Mount Holyoke College will act on any formal or informal notice/complaint of violation of the Gender Based and Sexual Misconduct Policy that is received by the Title IX Coordinator* or any other Official with Authority by applying these procedures, known as “Formal Grievance Procedures – Process A.” Process A applies to all Title IX Misconduct as defined above and by regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Education to implement Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, codified at 34 C.F.R. Part 106. Definitions of Title IX Misconduct can be found above under “Prohibited Conduct.”
*Anywhere this procedure indicates “Title IX Coordinator,” the College may substitute a trained designee.
If other Policy definitions are invoked, such as other forms of Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct, Mount Holyoke will act upon alleged violations using the Formal Grievance Procedures – Process B. Process B can also apply to sexual harassment (including sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking, as defined above) when jurisdiction does not fall within Process A, as determined by the Title IX Coordinator.
Unionized/other categorized employees are subject to the terms of their agreements/employees’ rights to the extent those agreements do not conflict with federal or state compliance obligations.
The procedures below may be used to address alleged collateral misconduct by the Respondent arising from the investigation of or occurring in conjunction with reported misconduct (e.g., vandalism, physical abuse of another), when alleged violations of the Policy are being addressed at the same time. In such cases, the Title IX Coordinator may consult with the institution officials who typically oversee such conduct (e.g., human resources, student conduct, academic affairs, etc.) to provide input as needed. All other allegations of misconduct unrelated to incidents covered by the Policy will be addressed through procedures described in applicable student, faculty, and staff handbooks.
Upon receipt of a complaint or notice to the Title IX Coordinator of an alleged violation of the Policy, the College initiates a prompt initial assessment to determine the next steps the College needs to take. The College will initiate at least one of three responses:
- Offering supportive measures because the Complainant does not want to proceed formally; and/or
- An Alternative Resolution; and/or
- A Formal Grievance Process including an investigation and a hearing.
The investigation and grievance process will determine whether or not the Policy has been violated. If so, the College will promptly implement effective remedies designed to ensure that it is not deliberately indifferent to harassment or discrimination, their potential recurrence, or their effects.
Following receipt of notice or a complaint of an alleged violation of this Policy, the Title IX Coordinator engages in an initial assessment.* The steps in an initial assessment can include:
* If circumstances require, the College will designate another person to oversee the process below should an allegation be made about the Coordinator or the Coordinator be otherwise unavailable or unable to fulfill their duties.
- If notice is given, the Title IX Coordinator seeks to determine if the person impacted wishes to make a formal complaint, and will assist them to do so, if desired.
- If they do not wish to do so, the Title IX Coordinator determines whether to initiate a complaint because a violence risk assessment indicates a compelling threat to health and/or safety.
- If a formal complaint is received, the Title IX Coordinator assesses its sufficiency and works with the Complainant to make sure it is correctly completed.
- The Title IX Coordinator reaches out to the Complainant to offer supportive measures.
- The Title IX Coordinator works with the Complainant to ensure they are aware of the right to have an Advisor.
- The Title IX Coordinator works with the Complainant to determine whether the Complainant prefers a supportive and remedial response, an Informal Resolution option, or a formal investigation and grievance process.
- If a supportive and remedial response is preferred, the Title IX Coordinator works with the Complainant to identify their needs, determine appropriate supports, and implements accordingly. No Formal Grievance Process is initiated, though the Complainant can elect to initiate one later, if desired.
- If an Alternative Resolution option is preferred, the Title IX Coordinator assesses whether the complaint is suitable for Alternative Resolution and may seek to determine if the Respondent is also willing to engage in Alternative Resolution.
- If a Formal Grievance Process is preferred by the Complainant, Title IX Coordinator determines if the alleged misconduct falls within the scope of Title IX Misconduct or Gender-Based Sexual Misconduct.
