As an option to resolve a complaint of discrimination or harassment under Title IX, the parties may request to attempt Informal Resolution (“IR”). IR is a voluntary resolution process that may be pursued after the filing of a formal complaint that uses alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, such as mediation, facilitated dialogue, alternative resolution, or administrative resolution.
- Both Complainant and Respondent must agree to pursue IR, and this agreement must be voluntary, informed, and in writing. (Request Informal Resolution).
- Neither Complainant and Respondent are required to engage in IR as a condition of enrollment or continuing enrollment or enjoyment of any other right.
- At any time prior to the completion of the IR process, the Complainant and/or Respondent may choose to withdraw from IR, and the complaint will/may be addressed through investigation and the formal resolution process per the applicable policy.
- IR is never available to resolve allegations that an employee sexually harassed a student.
- The Complainant and/or Respondent may have an advisor of their choice attend any meetings as part of the IR as a support person. The parties, however, are responsible for presenting their own information, and advisors are not permitted to cross-examine or question any party or to participate directly in the IR process.
- The content of discussions held as part of the IR process will be kept as confidential and cannot be introduced as evidence in any Formal Resolution process should IR be unsuccessful.
- The decision by the Complainant or Respondent to participate, refuse to participate, or request to end IR and return to the investigation or resolve the complaint using the formal resolution process will not be a factor in any determination made by the decision-maker(s) as to whether a policy violation occurred.
The Complainant and/or Respondent may request a specific form of IR by submitting the online form or alerting the Title IX Coordinator. Once a request has been received, the request will be shared to the other party, who may choose to move forward with IR or decline to do so. Both parties must consent to IR by submitting the online form prior to any attempts at IR.
Parties may attempt more than one form of IR. For example, if an attempt is made to participate in facilitated dialogue but the results are not satisfactory to both parties, the Complainant or Respondent may request a transition to Formal Mediation. If both parties agree, an attempt at Formal Mediation will be made.
Once IR has been finalized, the terms of the agreement are binding on both parties, and failure to abide by the terms of the resolution may be referred to the appropriate University process for review and possible application of corrective action or sanction(s).
Types of Informal Resolution
This form of IR is most appropriate when both parties are comfortable with direct interaction and management of the discussion but prefer the presence of a neutral third party. The process typically begins with a brief conversation between the facilitator and each party to allow for an assessment of the situation. Once these conversations have occurred, the facilitator then schedules a meeting with the parties together.
During this meeting, the Complainant and Respondent participate in a facilitated discussion with the purpose being to develop a shared agreement regarding how to correct the harm perceived or realized by the Complainant. The Complainant and Respondent work together to develop an agreement that resolves the issue and repair relationships that were damaged by the conduct. The neutral facilitator acts as a buffer should emotions run high or the parties need assistance in maintaining focus on the primary issue(s). The facilitator may suggest breaks or interject comments/questions designed to redirect dialogue in a productive manner.
This form of IR is most appropriate when the parties are unlikely to reach a solution without support. Mediation involves a neutral mediator who seeks to improve the parties’ relationship through assisting them in understanding one another, introducing possible solutions to the problem, and making suggestions for improved communication.
- Step 1: Mediator schedules private meetings with each party individually; guidelines for mediation will be presented to both parties.
- Step 2: Mediator assesses appropriateness of mediation as a conflict resolution technique, and if appropriate schedules a joint meeting with all parties.
- Step 3: Meeting is held to allow parties to share their views with one another without interruption, followed by an interactive mediator-guided discussion to determine a resolution, if possible.
- Step 4: If resolution is reached between the parties, each party will review and sign a binding resolution agreement, which will outline terms of the resolution and expectations of the parties moving forward.
Alternative options to facilitated dialogue and formal mediation include the following:
- Shuttle Diplomacy – The crafting of an agreement that does not require the Complainant and Respondent to participate in an in-person meeting with one another. A member of the Title IX Team will work with the parties individually to create an agreement that satisfies both parties.
- Acceptance of Responsibility – The Respondent can choose to take responsibility for the alleged policy violation(s). When this path is chosen, the Title IX Coordinator and Vice President of Student Affairs/DOS works directly with the Respondent to determine corrective action(s) and/or sanctions. Both Complainant and Respondent must agree to this form of IR, and the parties must also agree to the planned corrective action/sanctions prior to the conclusion of IR.
- Voluntary Permanent Separation – The Respondent can choose to voluntarily separate from the University. If this IR is accepted by the Title IX Office, the Respondent must sign a Voluntary Permanent Separation and General Release Agreement to terminate the complaint resolution process.
- Administrative Resolution –
In an Administrative Resolution, the decision-maker will meet separately with the Complainant and Respondent to discuss the allegations, both parties may have an Advisor present for these meetings. The Respondent and Complainant may provide a list of questions for the decision-maker to ask the other party. If those questions are considered appropriate and relevant by the decision-maker, they may be asked on behalf of the requesting party; answers to such questions will be shared with the requesting party.
The decision-maker will also consider the evidence provided by the investigator, including the Investigative Report and Exhibits. Once the decision-maker has deliberated, they will make a determination as to whether the Respondent has violated the University policy. Once issued, this determination is binding on both parties.
Prior to this option being chosen by the Complainant and Respondent, both parties must acknowledge that by choosing to pursue an Administrative Resolution, they are waiving their rights to a Formal Resolution by a Hearing Panel unless they choose to end the IR process prior to the determination being issued by the decision-maker.
The decision maker’s determination will be based on “preponderance” standard of evidence. Ultimately, a decision-maker is balancing probabilities, or determining whether it was more likely than not that the alleged conduct occurred. This standard of evidence is known as a “preponderance” and only requires that one party is able to support their position with evidence credible testimony “a feather” more than the other. A way to think about the preponderance standard is to picture two people are holding shopping bags that exactly equal in weight, and this would be like each party’s supporting evidence and testimony being contained separately in one of the bags. At this point, the parties are balanced at a 50/50 probability. then, as part of your meeting with the decision-maker, you are asked a question that was submitted by the other party. The information provided in the response is relevant but only slightly important to the determination, contributing no more weight to one party’s bag than a feather. However, once the information is added, the balance shifts and the bags are no longer equal. The decision-maker bases his/her determination on this shift, which was caused by one piece of evidence or testimony that weighed just a feather but tipped the finding to “more likely than not” in favor of one party over the other.
The decision-maker has the discretion to determine the relevance of any witness or documentary evidence and may exclude information that is irrelevant, immaterial, cumulative, or more prejudicial than informative.
Possible Sanctions -- The sanction of expulsion is not available under an Administrative Resolution. Further, any suspension of a student will not exceed two (2) years.