Upon receipt of a report, the College’s Title IX Coordinator or designee will discuss with the Complaint(s), the option for filing a formal complaint with the College. The Title IX Coordinator and the Sexual Misconduct Team will also conduct an initial assessment of the report. The goal of this assessment is to provide an integrated and coordinated response to reports of sexual misconduct. The assessment will consider the nature of the report, the safety of the individual and of the campus community, and the expressed preference for resolution.
After the assessment, if the Complainant files a formal complaint, the College may choose to offer an informal resolution or refer the matter for investigation and adjudication in consultation with the parties. When a Complainant declines to sign a formal complaint or does not wish to participate in the investigation and adjudication process, or the Complainant’s identity is unknown, and the Title IX Coordinator determines there is sufficient cause to file a formal complaint, the Title IX Coordinator may file a formal complaint. In such cases, the Title IX Coordinator, or designee is considered the Complainant under this policy. The initial steps for the resolution of a report made to the College will involve the same stages: an initial assessment, investigation, and either informal resolution or a formal adjudication process.
Filing a Complaint:
A formal complaint is necessary to initiate the College’s grievance process, meaning an investigation and adjudication process. A formal complaint must be in written form and must be signed by the Complainant.
The Title IX Coordinator will consider the wishes of the Complainant not to proceed with the investigation and adjudication process. However, the Title IX Coordinator may file a formal complaint if the Title IX Coordinator determines that the allegations are such that it is important for the campus community that a complaint proceed despite the wishes of the Complainant. In making this determination, the Title IX Coordinator and the Sexual Misconduct Team will consider, among other factors:
Additionally, where the Respondent is not enrolled at the College and is not employed by the College, the College may decline to process the complaint through the Grievance Process. The College will take the steps it deems appropriate under these circumstances.
Mandatory Dismissal of Title IX Category Charges:
The Title IX Coordinator and the Sexual Misconduct Team will review a formal complaint filed by a Complainant. To comply with Title IX regulations, the Title IX Coordinator must “dismiss” the Title IX Category violation(s) if it is apparent that the allegations are not within the scope of Title IX. This may occur when the conduct alleged would not constitute sexual harassment as defined in Title IX Category violations, even if proved, and/or did not occur in the College’s education program or activity.
Discretionary Dismissal of Title IX Category Charges:
In some cases, an informal resolution may be appropriate. An Informal Resolution is a voluntary process in which a trained facilitator assists the parties in resolving the allegations made by a Complainant. Informal resolution is a remedies-based, non-judicial approach designed to eliminate any hostile environment without taking formal disciplinary action against a Respondent. The Informal Resolution process is not available if the Respondent in a sexual misconduct complaint is a faculty or staff member of the College and the Complainant is a student. Where the Title IX Coordinator concludes that informal resolution may be appropriate, the Title IX Coordinator will offer the Informal Resolution to the parties after a Complainant files a formal complaint. Both parties must consent to use the Informal Resolution process. Either party participating in an Informal Resolution may terminate the process at any time, and the complaint may then be considered to be adjudicated under a formal grievance and hearing process.
During an Informal Resolution process, Supportive Measures are available to both parties in the same manner as they would if the formal complaint were proceeding under the formal grievance and hearing process. A written notice will be given to both parties before entering an Informal Resolution process, and both parties must consent to the process in writing. No party should feel intimidated, coerced, or threatened to participate in an Informal Resolution process or to withdraw from an Informal Resolution process. The facilitator of the process will be screened to ensure they are free from conflicts of interest and bias. The facilitator’s role is to conduct the Informal Resolution process in an impartial way that does not favor one party over the other.
The facilitator will schedule one or more meetings with the parties. The facilitator will assist the parties in communicating information and opinions to the facilitator and each other regarding the allegations to find common ground and a resolution of the allegation(s) that is satisfactory to both parties. The facilitator may meet separately with each party to explore the party’s views about the allegations and desired outcome of the process. Either party can elect to have any meeting occur so that the parties are in different rooms and the facilitator “shuttles” between the parties.
