Coordinator to investigate a particular complaint.
C. Promptness, Timeliness, Fairness and Impartiality
These procedures provide for prompt, timely, fair and impartial investigations and resolutions. All College officials involved in the investigation or appeal process shall discharge their obligations under these Complaint Resolution Procedures fairly and impartially. If an involved College official determines that they cannot apply these procedures fairly and impartially because of the identity of a complainant, respondent or witness, or due to any other conflict of interest, another appropriate individual will be designated to administer these procedures.
These procedures will be implemented by College officials who receive a minimum of 8-10 hours of training on an annual basis on the issues related to sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, and how to conduct an investigation and hearing process that protects the safety of involved parties, the College community, and promotes accountability.
E. Cooperation with Law Enforcement
As necessary and when applicable, the College will contact and cooperate with law enforcement in situations involving sexual misconduct.
II. Investigation and Resolution of the Complaint
A. Preliminary Matters
Timing of the Investigation. The College will endeavor to conclude its investigation and resolution of the complaint within a reasonable period of time. The Investigating Officer may require the production of information by the parties by certain date(s) in order to facilitate a timely resolution
Both the complainant and the respondent will be given periodic updates regarding the status of the investigation. If either the complainant or respondent needs additional time to prepare or to gather their witnesses or information, they shall notify the Investigating Officer in writing explaining how much additional time is needed and why it is needed. The Investigating Officer shall respond to any such request within three (3) days.
Informal Resolution. Informal means of resolution, such as mediation, may be used in lieu of the formal investigation and determination procedure. The following standards apply to any informal resolution method that is utilized:
- The informal process can only be used with all parties' voluntary cooperation after receiving a full disclosure of the allegations and their options for formal resolutions, and with appropriate involvement by the institution (e.g., the Title IX Coordinator).
- The complainant will not be required to "work out" the problem directly with the respondent.
- Any party may terminate the informal process at any time and elevate the complaint to, or continue with the formal investigation procedure.
- With the agreement of the involved parties and the College, a complaint may be informally resolved at any stage of these procedures.
- If informal resolution is reached, it will be documented in writing and signed by all parties. An informal resolution cannot be appealed.
Interim Protective Measures. At any time during the investigation, the Investigating Officer may determine that interim protective measures or remedies for the parties involved or witnesses are appropriate. These interim protective measures may include separating the parties, placing limitations on contact between the parties, suspension, or making alternative class-placement or workplace arrangements. Failure to comply with the terms of these interim protective measures or remedies may constitute a separate violation of the Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Policy.
Preponderance of the Evidence Standard. In making any determination on the resolution of the complaint, the evidentiary standard is the preponderance of the evidence; that is, whether it is more likely than not that sexual misconduct occurred.
Support Person/Advisor. During the investigation process, both a complainant and a respondent may ask a support person/advisor to accompany them at all stages of the process, including any meetings with the Investigating Officer. In cases involving multiple complainants or respondents, the support person/advisor cannot be another complainant or respondent. The support person/advisor does not serve as an advocate on behalf of the complainant or respondent, may not be actively involved in any proceedings, and must agree to maintain the confidentiality of the process.
A support person/advisor may be removed if they become disruptive, harasses or intimidates others involved in the process, or does not abide by the limitations previously outlined. Additionally, the College is not required to allow a particular support person/advisor to be involved in the process if it would cause undue delay of any meeting with the Investigating Officer. A support person/advisor will be asked to sign an affirmation that they understand their role in the process.
Pending Criminal Investigation. Some instances of sexual misconduct may also constitute criminal conduct. In such instances, the complainant is also encouraged to file a report with the appropriate law enforcement authorities and, if requested, the College will assist the complainant in doing so. The pendency of a criminal investigation, however, does not relieve the College of its responsibilities under Title IX. Therefore, to the extent doing so does not interfere with any criminal investigation, the College will proceed with its own investigation and resolution of the complaint.
