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Sexual misconduct complaint resolution procedures

These Complaint Resolution Procedures apply to the resolution of all reports under the 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 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.

These procedures provide for prompt, timely, fair and impartial investigations 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 victims and promotes accountability.

As necessary and when applicable, the College will contact and cooperate with law enforcement in situations involving sexual misconduct.

Timing of the investigation

The College will endeavor to conclude its investigation and resolution of the complaint within sixty (60) calendar days of receiving it. 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 both parties' voluntary cooperation and 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.
  • Either party may terminate the informal process at any time and elevate the complaint to the formal investigation procedure.
  • Informal resolution in the form of mediation, even on a voluntary basis, will not be used to resolve complaints alleging sexual violence.

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 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 or 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.

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 the determination pursuant to the guidance regarding appeals.

Investigation and confidentiality

All complaints of sexual misconduct will be promptly and thoroughly investigated in accordance with the complaint resolution procedures, and the College will take disciplinary action where appropriate. The College will make reasonable and appropriate efforts to preserve an individual's privacy and protect the confidentiality of information when investigating and resolving a complaint. However, because of laws relating to reporting and other state and federal laws, the College cannot guarantee confidentiality to those who make complaints.

In the event a complainant requests confidentiality or asks that a complaint not be investigated, the College will take all reasonable steps to investigate and respond to the complaint consistent with the request for confidentiality or request not to pursue an investigation. If a complainant insists that their name not be disclosed to the alleged perpetrator, the College's ability to respond may be limited. The College reserves the right to initiate an investigation despite a complainant's request for confidentiality in limited circumstances involving serious or repeated conduct or where the alleged perpetrator may pose a continuing threat to the College Community.

The Title IX Coordinator is the person responsible for evaluating requests for confidentiality. The Title IX Coordinator may consult with other appropriate College officials and legal counsel as necessary.

Investigation

Initial notification

Prior to commencement of the investigation, 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 of interest.

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.

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. 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.

Determination

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.),
  3. Set forth the outcome of the investigation by determining whether or not a violation of College policy occurred applying the preponderance of the evidence standard, and
  4. 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 report 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.

Notification of determination

The written investigative report will be provided to the complainant and the respondent within three (3) days of its completion. If necessary, the written report 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, as explained by the April 4, 2011 Dear Colleague Letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education, available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201104.pdf. The written determination, including an sanctions imposed, will be included in the parties' College files.

The written determination shall be final, subject only to the right of appeal as set forth within the Complaint Resolution Procedures.

Potential sanctions

In instances where it is determined there were violations of the College's policy, sanctions may be necessary in order 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. 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, but are not limited to: 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.

Appeals procedure

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.

Method of appeal

Appeals must be filed with the Appeals Officer within seventy-two (72) hours of receipt of the written report determining the outcome 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.

The Title IX Coordinator holds the authority to designate a specific 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 through the notification of determination letter.

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.

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.

New York Transcript Notation Policy

For those students located in (or taking courses in) the state of New York, ‘Enough is Enough’ legislation was passed in July 2015 requiring transcript notations for any crime of violence as dictated by the federal Clery Act (as updated by the Violence Against Women Act Final Regulations).

‘For crimes of violence, including, but not limited to sexual violence, defined as crimes that meet the reporting requirements pursuant to the federal Clery Act established in 20.U.S.C. 1092(f)(1)(F)(i)(I)-(VIII), institutions shall make a notation on the transcript of students found responsible after a conduct process.’

In accordance with this requirement, students in the state of New York who are found responsible after a conduct process for the following crimes of violence will have a notation added to their transcript:

  • Murder
  • Sex offenses (including rape, fondling, incest, and statutory rape)
  • Robbery
  • Aggravated assault
  • Burglary
  • Motor vehicle theft
  • Manslaughter
  • Arson

When a student has been suspended in the state of New York for one of the above crimes of violence, their transcript will include the language, ‘suspended for a code of conduct violation.’

What a student has been dismissed from Columbia College in the state of New York for one of the above crimes of violence, their transcript will include the language, ‘dismissed for a code of conduct violation.’

If a student withdraws while there are conduct charges pending as related to one of the above crimes of violence, their transcript will include the language, ‘withdrew with conduct charges pending.’

Removal of Transcript Notations:

For those notations related to a suspension, no appeal is necessary for removal as the notation will be automatically removed after one full calendar year.

Notations related to dismissal from Columbia College will not be removed.

If a finding of responsibility is vacated, any related transcript notations will be automatically removed.

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