For the Informal Resolution process to have the best chance for success, the parties should be free to express themselves. As a result, the facilitator will keep the information received from both parties during the Informal Resolution private. In addition, the facilitator will not be available as a witness in any hearing that may occur should either party terminate the Informal Resolution process before a resolution. This is in keeping with the concept that the facilitator is impartial and only facilitates the interaction between the two parties and is not listening or taking notes for any purpose other than assisting the parties. In addition, the parties may not disclose information shared by the other party during the process of the hearing. This privacy protection does not apply to information learned outside the Informal Resolution process through the investigation or otherwise.
The College will not compel a Complainant or Respondent to engage in informal resolution or to directly confront the other party during the informal resolution process. The decision to pursue an informal resolution will be made when the College has sufficient information about the nature and scope of the conduct, which may occur at any time. An Advisor may assist both Complainants and Respondents during an informal resolution.
A resolution is reached only if both parties agree. The College encourages terms of resolution that meet the parties’ needs. The facilitator will not impose an outcome, although they may assist the parties in suggesting resolutions that appear to meet their needs. If there is no agreement on a resolution, the complaint may be returned to the formal grievance and hearing process outlined in this policy. Any investigation of the allegations in the formal complaint will resume/begin, and the formal grievance process will proceed from there.
A party may terminate the informal process at any time before the final written resolution is signed. If the parties reach a resolution, the facilitator will draft a document reflecting the agreement between the parties that becomes final once both parties sign it. This written and signed resolution indicates that the complaint has been resolved under this policy without requiring further investigation or pursuing the formal grievance and hearing process. After a written resolution has been finalized, the College will keep a record of the parties’ written consent to the Informal Resolution process and the written resolution for at least seven (7) years.
Where a formal complaint has been filed, and in the absence of an informal resolution, the College will appoint an investigator to investigate the allegations in the formal complaint.
The College may appoint any qualified investigator, who may be a person internal or external to the
College. The College also may appoint more than one investigator. The investigation is an impartial fact-finding process. Any investigator chosen to conduct the investigation must be impartial and free of any conflict of interest. The Complainant and Respondent will be provided with notice of the appointed investigator's name and an opportunity not more than three (3) business days after the notice to raise an objection to the investigator based on any alleged conflict of interest. If an objection is raised, the Title IX Coordinator will determine whether a conflict of interest exists and necessitates the replacement of the investigator.
The Complainant and Respondent will receive a Notice of Investigation referencing the violation(s) of this policy alleged to have been committed and the range of possible disciplinary sanctions and remedies following any determination of responsibility. The notice of investigation will also include, to the extent known:
In the course of the investigation, the College may decide to investigate allegations not included in the notice initially provided to the parties. In that case, the Title IX Coordinator or designee will notify the parties of the additional allegations.
The investigator(s) will investigate in a manner appropriate in light of the circumstances of the case and usually begins with an interview with the Complainant, relevant witnesses, and the Respondent. The interviews will be supplemented by gathering any physical, documentary, or other evidence. As part of the investigation, the College will provide an opportunity for the parties to present witnesses and other evidence. The investigation is designed to provide a fair and reliable gathering of the facts. The investigation must be thorough, impartial, and equitable, and all individuals will be treated with appropriate sensitivity and respect. As described in the Privacy and Confidentiality sections, the investigation will be conducted in a manner that is respectful of individual privacy concerns to the extent possible. The Complainant and Respondent will be provided with advance written notice of the date, time, location, participants, and purpose of any meeting or interview in which they are invited to or expected to participate. The Complainant and the Respondent will be given an equal opportunity to present information. This includes the opportunity to present facts or expert witnesses, and other evidence that the party believes tends to prove or disprove the allegations. However, at all times, the burden of gathering evidence remains with the College. The investigator may decline to interview any witness or to gather information the investigator finds to be not relevant or otherwise excludable (e.g., sexual history of the Complainant with a person other than the Respondent, materials subject to a recognized privilege, medical records in the absence of a release by the subject of the records, etc.). The investigator will determine the order and method of investigation.
The Complainant and Respondent may be accompanied by an advisor of their choice, who may be an attorney, and at their own expense, if the advisor is a paid advisor. The Complainant and Respondent are expected to speak for themselves, and advisors must not obstruct the process or otherwise be disruptive to the interview or meeting. The College does not appoint an advisor for a party during the investigation phase of the process but will highly recommend that the parties do identify an advisor or to have a Wells College appointed advisor. In addition, any unauthorized audio or video recording is prohibited during investigation meetings or interviews.
