Formal Grievance Procedure for Alleged Violations of Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct: Process B
Process B applies to the resolution of violations of Gender Based and Sexual Misconduct when jurisdiction does not fall within Formal Grievance Procedure Process A, as determined by the Title IX Coordinator.
All other allegations of misconduct unrelated to incidents covered by this Policy will be addressed through the procedures elaborated in the respective student, faculty, and staff policies.
Notice/Complaint and Initial Assessment
Similar to Process A, upon receipt of a complaint or notice, the Title IX Coordinator will conduct an initial assessment to determine if Process B is the appropriate path. This assessment can include, desires of the person impacted, the Complainant, and a violence risk assessment.
The College may dismiss a formal complaint or any allegations therein if, at any time during the investigation:
- A Complainant notifies the Title IX Coordinator they would like to withdraw the formal complaint or any allegations therein; or
- The Respondent is no longer enrolled in or employed by the College; or
- Specific circumstances prevent the College from gathering evidence sufficient to reach a determination as to the formal complaint or allegations therein.
Please note that dismissing a complaint does not limit the College’s authority to address a complaint with an appropriate process and remedies.
Right to an Advisor
Each party may utilize an advisor, at the party’s own expense, to accompany them to meetings and interviews during these proceedings. The advisor can be anyone, including an attorney, but should not be someone who is also a witness in the process. A party may elect to change advisors during the process and is not obligated to use the same advisor throughout. The advisor is expected to maintain the privacy of all proceedings.
Notice of Investigation and Allegations
The Title IX Coordinator will provide written notification of the investigation to the parties at an appropriate time. Typically, notice is given at least 48 hours in advance of an interview. Notification will include a summary of the allegations and alleged policy violated, if known at the time.
The College will make a good faith effort to complete the resolution process within a sixty-to-ninety (60-90) business day time period, including appeal, which can be extended as necessary for appropriate cause by the Title IX Coordinator, who will provide notice and rationale for any extensions or delays.
Appointment of Investigators
Once the decision to commence a formal investigation is made, the Title IX Coordinator appoints an Investigator to conduct the investigation. The Title IX Coordinator will vet the assigned Investigator(s) to ensure impartiality by ensuring there are no conflicts of interest or disqualifying bias. The parties may, at any time during the resolution process, raise a concern regarding bias or conflict of interest, and the Title IX Coordinator will determine whether the concern is reasonable and supportable. If so, another Investigator will be assigned and the impact of the bias or conflict, if any, will be remedied.
Steps in the Investigation Process
All investigations are thorough, reliable, impartial, prompt, and fair. Investigations involve interviews with all relevant parties and witnesses, and obtaining available, relevant evidence. All parties have a full and fair opportunity, though the investigation process, to suggest witnesses and questions and to provide evidence.
No unauthorized audio or video recording of any kind is permitted during the resolution process by the parties or witnesses. If Investigator(s) elect to audio and/or video record interviews, all involved parties must be made aware of audio and/or video recording and these recordings are for note taking purposes only.
Following the investigation, the Investigator(s) will provide the Title IX Coordinator, in writing or as otherwise deemed appropriate, with a summary of the investigation and relevant findings.
Deliberation, Decision-making, and Standard of Proof
Upon receiving the Investigator’s summary of the investigation, the Title IX Coordinator will assign three members from the Pool of trained employees to serve as the Decision Makers. The parties will be notified of the names of the Decision Makers and at that time may raise a concern regarding bias or conflict of interest, and the Title IX Coordinator will determine whether the concern is reasonable and supportable. If so, another Investigator will be assigned and the impact of the bias or conflict, if any, will be remedied.
The Decision Makers will review the summary of the investigation and relevant findings and will make the final determination on the basis of the preponderance of the evidence regarding whether the Respondent violated the Policy and whether to impose any sanctions or remedies in order to effectively to stop the harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation; prevent its recurrence; and remedy the effects of the discriminatory conduct, both on the Complainant and the community.
The Title IX Coordinator or designee will then simultaneously and in writing provide the parties with a written Notice of Outcome which includes the finding on whether the Respondent violated the Policy, and any sanction(s) or remedies. The Notice to the Complainant may only include those sanctions relevant to the Complainant, and may not contain confidential personnel or educational information pertaining to the Respondent.
The Notice will detail when the determination is considered final and will detail any changes that are made prior to finalization. The Notice of Outcome also includes the grounds on which the parties may appeal and the steps the parties may take to request an appeal of the findings.
Factors considered when determining a sanction/responsive action may include, but are not limited to:
- The nature, severity of, and circumstances surrounding the violation(s)
- The Respondent’s disciplinary history
- Previous allegations or allegations involving similar conduct
- The need for sanctions/responsive actions to bring an end to the Prohibited Conduct
- The need for sanctions/responsive actions to prevent the future recurrence of Prohibited Conduct
- The need to remedy the effects of the Prohibited Conduct on the Complainant and the community
- The impact on the parties
- Any other information deemed relevant by the Decision-maker(s)
The sanctions will be implemented as soon as is feasible, either upon the outcome of any appeal or the expiration of the window to appeal without an appeal being requested.
The sanctions described in this policy are not exclusive of, and may be in addition to, other actions taken or sanctions imposed by external authorities.
Previous disciplinary action of any kind involving the Respondent may be considered in determining an appropriate sanction upon a determination of responsibility. This information is only considered at the sanction stage of the process. The parties may each submit a written impact statement prior to the hearing for the consideration of the Decision-maker(s) at the sanction stage of the process when a determination of responsibility is reached.
a. Student Sanctions
The following are the usual sanctions that may be imposed upon students or organizations:
- Warning: A formal statement that the conduct was unacceptable and a warning that further violation of any College policy, procedure, or directive will result in more severe sanctions/responsive actions.
- Housing: Housing related sanctions may include room relocation, housing probation or loss of on campus housing privileges.
- Educational Project: A specific project deemed appointed by the Decision Makers intended to help the Respondent deepen their understanding of a concept related to the Policy violation such as consent, healthy relationships or substance use. The Decision makers will determine the parameters of the project and the deadline for its completion. The Decision makers will also determine if the submitted project is sufficient to meet the terms of the assigned sanction.
- Probation: A written reprimand for violation of institutional policy. Terms of the probation will be articulated and may include denial of specified social privileges, exclusion from co-curricular activities, removal from leadership positions, exclusion from designated areas of campus, no-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 are met. Students who return from suspension are automatically placed on probation through the remainder of their tenure as a student at the College.
- Expulsion: Permanent termination of student status and revocation of rights to be on campus for any reason or to attend College-sponsored events. This sanction will be noted permanently as a Conduct Expulsion on the student’s official transcript.
- Withholding Diploma: The College may withhold a student’s diploma for a specified period of time and/or deny a student participation in commencement activities if the student has an allegation 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 previously awarded from the College for fraud, misrepresentation, and/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, loss of recognition, loss of some or all privileges 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.
b. Employee Sanctions
Responsive actions for an employee who has engaged in harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation include:
- Warning – Verbal or Written
- Performance Improvement/Management Process
- Required Training or Education
- Loss of Annual Pay Increase
- Loss of Oversight or Supervisory Responsibility
- Suspension with pay
- Suspension without pay
- Other Actions: In addition to or in place of the above sanctions, the College may assign any other sanctions as deemed appropriate.
Either party may request that an Appeal Officer review a Notice of Outcome in writing, by submitting a written Notice of Appeal to the Title IX Coordinator within five (5) calendar days of the date of the Notice of Outcome. In the Notice of Appeal, the appealing party must identify one of the following bases for appeal and explain in detail how such a basis for appeal exists in the case:
- To consider new information, unavailable during the investigation, that could be outcome determinative; a summary of this new evidence and its potential impact on the decision must be included;
- To assess whether a deviation from written procedures materially impacted the fairness of the investigation (a deviation materially impacts an investigation if a different outcome is probable if the alleged procedural defect is corrected);
- To decide if a sanction(s) is grossly disproportionate to the severity of the offense (either too lenient or too harsh); and/or
- To assess whether the Title IX Coordinator, Investigator(s), or Decision-maker(s) had a conflict of interest or bias for or against Complainants or Respondents generally or the specific Complainant or Respondent that affected the outcome.
Upon receiving a timely Notice of Appeal, the Title IX Coordinator will determine if the request meets the grounds for appeal (A Review for Standing). This review is not a review of the merits of the appeal, but solely a determination as to whether the request meets the grounds and is timely filed.
If the Notice of Appeal meets the grounds for appeal, the Title IX Coordinator will share a copy of the Notice of Appeal with the non-appealing party and appoint an Appeal Officer. If, within three calendar days of receiving notification of the identity of the Appeal Officer, either the Complainant or the Respondent alleges that the Appeal Officer has a conflict of interest, the Title IX Coordinator will decide whether to excuse the Appeal Officer and announce this decision in writing to both parties. If the Title IX Coordinator determines that the Appeal Officer should be excused, the Title IX Coordinator will appoint a replacement.
The Title IX Coordinator will ensure that the Appeal Officer is provided with the following materials in addition to the Notice of Appeal: (a) the Notice of Investigation and Allegations; (b) the Investigators’ Final Investigation Report; and (c) the Notice of Outcome.
The Appeal Officer will issue a written Appeal Decision within five (5) calendar days after receiving the materials from the Title IX Coordinator, and that decision will be provided to the parties, the Title IX Coordinator, and the Decision-maker(s). The Appeal Officer may affirm, reverse, or modify the Notice of Outcome. When the Appeal Office issues its decision in writing and simultaneously to the parties, the matter is final with the exception of the following: If the respondent is a Tenure-line faculty member, and a Final Decision from the Decision-maker(s) or Appeal Officer recommends imposition of disciplinary action which constitutes serious sanctions or termination as defined by the Faculty Bylaws, then the matter will be referred to the VPAA/Dean for processing under the procedures set forth in the Faculty Bylaws.
The charges of misconduct remain allegations and any sanctions are stayed until a final decision is reached and all appeals exhausted under the applicable College procedures.
Disabilities Accommodations in the Resolution Process
Mount Holyoke College is committed to providing reasonable accommodations and support to qualified students, employees, or others with disabilities to ensure equal access to the College’s resolution process.
Anyone needing such accommodations or support should contact the Office of AccessAbility Services for students or Human Resources for employees, who will review the request and, in consultation with the person requesting the accommodation and the Title IX Coordinator, determine which accommodations are appropriate and necessary for full participation in the process.
If any participant involved in any process under this policy is already registered with Human Resources or the Office of AccessAbility and has previously been approved for accommodations, the Title IX Coordinator will work with the individual to apply those accommodations to this process where applicable at the parties request.