Rights of the Parties. During the investigation and resolution of a complaint, the complainant and respondent shall have equal rights. They include:
- Equal opportunity to identify and have considered witnesses and other relevant evidence;
- Subject to applicable law, the right to similar and timely access to all information considered by the Investigating Officer;
- Subject to applicable law, the equal opportunity to review any statements or evidence provided by the other party;
- Subject to applicable law, equal access to review and comment upon any information independently developed by the Investigating Officer should the Investigating Officer share such information with the other party; and
- Equal opportunity to appeal determination pursuant to Section III, below.
B. Initial Evaluation of the Complaint
When a report of alleged sexual misconduct is made, the Title IX Coordinator will evaluate whether the report falls within the scope of the Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Policy. If it does not fall under the policy, the complainant will be so informed. In such situations, other College procedures may be applicable to the conduct complaint of.
If it is determined that the complaint is covered by the Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Policy, the process will continue as described in the following sections.
C. Initial Notification to the Parties
Prior to commencement of the investigation, a prompt written notice will be provided to the respondent of the allegations constituting a potential violation of the Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Policy, including identities of the parties involved, the specific section of the policy allegedly violated, the precise conduct constituting the potential violation, and the date and location of the alleged incident (to the extent this information is known).
In addition, the complainant and the respondent shall (1) receive notice of the individual(s) with authority to make a finding or impose a sanction at the conclusion of the investigation and (2) have the opportunity to request a substitution if the participation of an individual with authority to make a finding or impose a sanction poses a conflict.
D. Commencement of the Investigation
After the initial notification has been made, the Investigating Officer will commence an investigation of a complaint as soon as practicable, but generally not later than seven (7) days after the complaint is made. The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether it is more likely than not that the alleged behavior occurred and, if so, whether it constitutes sexual misconduct. During the course of the investigation, the Investigating Officer may receive counsel from College administrators, the College's legal counsel, or other parties as needed.
In certain narrow circumstances, the Investigating Officer may commence an investigation even if the complainant requests that the matter not be pursued. In such a circumstance, the Investigating Officer will take all reasonable steps to investigate and respond to the matter in a manner that is informed by the complainant's articulated concerns.
E. Content of the Investigation
During the investigation, the complainant will have the opportunity to describe their allegations and present supporting witnesses or other evidence. The respondent will have the opportunity to respond to the allegations and present supporting witnesses or other evidence. Throughout the investigation, the parties will receive written notice in advance of any meetings so that they have sufficient time to prepare for meaningful participation.
The Investigating Officer will review the statements and evidence presented and may, depending on the circumstances, interview others with potentially relevant knowledge, review documentary materials, and take any other appropriate action to gather and consider information relevant to the complaint. All parties and witnesses involved in the investigation are expected to cooperate and provide complete and truthful information.
F. Investigative Report
At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigating Officer will prepare a written report that summarizes all information and facts. The written report will explain (1) the scope of the investigation, (2) identify findings of fact, and information obtained throughout the course of the investigation (e.g., written statements, copies of emails/text messages, etc.). All parties will have the opportunity to review the report within three (3) business days and to respond to the report in writing within a given time period in advance of the decision of responsibility, if so desired.
Following the opportunity to respond and the Investigating Officer's consideration of any written comments provided by the parties, written notification of determination will be provided to all parties concurrently and will include (1) the outcome of the investigation by determining whether or not a violation of College policy occurred applying the preponderance of the evidence standard, (2) a rationale for the result and the sanction(s), and (3) in instances where a violation of College policy is found to have occurred, include steps to stop the conduct, remedy its effects, and prevent its recurrence - including disciplinary actions and sanctions. The written notification of determination will also include sanctions and steps necessary to maintain an environment free from discrimination and harassment and to protect the safety and well-being of the complainant and other members of the College Community in instances of violations of the College's policy. Sanctions can include other remedial measures to correct the effects of such conduct on the complainant and others and to prevent the recurrence of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation.
Examples of such sanctions include: no-contact orders, classroom reassignment, the provision of counseling or other support services, and/or training. It also includes discipline for the respondent, including written formal warning, suspension, dismissal, or other appropriate institutional sanction(s), depending on the severity of the incident and taking into account any previous disciplinary infractions. A determination that sexual violence occurred may result in permanent dismissal or termination from the College.