The Title IX Coordinator may determine that cases where the allegations arise out of the same facts, should be consolidated for the investigation and/or adjudication. Instances where complaints may be consolidated including but are not limited to cross-complaints filed by the parties against each other, multiple complaints by a single Complainant against a Respondent, or multiple complaints by a single Complainant against multiple Respondents.
Opportunity for Inspection and Review of Evidence:
The Complainant and Respondent will be provided an equal opportunity to inspect and review any evidence obtained in the investigation directly related to the allegations gathered in the investigation, regardless of whether the information will be relied on in reaching a determination. Prior to the conclusion of the investigative report, the Complainant and Respondent and each party’s advisor of choice, if any, will be provided a copy (which may be sent in hard copy or electronic format or made available through an electronic file sharing platform) of the evidence, some of which may be subject to redaction as required by law. The Complainant and Respondent will be provided with at least ten (10) calendar days to submit a written response, which the investigator will consider prior to completion of the investigative report. The investigator will determine if additional investigation is necessary and, if so, will complete any further investigative steps.
Evidence pertaining to Title IX is kept by the Title IX Coordinator for seven (7) years as required by law. All other evidence pertaining to other forms of sexual misconduct is required by law to be kept for five (5) years.
At the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator(s) will prepare a written report summarizing the investigation. The investigator(s) need not include information in the investigative report that the investigator determines is not relevant or otherwise excludable. The investigator will submit the investigative report to the Title IX Coordinator. At least ten (10) days prior to a hearing to determine whether there is responsibility for the allegations, the Complainant and Respondent and each party’s advisor, if any, will be provided a copy of the investigative report (which may be sent in hard copy or electronic format or made available through an electronic file sharing platform), subject to redaction as required by law.
The College will seek to complete the investigation within sixty (60) calendar days of receiving a formal complaint. Still, this time frame may be extended depending on the complexity of the circumstances of each case, College breaks, and availability of parties to participate, among other factors that may place the completion of the investigation outside of the timeframe.
The formal disciplinary procedures applied in a particular case may depend on whether the accused is a student, employee, or other campus community member. A report by anyone against a visitor, vendor, etc., will be investigated, but no formal hearing policy or procedure applies. The College may opt to ban them from College property or take other appropriate responsive measures.
A hearing before a three-member Hearing Panel designated by the Title IX Coordinator will be convened no less than ten business days after the parties have been provided access to the final investigative report. The purpose of a hearing is to determine whether the Respondent is found responsible or not for the charge(s). The Hearing Panel members may be members of the campus community or may be external to the College, as determined by the Title IX Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator designates the chair of the Hearing Panel from among the three-member Hearing Panel.
The Title IX Coordinator or designee will notify the parties in writing of the date, time, and location of the hearing, the names of the Hearing Panel members, and how to challenge participation by any Hearing Panel member for bias or conflict of interest. Bias or conflict of interest will be judged by an objective standard (whether a reasonable person would conclude the decisionmaker is biased).
Participants in the hearing will include the members of the Hearing Panel, the Complainant and the Respondent, their respective advisors, the investigator(s) who conducted the investigation, and witnesses (solely during their own testimony). Hearings are private. Observers or additional support personnel other than the parties’ advisors are not allowed unless the Title IX Coordinator deems it necessary for purposes such as an accommodation of a disability. Mobile phones and recording devices are not permitted by the parties or their advisors during the hearing. Hearings may be conducted with all parties physically present in the same location or, at the Title IX Coordinator’s discretion, any or all parties, witnesses, and other participants may appear at the live hearing virtually, with technology enabling the Hearing Panel and the parties to simultaneously see and hear any party or witness providing information or answering questions. If either party requests, the hearing will be conducted with the parties located in separate rooms using technology as described in the preceding sentence. The Title IX Coordinator may postpone the hearing for good cause and at their discretion. Good cause may include the unavailability of one or more participants due to unanticipated events or circumstances, the timing of academic breaks or holidays, or other extenuating circumstances.
All parties are notified prior to a hearing and at the beginning of the hearing that the hearing is recorded.
