The University is committed to providing members of the university community a safe place to live and learn. Because of this commitment, the university will respond with procedures that provide a fair, prompt and impartial resolution to reports of sexual misconduct that occur on or off our campus.
Because of the unique nature of sexual harassment complaints and the university's requirements to resolve them in a manner consistent with Title IX, the resolution process for sexual misconduct cases is related to but distinct from the university's student code of conduct. Sexual misconduct is a violation of the university's student code of conduct. The manner in which such cases are investigated and resolved differ from cases of a non-sexual nature that are resolved through the student code of conduct.
The University's Title IX Central Review Team (hereafter CRT), comprised of the Title IX Coordinator, the Director of Public Safety and the Deputy Title IX Coordinator/Chief Student Conduct Officer is the body primarily charged with ensuring that all reports of sexual misconduct are evaluated in a fair, prompt and impartial manner.
For the purpose of this policy, an investigation is a fact-finding and decision making process to determine: 1) whether or not the conduct occurred and was in violation of the policy; and 2) if the conduct did violate the policy, what actions will be taken to end the behavior, eliminate the hostile environment and prevent its occurrence, which may include imposing sanctions on the perpetrator and providing remedies for the victim and the broader campus community.
Initial evaluation and response
Any formal report will result in an initial assessment of any risk of harm to individuals or to the campus community and any steps necessary to address those risks. The initial evaluation will proceed to the point where a reasonable assessment of the safety of the individual and of the campus community can be made. Thereafter, an investigation may continue depending on a variety of factors, such as the request of the Complainant not to proceed and the risk posed to the any individual or the campus community by not proceeding.
Complainant confidentiality and university action
When a formal report comes forward, but the complainant wishes or requests to remain anonymous, or requests that the matter not be pursued, the university will balance and evaluate this request against the responsibility to provide a safe and non-discriminatory environment for all university community members, considering factors such as: 1) the seriousness of the alleged harassment; 2) the respective ages and positions of the complainant and the respondent; 3) whether there have been other harassment complaints against the respondent; and 4) the respondent's right to receive information if such information is maintained in an "education record" under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C. §1232g; 34 C.F.R. Part 99.
At all times, the University will seek to respect the request of the complainant, and where it cannot the university will consult with the complainant and keep him/her informed about the planned course of action.
Delaware Valley University employs a two-step process for resolving student-to-student sexual misconduct complaints. The resolution process combines the expertise of individuals who by position and training are best suited to assume this responsibility for the university, maximizes the privacy of those involved in the complaint, and maintains the engagement of the University's Student Conduct Board, the body generally charged with resolving student conduct that violates university policy.
While each case is unique, steps of the investigation process generally include: 1) preliminary interview of the complainant by the CRT; 2) collection of additional information relevant to the report which may include but is not limited to, interviewing the respondent and any other individuals who may have relevant information, and gathering any physical or medical evidence available. An investigation may also include consideration of prior allegations of, or findings of responsibility for, sexual harassment or misconduct by the respondent. Evidence of a prior consensual dating relationship or sexual relationship between the parties by itself does not imply consent or preclude a finding of sexual misconduct
Information gathered during the investigation will be used to evaluate the appropriate course of action, provide for the safety of the individual and the university campus community, and impose remedies as necessary to address the effects of the alleged conduct. The report and recommendations (redacted of personally identifiable information) prepared by the CRT is presented to a hearing panel from the Student Conduct Board for review and ratification in finalizing a determination of responsibility under this policy.
The CRT's report and recommendation, with personally identifiable information redacted, is forwarded to a Conduct Board panel, comprised of one member of the faculty, one student, and one member of the staff, for review and ratification. A member of the CRT represents the findings and recommendation of that group to the board.
What follows are specific procedural issues and protections relevant to the investigation under this section of the Sexual Misconduct Policy.
Rights of the complainants and respondents
Students participating in a Sexual Misconduct Policy investigation are afforded the same rights of fundamental fairness which are part of the University's Student Conduct process and include:
- The right to have appropriate notice of concerns about specific behavior
- The opportunity to be assisted by an advisor of their choice
- The opportunity to respond to the concern
- The opportunity to appeal the initial hearing outcome if grounds for appeal are met
- The right to present witnesses in support of or response to matters of fact
Additional rights for all parties relevant to a Sexual Miscondcut Policy investigation include:
- Simultaneous written notice of the outcome of an investigation
- Right to be informed of options for counseling and support
- An investigation panel that is trained for the task and that has no prior relationship with either party that would render them impartial
Additional rights for complainants:
- Right to be informed of options to notify law enforcement
- Right to be notified of options for changing academic or living situation, or other remedies
An investigation will be conducted promptly and come to conclusion within 60 days, although this time frame may be extended as necessary to achieve thorough and reliable gathering of the relevant facts. Throughout the investigation, the university will make a commitment to regular and timely communication with complainant and respondent on the progress of the investigation.
The University reserves the right to reasonably adapt the time frames or processes described in this policy in light of the nature of the complaint and the time of year during which it was received, to ensure a full and fair investigation and resolution, or due to other similar significant factors.
Standard of proof
Consistent with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights requirements, