A. Reporting an Incident
Individuals may choose to seek action or assistance both on campus as well as through surrounding community resources. The following are examples of reasons that one might choose to report an incident of alleged misconduct to
- seek formal action against someone.
- educate someone about their behavior through use of the College’s Title IX process and procedures.
- make Austin College aware of behavior in case it is part of a larger pattern.
- help prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
- receive support in coping with an incident.
A person who has experienced an incident of conduct prohibited by this policy may file a report against the participant responsible for that conduct.
Reports should be filed with the Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Coordinator:
|Title IX Coordinator
Director of Wellbeing and Human Resources
Administration Building, Room 211
900 N. Grand Ave., STE 6I
Sherman, TX 75090
|Deputy Title IX Coordinator
Administration Building, Room 211
900 N. Grand Ave., STE 6I
Sherman, TX 75090
Austin College is committed to the prompt and equitable resolution of all alleged or suspected violations of this policy about which the College knows or reasonably should know. The College maintains this commitment regardless of whether a report alleging a violation of this policy has been filed and regardless of where the alleged conduct occurred. In resolving a particular matter, the College may use some or all of the following processes: initial assessment and interim measures, administrative agreement, informal resolution, formal resolution, sanctioning and appeal, as described herein. Regardless of the specific processes employed, the College will seek to complete the investigation and resolution process (excluding any appeals) within 60 days unless the College determines in its discretion that more time is required. In this case the participants will be notified of the need for an extension of the 60-day period. The College will provide periodic updates as it deems appropriate.
The College’s ability to investigate an alleged incident, or the extent of the investigation in any given situation, may be affected by any number of factors. These factors include whether the report is anonymous, whether the reporting participant is willing to file a complaint or consent to an investigation, the reporting participant’s request for confidentiality, the location where the alleged incident occurred, and the College’s access to information relevant to the alleged incident. In instances where the reporting participant is unwilling or unable to file a report or participate in an investigation and resolution process, the College may elect to proceed and to seek resolution of the matter in accordance with the processes described below or other process that resolve the complaint in a manner consistent with applicable law, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) or other relevant government guidance.
The Title IX Coordinator will review the available options with both reporting and responding participants. These include the opportunity to request interim measures as well as the opportunity to request that the situation be resolved through either administrative agreement, the informal resolution process, or the formal resolution process. The reporting participant and the responding participant will receive periodic updates regarding the status of the resolution.
B. Preliminary Contact and Interim Measures
The Title IX Coordinator will make a preliminary assessment of the report(s), which will determine whether the alleged conduct would present a potential violation of the policy and what further action is warranted.
The Title IX Coordinator will implement any appropriate interim measures and remedies to protect the safety and well-being of those involved as well as the campus community. Such measures and remedies may be requested by or provided to those involved. Academic interim measures will be coordinated with and communicated to the faculty member(s) of record and the Academic (divisional) Dean or the Vice President for Academic Affairs. Interim measures will be kept confidential to the extent that maintaining such confidentiality would not impair the ability of the College to provide interim measures. Interim measures will be confirmed in writing. Examples of interim measures include:
- counseling services.
- changes to academic, living, dining, transportation, and campus work situations.
- academic assistance, accommodations or adjustments.
- obtaining and enforcing campus no-contact orders.
- honoring an order of protection or a no-contact order entered by a State civil or criminal court.
- providing safety escorts from the Austin College police.
An employee or student’s failure to comply with the terms of interim measure directives is a separate violation of Austin College policy.
C. Confidentiality and Non-Retaliation
During the resolution process all participants should not disclose or discuss anything relating to the formal report with anyone other than those authorized to see/hear such information under the process. Participants are free to discuss the facts underlying the subject of the complaint with counselors, clergy, support persons, advisors, attorneys, and parents. Participants should refrain from discussing the formal report with anyone affiliated with Austin College who is not part of the resolution process. This is to preserve the integrity of the investigation and prevents retaliation. All participants must refrain from any retaliatory conduct against other participants and witnesses in the matter and may be responsible for any retaliation by persons affiliated with her/him.
D. Initial Assessment
The first step of the initial assessment will typically be a meeting between the reporting participant and the Title IX Coordinator. At this time, a written complaint may be submitted by the reporting participant, but a written complaint is not necessary; information provided by the reporting participant in any form will be considered in resolving allegations reported to the College. This initial meeting will allow the Title IX Coordinator to do the following:
- assess the nature and circumstances of the allegation;
- discuss the types of conduct prohibited by the policy and review the reporting participant’s complaint as it pertains to the prohibited conduct;
- address any immediate concerns about the physical safety and emotional well-being of the participants;
- notify the reporting participant of the option to notify law enforcement and to be assisted in doing so;
- provide the reporting participant with information about the range of available on- and off-campus resources;
- describe the range of interim measures and remedies for security and support to all participants;
- in cases where the college believes there is a risk of harm to the reporting participant or others, the College may, at its discretion, impose an interim suspension or leave of absence on the responding participant;
- discuss the options afforded to the reporting participant by this policy, including the right to a support person, the informal resolution process, administrative agreement, the formal resolution process, and the need to preserve any relevant evidence or documentation in the case;
- inform the participant that the College prohibits any retaliation against individuals who have filed a report or participated in any manner in an investigation or proceeding under this policy;
- assess whether there is a need for a timely warning or emergency notification under federal law; and
- provide the participant with a written copy of this policy.
If the reporting participant requests at any time that their identity remain confidential or that no formal action be taken, the College will balance this request along with its responsibility to foster an educational environment that is free of discrimination and harassment for all members of the campus community.
As soon as practical after the initial meeting with the reporting participant, the responding participant(s) will also be notified that a report or complaint alleging a violation of the policy has been made unless the College determines that notifying the responding participant is not necessary or appropriate under the circumstances. When notified of the report or complaint, the responding participant will also receive parallel discussions regarding the policies in this document, including the right to a support person, available interim measures, the informal resolution process, administrative agreement, the formal resolution process, and the need to preserve any relevant evidence or documentation in the case. All participants will be informed that the College prohibits any retaliation against participants who have filed a report, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation or proceeding under this policy. The responding participant(s) will be provided with a written copy of this policy.
E. Interim Measures
Throughout the investigation and resolution process, the Title IX Coordinator will monitor the effectiveness of interim measures or remedies and coordinate with all participants and appropriate College personnel on the provision and implementation of these measures.
F. Administrative Agreement
The responding participant may elect to accept responsibility for the alleged policy violation at this stage or at any later stage throughout the process. To execute an administrative agreement the responding participant must acknowledge the policy violation, accept the proposed sanction(s), and waive any opportunity for appeal.
G. Informal Resolution Process
Where appropriate, the informal resolution process can be used to resolve allegations of sexual misconduct or interpersonal violence by taking immediate and corrective action to stop the conduct, address its effects, and prevent recurrence without implementing a formal resolution process and its subsequent determination of a policy violation. An informal resolution process may also include a remedies-based process (mediation), which allows both participants to come to a mutual agreement regarding the resolution of the complaint.
The informal resolution process may include the range of interim measures described above, as well as targeted or broad-based training and educational programming for relevant individuals and groups or any other remedy that will achieve the goals of the College’s policy. This process is facilitated by the Title IX Coordinator. For example, both participants may agree that the permanent application of interim measures (e.g. no-contact order) may be sufficient to resolve the complaint. This option is available if the College determines that such a process would be appropriate and all participants agree to participate. The informal resolution process will never be used to resolve allegations of sexual assault.
The participants in any informal resolution process will not be required to interact with each other directly. Instead, the Title IX Coordinator or designee will arrange for or facilitate a remedies-based process or other form of mediation between the involved participants who are in different rooms. Once an informal resolution process is complete, both participants will be notified simultaneously/contemporaneously (to the greatest extent possible, and consistent with FERPA or other applicable law) of the resolution.
H. Formal Resolution Process
To file a formal complaint and begin the formal resolution process, the reporting participant must submit an initial, written statement detailing the allegations of misconduct. This statement is the first opportunity for the reporting participant to describe the allegations against the responding participant. The signed complaint initiates the formal process and is forwarded to the investigator(s). The statement should include the name(s) of the accused, the date and location of the alleged sexual misconduct, and the details of the alleged misconduct. This statement should provide details about the facts surrounding the alleged sexual misconduct. The statement must be signed by the reporting participant.
The responding participant shall be given written notice when a formal complaint has been filed against them. Notice that a formal complaint has been filed against a responding participant will be provided to that participant in by the Title IX Coordinator or designee. At this meeting the Title IX Coordinator will discuss the nature of the complaint, review this policy, and give the responding participant a copy of the relevant policies. The responding participant may provide a written response to the formal complaint. This statement will be submitted to the investigator(s) and serves as an opportunity to respond to allegations made by the reporting participant. This statement should provide as much detail as possible about the facts surrounding the alleged misconduct and must be signed by the responding participant.
The formal resolution process includes a prompt, thorough, impartial, and fair investigation into the allegations. Throughout the investigation and process, participants will be treated fairly and equitably.
The Title IX Coordinator will assign an investigator(s) who has been trained in the investigation of, and other issues related to, sexual discrimination, sexual misconduct, and interpersonal violence. The investigator(s) shall not have a conflict of interest or bias for or against any participants involved in the potential policy violation. The investigator(s) will undertake an investigation for the purposes of determining whether the responding participant is responsible for the alleged violation(s) of the policy and assign sanctions and remedies in coordination with the Title IX Coordinator and other college representatives.
It is the responsibility of the investigator(s) to gather the evidence relevant to the formal complaint and the facts raised in the participant’s statements, to the extent reasonably possible. Participants and witnesses should make themselves available to the investigator(s) and can provide information they believe relevant to the investigators. The scope of the investigation will not necessarily be limited to information provided by the participants or the violations outlined in the formal complaint. Austin College expects all participants to act with integrity and honesty. Participants and witnesses who refuse to cooperate with the investigator(s) in the investigation(s) may face disciplinary action for their refusal to cooperate. During the investigation, the investigator(s) may utilize some or all of the procedure below, in whatever order the investigator(s) deems most appropriate.
- Document Review: The investigator(s) will review the statements and all supporting material referenced. The investigator(s) will then attempt to obtain any documents or other materials deemed relevant to the investigation. Any documents or information deemed to be material to the findings regarding the formal complaint or any other violations will be disclosed to both reporting and responding participant for comment or rebuttal.
- Participant interviews: The investigator(s) will interview the reporting participant and responding participant separately. These meetings provide opportunities for the participants to discuss their recollection of the event(s) in question, supplement any written statements previously submitted, voice concerns, and work with the investigator(s) to determine what information may be helpful in the investigation of the allegation(s). Participants may also discuss the impact that this experience has had on them. The investigator(s) may interview the participants more than once, as necessary.
- Witness Interviews: The investigator(s) will attempt to interview any witnesses identified by the participants that the investigator(s) deems to be relevant to the resolution of the formal complaint. The investigator(s) may also interview any other persons which they find to be potentially relevant to the complaint. Prior to being interviewed, witnesses will be required to sign and abide by a confidentiality and non-retaliation agreement. The witnesses are expected to refrain from any retaliatory conduct against the participants or any witnesses in the matter and may be responsible for any retaliation by persons affiliated with them (i.e., a friend or family member). The investigator(s) will employ best efforts to interview relevant witnesses who are no longer on campus, attempting to contact them via phone or internet.
- Expert Witnesses: The investigator(s) may consult with any experts they deem necessary and appropriate to the determination of the facts of the complaint. An expert witness could be consulted to review or provide a professional opinion regarding evidence discovered in the investigation.
The investigation is intended to determine if this policy has been violated, without the formalities associated with rules and procedures specifically designed by lawmakers to manage courtroom litigation. Students and employees can address issues and present documents to the investigator(s) without concerns about admissibility. The investigator(s) determines what issues raised and documents presented are relevant and probative of whether the alleged conduct occurred. Then, in the interest of fairness, that information will be disclosed to the other participant in the resolution process. Additional information about specific types of evidence is included below.
- Sexual History: The sexual history of the reporting and responding participants will not be used in determining whether the alleged misconduct occurred. Prior consensual sexual activity between the two participants will not be considered in the current pending formal complaint. Consent to one sexual act does not constitute consent for another sexual act.