- If it does, the Title IX Coordinator will initiate the formal investigation and grievance process, directing the investigation to address, based on the nature of the complaint:
- an incident, and/or
- a pattern of alleged misconduct, and/or
- a culture/climate issue
- If alleged misconduct does not fall within the scope of the Title IX regulations, the Title IX Coordinator determines that the regulations do not apply (and will “dismiss” that aspect of the complaint, if any), assesses which policies may apply, which Resolution Process is applicable, and will refer the matter accordingly, including referring the matter for resolution under Formal Grievance Procedures – Process B, if applicable. Please note that dismissing a complaint under the 2020 Title IX regulations is solely a procedural requirement under Title IX, which does not limit Mount Holyoke College’s authority to address a complaint with an appropriate process and remedies.
- If it does, the Title IX Coordinator will initiate the formal investigation and grievance process, directing the investigation to address, based on the nature of the complaint:
Dismissal (Mandatory and Discretionary)*
*These dismissal requirements are mandated by the 2020 Title IX Regulations, 34 CFR §106.45.
The College must dismiss a formal complaint or any allegations therein if, at any time during the investigation or hearing, it is determined that:
- The conduct alleged in the formal complaint would not constitute Title IX Misconduct as defined above, even if proved; and/or
- The conduct did not occur in an educational program or activity controlled by Mount Holyoke College (including buildings or property controlled by recognized student organizations), and/or Mount Holyoke College does not have control of the Respondent; and/or
- The conduct did not occur against a person in the United States; and/or
- At the time of filing a formal complaint, a Complainant is not participating in or attempting to participate in Mount Holyoke College’s education program or activity, and based on the available information, the Title IX Coordinator has determined that they do not need to sign a formal complaint on behalf of Mount Holyoke College*
*Such a Complainant is still entitled to supportive measures, but the formal grievance process is not applicable unless the Title IX Coordinator signs the complaint in the event the Complainant cannot/will not do so.
A dismissal of Title IX Misconduct does not prohibit the College from proceeding with a formal grievance process if the alleged conduct falls under the definition of Gender Based or Sexual Misconduct. Further dismissals under this policy do not preclude the College from following up on reported behavior under additional, relevant College policies.
Mount Holyoke College may dismiss a formal complaint or any allegations therein if, at any time during the investigation or hearing:
- A Complainant notifies the Title IX Coordinator in writing that the Complainant would like to withdraw the formal complaint or any allegations therein; or
- The Respondent is no longer enrolled in or employed by Mount Holyoke College
- Specific circumstances prevent Mount Holyoke College from gathering evidence sufficient to reach a determination as to the formal complaint or allegations therein
Upon any dismissal, the College will promptly send written notice of the dismissal and the rationale for doing so simultaneously to the parties.
Please note that dismissing a complaint does not limit the College’s authority to address a complaint with an appropriate process and remedies.
This dismissal decision is appealable by any party under the procedures for appeal below. A Complainant who decides to withdraw a complaint may later request to reinstate it or refile it.
The College is obligated to ensure that the grievance process is not abused for retaliatory purposes. The College permits the filing of counterclaims but uses an initial assessment, described above, to assess whether the allegations in the counterclaim are made in good faith. Counterclaims by the Respondent may be made in good faith, but are, on occasion, also made for purposes of retaliation. Counterclaims made with retaliatory intent will not be permitted.
Counterclaims determined to have been reported in good faith will be processed using the grievance procedures below.
Counterclaims may be resolved through the same investigation as the underlying allegation, at the discretion of the Title IX Coordinator. When counterclaims are not made in good faith, they will be considered retaliatory and may constitute a violation of this Policy.
Right to an Advisor
The parties may each have an Advisor of their choice present with them for all meetings, interviews, and hearings within the Resolution Process, if they so choose. The parties may select whoever they wish to serve as their Advisor as long as the Advisor is eligible and available.
Choosing an Advisor who is also a witness in the process creates potential for bias and conflict of interest. A party who chooses an Advisor who is also a witness can anticipate that issues of potential bias will be explored by the hearing Decision-maker(s).
Mount Holyoke College may permit parties to have more than one Advisor upon special request to the Title IX Coordinator. The decision to grant this request is at the sole discretion of the Title IX Coordinator and will be granted equitably to all parties.