The Chair of the Hearing Panel organizes the presentation of information to be considered at the hearing. Generally, the hearing will proceed in the following order:
Generally, new evidence is not permissible to present during a hearing. All evidence previously made available to the parties for inspection and review prior to completion of the investigative report as described above will be made available at the hearing to give each party equal opportunity to refer to such evidence during the hearing, including for purposes of questioning. Absent extraordinary circumstances as determined by the Chair of the Hearing Panel, no party may seek to introduce at the hearing any evidence not previously made available, other than the investigative report itself and any responses to the investigative report submitted by the parties pursuant to the investigation.
The Chair of the Hearing Panel will address any concerns regarding the consideration of information prior to and/or during the hearing and may exclude irrelevant information. Subject to the terms of this policy, the Chair will have discretionary authority to determine all questions of procedure, to determine whether questions, evidence, or information will be accepted or considered, to call breaks or temporary adjournments, and/or to recall parties or witnesses for additional questions as the Chair deems necessary or appropriate. The Chair may impose additional ground rules that they deem necessary or appropriate for the orderly and efficient conduct of the hearing.
The Complainant and the Respondent may each have present with them during the hearing an advisor of their choice. The Complainant and/or Respondent may choose as an advisor an individual, who is or is not a member of the college community, including an attorney at the party’s own expense. If a party does not have an advisor present at the hearing, the College will provide, without fee or charge to that party, an Institution Advisor of the College’s choice. Except with respect to questioning as described below, the advisor’s role is limited to consulting with their advisee, and the advisor may not present evidence, object to any aspect of the proceeding, or disrupt the hearing in any way. Institution Advisors must receive training before advising a party during a hearing.
Any advisor’s consultation with their advisee while the hearing is in progress must be done in a quiet non-disruptive manner or in writing. The advisor may consult with the advisee verbally outside the hearing during breaks when the Chair of the Hearing Panel grants such breaks.
An advisor’s questioning of the other party and any witnesses must be conducted respectfully, be non-intimidating, and be non-abusive. If the Chair determines that an advisor is not adhering to these or other ground rules, the advisor may be required to leave the hearing, and the hearing will proceed without an opportunity for the party to obtain a replacement advisor; provided, however, that the College will assign an Institution Advisor of the College’s choosing, without charge, to conduct questioning on behalf of the party. Witnesses are not permitted to bring an advisor or other person to the hearing absent an approved disability or other accommodation deemed permissible by the Chair. The Hearing Panel may be advised by and/or consult with the College’s legal counsel as the Chair of the Hearing Panel deems necessary or appropriate.
The Hearing Panel will permit each party’s advisor to ask the other party and any witnesses all relevant questions and follow-up questions, including those challenging credibility. Questions that seek disclosure of information protected under a legally recognized privilege will not be permitted unless the person or entity holding the privilege has waived the privilege.
Questioning must be conducted by the party’s advisor in a respectful and non-abusive manner.
A party’s advisor may ask only relevant questions to a party or witness. Before the party or witness answers a question posed by an advisor, the Chair of the Hearing Panel will first determine whether the question is relevant and explain any decision to exclude a question as not relevant. Such decisions by the Chair are final and not subject to objection or reconsideration during the hearing.
Questions and evidence about the Complainant’s sexual predisposition or prior sexual behavior are not relevant, other than questions and evidence about the Complainant’s prior sexual behavior that (a) are offered to prove that someone other than the Respondent committed the alleged misconduct or (b) concern specific incidents of the Complainant’s prior sexual behavior with respect to the Respondent and are offered to prove consent.
Following the conclusion of the hearing, the Hearing Panel will deliberate and render a determination by majority vote as to whether the Respondent is responsible or not responsible for the alleged violation(s). The Hearing Panel will use “preponderance of the evidence” as the standard of proof to determine whether each alleged policy violation occurred. “Preponderance of the evidence” means that the Hearing Panel must determine whether, based on the evidence presented, the Respondent is more likely than not to have engaged in the conduct charged.