- Medical and Counseling Documents: The use of medical or counseling documents in the resolution process is not required. Medical and counseling documents are privileged and confidential documents that students or employees will never be required to disclose in this process. “Privileged” means that these documents cannot be shared with anyone other than the treating professional unless the patient agrees to disclosure. Participants should be aware that there are legal implications to agreeing to produce privileged documents. Participants are encouraged to seek advice from a knowledgeable source about the possible consequences of releasing this information. All information submitted to the investigator(s) will be included in the report and made available to the other participant. Investigator(s) will attempt to remove unnecessary identifying information, such as social security numbers, prior to inclusion in the report. A participant who, after due consideration, believes that their own medical or counseling documents would be helpful in determining whether sexual misconduct occurred, has several options for voluntarily presenting this information as described below.
- Participants can voluntarily decide to present their own medical or counseling documents to the investigator(s) as part of the documents which they would like to have the investigator(s) consider in conducting the investigation. If a participant decides to produce such documents, they must be produced in their entirety. The production of excerpts or selected documents is inappropriate and will not be considered.
- On occasion, the investigator(s) may ask a participant to voluntarily provide these documents for consideration while conducting the investigation. The participant is under no obligation to provide this information and may simply say “no” to this request. Such refusal is completely acceptable. Prior to responding to such a request, a participant is encouraged to consult with appropriate authorities about the implications of agreeing to or denying the request. If a participant does decide to produce such documents, they must be produced in their entirety. The production of excerpts or selected documents is inappropriate and will not be considered.
- The investigator(s) may ask a participant to voluntarily provide a verification of therapeutic or medical services to confirm that such treatment occurred, without providing any details regarding that treatment. On rare occasions, a person may be in possession of the medical or counseling documents of another participant or witness. Such documents can only be presented to the investigator(s) under the following circumstances: (i) the person can show that the documents are relevant to the pending formal complaint, (ii) the person can document or otherwise prove that the documents were legally obtained, and (iii) the documents can be authenticated. Failure to meet any of these conditions means the documents will not be considered in the determination regarding the alleged misconduct.
K. Investigation Report
Once the investigation has been completed, the investigator(s) will evaluate the information obtained during the process. The investigator(s) will prepare a report summarizing and analyzing the relevant facts received through the investigation, noting any supporting documentation or statements. The investigator(s) may draw conclusions regarding the credibility of all testimony and the reliability of documentation. The reporting and responding participants will be allowed to review the investigation report prior to the issuance of a finding. Review of the investigation report must be done in the presence of the Title IX Coordinator or designee. The participants cannot duplicate or remove the investigation report from the premises under any circumstance.
L. Participant Final Statement(s)
After reviewing the investigation report, the reporting and responding participants may provide a final rebuttal statement, documents, or other new information regarding the sources of potentially relevant information and witnesses in writing to the investigator(s) within 72 hours of their review. Any information that is submitted will be made available to the other participant for review.
M. Complaint Withdrawal
Prior to the issuance of a finding(s), the reporting participant may withdraw the complaint. Withdrawal of the complaint will, under most circumstances, end the formal resolution process for that complaint. Once a complaint has been withdrawn, it cannot be filed again by the reporting participant within this process. Austin College reserves the right to move forward with the complaint, even if the reporting participant decides to withdraw it, in order to protect the interests and safety of the Austin College community.
N. Acceptance of Responsibility
Prior to the issuance of a finding(s), the responding participant may accept responsibility for the misconduct alleged in the formal complaint. This acceptance, under most circumstances, will end the formal resolution process and the matter will be handled under the administrative agreement process defined herein.
Upon completion of the investigation, the investigator(s) will issue findings. The decision will be made on the preponderance of evidence standard – that is whether the facts presented in the investigation report support a finding that is more likely than not that college policy was violated. Under ordinary circumstances, the investigator’s findings will be issued in writing within 10 days of the completion of the investigation unless the College determines in its discretion that more time is required, in which case the participants will be notified of the need for an extension of the 10-day period. The Title IX Coordinator or designee will provide periodic updates to the participants as they deem appropriate.
The investigator(s) may issue one of the following findings to a formal complaint.
- A finding that a college policy was violated.
- A finding that a college policy was not violated as there is insufficient information to substantiate the finding of a violation.
- A finding that a college policy was not violated.