- a. Who Can Serve as an Advisor
The Advisor may be a friend, mentor, family member, attorney, or any other individual a party chooses to advise, support, and/or consult with them throughout the resolution process. The parties may choose Advisors from inside or outside of the College community.
The Title IX Coordinator can also assign a trained Advisor for any party if the party so chooses. If the parties are assigned an Advisor, the Advisor will be trained by the College and be familiar with the College’s resolution process.
If the parties choose an Advisor from outside the pool of those identified by the College, the Advisor may not have been trained by the College and may not be familiar with the College’s policies and procedures. Parties also have the right to choose not to have an Advisor in the initial stages of the resolution process, prior to a hearing.
Parties also have the right to choose not to have an Advisor in the initial stages of the Resolution Process, prior to a hearing.
- b. Advisor’s Role in Meetings and Interviews
The parties may be accompanied by their Advisor in all meetings and interviews at which the party is entitled to be present, including intake and interviews. Advisors should help the parties prepare for each meeting and are expected to advise ethically, with integrity, and in good faith.
The College cannot guarantee equal Advisory rights, meaning that if one party selects an Advisor who is an attorney, but the other party does not or cannot afford an attorney, the College is not obligated to provide an attorney.
c. Advisors in Hearings/College-Appointed Advisor
Under the Title IX Regulations, a form of indirect questioning is required during the hearing but must be conducted by the parties’ Advisors. The parties are not permitted to directly question each other or any witnesses. If a party does not have an Advisor for a hearing, the College will appoint a trained Advisor for the limited purpose of conducting any questioning of the parties and witnesses.
d. Pre-Interview Meetings
Advisors and their advisees may request to meet with the Investigator(s) conducting interviews/meetings in advance of these interviews or meetings. This pre-meeting allows Advisors to clarify and understand their role and the College’s policies and procedures.
e. Advisor Violations of Recipient Policy
All Advisors are subject to the same College policies and procedures, whether they are attorneys or not, and whether they are selected by a party or assigned by the College. Advisors are expected to advise their advisees without disrupting proceedings.
The parties are expected to ask and respond to questions on their own behalf throughout the investigation phase of the resolution process. Although the Advisor generally may not speak on behalf of their advisee, the Advisor may consult with their advisee, either privately as needed, or by conferring or passing notes during any resolution process meeting or interview. For longer or more involved discussions, the parties and their Advisors should ask for breaks to allow for private consultation.
Any Advisor who oversteps their role as defined by this policy will be warned only once. If the Advisor continues to disrupt or otherwise fails to respect the limits of the Advisor role, the meeting will be ended, or other appropriate measures implemented. Subsequently, the Title IX Coordinator will determine how to address the Advisor’s non-compliance and future role.
f. Sharing Information with the Advisor
The College expects that the parties may wish to have the College share documentation and evidence related to the allegations with their Advisors. Parties may share this information directly with their Advisor or other individuals if they wish. Doing so may help the parties participate more meaningfully in the resolution process.
The College also provides a consent form that authorizes the College to share such information directly with their Advisor. The parties must either complete and submit this form to the Title IX Coordinator or provide similar documentation demonstrating consent to a release of information to the Advisor before the College is able to share records with an Advisor.
If a party requests that all communication be made through their Advisor, the College will comply with that request once it is submitted in writing to the Title IX Coordinator
g. Privacy of Records Shared with Advisor
Advisors are expected to maintain the privacy of the records shared with them. These records may not be shared with third parties, disclosed publicly, or used for purposes not explicitly authorized by the College. The College may seek to restrict the role of any Advisor who does not respect the sensitive nature of the process or who fails to abide by the College’s privacy expectations.
h. Expectation of an Advisor
The College generally expects an Advisor to adjust their schedule to allow them to attend meetings when planned but may change scheduled meetings to accommodate an Advisor’s inability to attend, if doing so does not cause an unreasonable delay. The College may also make reasonable provisions to allow an Advisor who cannot attend in person to attend a meeting by telephone, video conferencing, or other similar technologies as may be convenient and available.
i. Expectations of the Parties with Respect to Advisors
A party may elect to change Advisors during the process and is not obligated to use the same Advisor throughout. The parties are expected to inform the Investigator(s) of the identity of their Advisor. The parties are expected to provide timely notice to the Title IX Coordinator if they change Advisors at any time. It is assumed that if a party changes Advisors, consent to share information with the previous Advisor is terminated, and a release for the new Advisor must be secured. Parties are expected to inform the Title IX Coordinator of the identity of their hearing Advisor at least two (2) business days before the hearing.