If a suspension is imposed on a student, it may be for part of a session, a full session, or an entire academic year. An employee may be suspended for any length of time determined appropriate by the Executive Director of Human Resources. Following a suspension, the individual will be required to meet with the Dean of Student Affairs (student) or Executive Director of Human Resources (employee) to discuss re-entry and expectations going forward.
- Notification of Determination. A written notification of determination will be provided to the complainant and the respondent within three (3) days of its completion. If necessary, the written notification of determination will be redacted to ensure that information concerning any remedial and/or disciplinary measures are disclosed in a manner consistent with Title IX, FERPA, and the Clery Act. The written determination, including any sanctions imposed, will be included in the parties' College files.
- Finality of the Decision and Appeal Rights. The written determination shall be final, subject only to the right of appeal set forth in Section III of the document.
F. Special Procedure Concerning Complaints against the President, the Title IX Coordinator or Deputy, or Other Administrators Ranked Higher than the Title IX Coordinator.
If a complaint involved alleged conduct on the part of the College's President, the College's Board of Trustees ("Board") will designate the Investigating Officer. Based on the information gathered by the investigation, the Board (or designee) will prepare and issue the written investigative report determining the complaint and, as necessary, implementing any sanctions or remedial measures. The determination of the Board is final and not subject to appeal.
If a complaint involves alleged conduct on the part of the Title IX Coordinator, Deputy, or any administrator ranked higher than the Title IX Coordinator, the President will designate the Investigating Officer. Based on the information gathered by the investigation, the President (or designee) will prepare and issue the written investigative report determining the complaint and, as necessary, implementing any sanctions or remedial measures. The determination of the President is final and not subject to appeal.
A. Grounds for Appeal
The complainant or respondent may appeal the final determination of a complaint only on the following grounds:
- Question of Fact: there is a substantial likelihood that newly discovered information, not available at the time evidence was presented to the Investigating Officer, would result in a different determination. Evidence known to the appealing party at the time of the investigation, but withheld, shall not constitute a question of fact and will not be considered upon appeal;
- Question of Procedure: there was a procedural error significant enough to have affected the ultimate outcome of the investigation;
- Severity of Sanction: the sanction, disciplinary action, or the corrective action imposed is disproportionate to the violation. Mere dissatisfaction with the sanction is not grounds for appeal.
B. Method of Appeal
Appeals must be filed with the Appeal Officer through the means described in the written notification of determination of the complaint within seventy-two (72) hours of receipt of the written notification of determination of the complaint. The appeal must be in writing and contain all of the following information:
- Name of the complainant;
- Name of the respondent;
- A statement of the determination of the complaint, including corrective action, if any;
- A detailed statement of the basis for the appeal including the specific facts, circumstances, and argument in support of it; and
- Requested action, if any.
For most cases where the respondent is a student, the Dean for Student Affairs (or designee), will act as the Appeals Officer.
For most cases where the respondent is not a student, the Executive Director of Human Resources (or designee), will act as the Appeals Officer.
The Title IX Coordinator holds the authority to designate a different individual to act as the Appeals Officer in any case as is necessary and will notify all parties of who their Appeals Officer will be in each situation.
When an appeal has been filed, the non-appealing party will be notified of such in writing. The appealing party may request a meeting with the Appeals Officer, but the decision to grant a meeting is within the Appeals Officer's discretion. However, if a meeting is granted, then the other party will be granted a similar opportunity.
C. Resolution of the Appeal
The Appeals Officer will resolve the appeal generally within ten (10) days of receiving it and may take any and all actions that they determine to be in the interest of a fair and just decision. The parties will be notified in writing if the Appeals Officer's decision will take longer than ten (10) days.
The decision of the Appeals Officer is final. The Appeals Officer shall issue a short and plain, written statement of the resolution of the appeal, including any changes made to the Investigating Officer's previous written determination and/or the sanctions and remedial measures imposed. The written statement shall be provided to the complainant, respondent, and the Title IX Coordinator within three (3) days of the resolution.
Throughout all stages of the investigation, resolution, and appeal, the Investigating Officer, the Title IX Coordinator, the Deputy Title IX Coordinator(s), and the Appeals Officer, as the case may be, are responsible for maintaining documentation of the investigation and appeal, including documentation of all proceedings conducted under these Complaint Resolution Procedures.