If, after the conclusion of the Hearing Panel’s deliberation, the Respondent is found responsible for one or more charges, the following are the sanctions that may be imposed:
Determining Sanction(s) and Submitting Impact Statements:
If, after the conclusion of the Hearing Panel’s deliberation, the Respondent is found responsible for one or more charges, both parties will be permitted to compose and send an impact statement to the Title IX Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator will provide the Hearing Panel with the statements. The Hearing Panel will consider the impact statements, among other factors, in determining sanction(s).
Impact Statements should not contain argumentative information or discussion of the facts of the final investigative report. Additionally, they are not to reiterate or wage accusations against the other party. Impact statements are meant to be a reflection on the experience or impact of experiencing sexual misconduct, being accused of committing sexual misconduct, and going through the investigation and adjudication process.
Other factors considered when determining sanctions include but are not limited by:
Timeframe for Deliberation, Outcome, and Determining Sanctions:
Hearing panels should complete their deliberation and determination of sanctions within ten (10) business days of the conclusion of the hearing.
Sanctions include but are not limited to the following:
Transcript Notation: For those crimes of violence that Wells College is required by federal law to include in its Annual Security Report, the transcripts of students found responsible after an investigation and appeal, if any, shall include the following notation:
Transcript notations for suspensions may be removed at the discretion of the College, but no earlier than one (1) year after the conclusion of the suspension. Transcript notations for expulsion will not be removed.
The transcript of any Respondent who withdraws from the College while such conduct charges are pending, and declines to complete the disciplinary process, will include the notation: “Withdrew with conduct charges pending.”
Notice of Outcome:
The Complainant and Respondent will be notified simultaneously and in writing of the factual findings supporting the determination, the decision as to responsibility, and the sanction(s), if any, as well as a rationale for the decision and sanction(s). The Hearing Panel will issue a written determination including the following information:
A Complainant or Respondent may appeal: (1) a determination regarding responsibility and (2) the College’s dismissal of a formal complaint or any allegations therein.
A party who wishes to appeal a determination regarding responsibility or the dismissal of a formal complaint must submit a written notice to the Title IX Coordinator of the party’s intent to appeal within five (5) business days of receiving the written notification of the appealable decision. The appeal shall consist of a plain, concise, and complete written statement outlining the grounds for appeal and all relevant information to substantiate the basis for the appeal. A Complainant or Respondent may appeal the outcome of the Hearing on the following grounds:
In addition to the four bases for appeal, the College reserves the right to add additional bases for appeal that will be available equally to both parties. Any additional bases of appeal that are added will not be applied retroactively to previous determinations and dismissals.
Appeals involving a student Respondent will be submitted to a three-member hearing panel. Appeals involving a faculty or staff Respondent will be submitted to a single appeal officer. The Title IX Coordinator will designate the appeal panel/appeal officer. In the event of an appeal, the panel/appeal officer may:
When a party submits a written notice of its intent to appeal to the Title IX Coordinator within five business days of the appealable decision, the College will notify the other party in writing and implement appeal procedures equally for both parties. Sanctions imposed by the Hearing Panel are implemented immediately unless the Title IX coordinator stays implementation in extraordinary circumstances, pending the outcome of the appeal. Suppose no written notice of either party’s intent to appeal is submitted. In that case, the written determination becomes final after the time period to file an appeal (five business days) has expired.
During an appeal, each party will be given a reasonable, equal opportunity to submit a written statement in support of, or challenging, the ground(s) for appeal. Each party will have at least three business days to submit its written statement. If a party needs additional time, it can request such additional time from the decisionmaker for the appeal. Such requests will be granted on a case-by-case basis. If the decisionmaker for the appeal grants a request for additional time to submit a written statement, all parties will be granted the additional time. In any request for an appeal, the burden of proof lies with the party requesting the appeal, as the original determination and sanction are presumed to have been decided reasonably and appropriately. Appeals are not intended to be a full reinvestigation of the complaint. Appeals are generally confined to a review of the written documentation collected in the investigation and pertinent documentation regarding the grounds for appeal.
The decision maker for the appeal will not be the same individuals that reached the determination regarding responsibility or dismissal, including the investigator(s), the Title IX Coordinator, advisors, and the Hearing Panel members
The decision maker for the appeal will issue a written decision describing the result of the appeal and the rationale for the result. This decision will be provided to both parties simultaneously and in writing. Once the appeal decision has been sent to the parties, the appeal decision is final.