- j. Assistance in Securing an Advisor*
*This is being provided for informational purposes and does not constitute Mount Holyoke College’s endorsement of any of the external individuals/organizations listed.
- For representation, Respondents may wish to contact organizations such as:
- Complainants may wish to contact organizations such as:
Resolution proceedings are private. All persons present at any time during the resolution process are expected to maintain the privacy of the proceedings in accordance with Mount Holyoke College Policy.
Although there is an expectation of privacy around what Investigators share with parties during interviews, the parties have discretion to share their own knowledge and evidence with others if they so choose, except for information the parties agree not to disclose as part of an Informal Resolution. The College encourages parties to discuss any sharing of information with their Advisors before doing so.
The Formal Grievance Process is Mount Holyoke College’s primary resolution approach unless Alternative Resolution is elected by all parties and Mount Holyoke College. Details regarding Alternative Resolution are included below.
Formal Grievance Process Pool
The Formal Grievance Process relies on a pool of administrators (“the Pool”) to carry out the process. Members of the Pool are announced in an annual distribution of this policy to all students, parents/guardians of students, employees, prospective students, and prospective employees.
The Title IX Coordinator maintains a list of Pool members.
- a. Pool Member Roles
Members of the Pool are trained annually, and can serve in in the following roles, at the direction of the Title IX Coordinator:
- To provide appropriate intake of and initial guidance pertaining to complaints
- To act as an Advisor to the parties
- To serve in a facilitation role in Alternative Resolution if appropriately trained
- To perform or assist with initial assessment
- To investigate complaints
- To serve as a hearing facilitator
- To serve as a Decision-Maker regarding the complaint
- To serve as an Appeal Decision-maker
- b. Pool Member Appointment
The Title IX Coordinator, in consultation with the Vice President of Equity & Inclusion, appoints the Pool*, which acts with independence and impartiality.
*This does not preclude the College from having all members of the Pool go through an application and/or interview/selection process.
- c. Pool Member Training
The Pool members receive annual training. This training includes, but is not limited to:
- The scope of the College’s Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct Policies and Procedures
- How to conduct investigations and hearings that protect the safety of Complainants and Respondents, and promote accountability
- Implicit bias and cultural competence
- Disparate treatment and impact
- Reporting, confidentiality, and privacy requirements
- Applicable laws, regulations, and federal regulatory guidance
- How to implement appropriate and situation-specific remedies
- How to investigate in a thorough, reliable, and impartial manner
- How to uphold fairness, equity, and due process
- How to weigh evidence
- How to conduct questioning
- How to assess credibility
- Impartiality and objectivity
- How to render findings and generate clear, concise, evidence-based rationales
- The definitions of all offenses
- How to apply definitions used by the College with respect to consent (or the absence or negation of consent) consistently, impartially, and in accordance with policy
- How to conduct an investigation and grievance process including hearings, appeals, and informal resolution processes
- How to serve impartially by avoiding prejudgment of the facts at issue, conflicts of interest, and bias
- Any technology to be used at a live hearing
- Issues of relevance of questions and evidence
- Issues of relevance to create an investigation report that fairly summarizes relevant evidence
- How to determine appropriate sanctions in reference to all forms of harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation allegations
Specific training is also provided for Appeal Decision-makers, intake personnel, Advisors (who are College employees), and Chairs. All Pool members are required to attend these trainings annually and publicly post information regarding this training which can be found here.
- d. Pool Membership
The Pool includes representatives from:
- Human resources
- Division of Student Life
- Academic Affairs
- Dean of Faculty’s Office
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
- AccessAbility Services
- Institutional Research