If a participant is found in violation of a college policy, sanctions will be determined by the investigator(s) in coordination with the Title IX Coordinator and other college representatives deem appropriate by the Title IX under the circumstances based on a number of considerations. Such considerations may include: severity, persistence, or pervasiveness of the policy violation; nature of the policy violation, including whether the policy violation included violence; impact on the reporting participant; impact on the responding participant; impact or implications of the policy violation on the larger Austin College community; prior misconduct by the responding participant, including the responding participant’s relevant prior disciplinary history at the College; whether the responding participant accepts responsibility for the policy violation; maintenance of a safe, nondiscriminatory, and respectful environment conducive to learning; and any other mitigating, aggravating, or compelling factors.
Possible sanctions include one or more of the following:
- Educational sanctions
- Revocation or withholding of admission or degree pending completion of other sanctions
- No-contact orders
- Time and place restrictions or bans
- Housing restrictions
- Extension of requirements used as interim measures;
- Community service
- Loss of privileges
- Notation in permanent record
- Sanctions withheld, such as additional sanctions if deadlines for sanctions are not met
- Restorative justice requirement
- Specific sanctions that must be met before resuming status at Austin College
- Referrals for assessment, such as counseling or medical assessment
- Written warning or reprimand
- Oral warning or reprimand
- Termination of employment
- Other sanctions deemed appropriate by the Title IX Coordinator or designee.
Q. Written Notification
Once findings and sanctions, if appropriate, are issued by the investigator(s), the Title IX Coordinator will notify the reporting and responding participants of the outcome simultaneously (to the extent possible). Each participant will meet with the Title IX Coordinator or designee separately to receive a copy of the finding(s) and sanction(s), referencing the supporting information relied upon from the investigation report. Under federal privacy laws, the final investigation report, statements of one participant that are shared with another participant in the resolution process, and any documents prepared by the College in relation to this incident, constitute education records which may not be disclosed outside of the resolution process, except as may be required by law.
Any sanctions will take effect immediately. Should a student submit an appeal, the Title IX Coordinator has the discretion to allow that participant to complete pending coursework remotely, if deemed appropriate by the faculty member(s) of record, during the appeal process. Graduation, study abroad, internships/externships, etc. do not in and of themselves constitute exigent circumstances, and students may be barred from participating in those activities during an appeal. In cases where the appeal results in reinstatement to the College or college employment or resumption of privileges, all reasonable attempts will be made to restore the student/employee to his or her prior status.
R. Appeal Process
Once written notification of the finding(s) and sanction(s), if appropriate, has been issued, reporting and responding participants have the right to submit an appeal. Appeals may be submitted solely upon the following three grounds:
- allegations that the investigator(s) deviated from the investigation and resolution process outlined in the policy in a way that substantially altered the outcomes of the case;
- substantive new evidence or information that was not available or known to the participant during the investigation process and that is sufficient to alter a decision; or
- a claim that the sanction is disproportionate to the violation.
Appeals must be submitted in writing to the Title IX Coordinator within 7 days of the participants receiving written notice of finding(s) and sanction(s). Any information that is submitted will be made available to the other participant for review. The other participant may submit a rebuttal of the appeal in writing to the Title IX Coordinator within 7 days of receiving the appeal information.
Upon receiving an appeal and rebuttal, if one is submitted, the Title IX Coordinator will refer it to the appropriate appeal agent for review and final decision making.
- Appeals addressing deviation from the investigation and resolution process in a way that substantially altered the outcomes of the case shall be referred to an alternate investigator(s) for review and decision making.
- Appeals providing substantive new evidence, which is information that was not available or known during the investigation process and that seems sufficient to alter a decision shall be referred to the original investigator(s) for consideration and determination of a finding based on the new information.
- Appeals of a sanction being disproportionate to the violation shall be assigned to the following appeals for review and decision making:
- The Faculty Hearing Committee or designee if the responding participant is a faculty member,
- The Vice President for Business Affairs or designee if the responding participant is a staff member,
- The Vice President for Student Affairs or designee if the responding participant is a student, or
- An appropriate appeals agent as determined by the Title IX Coordinator if the responding participant is not a member of the groups listed above.
The Title IX Coordinator or designee will notify the participants simultaneously, to the extent possible, in writing of the appeal agent’s decision. The College will seek to complete the appeals process within 15 days unless the College determines in its discretion that more time is required, in which case the participants will be notified of the need for an extension of the 15-day period. The College will provide periodic updates as it deems appropriate.
Finding and sanction decisions made by appeal agent are final.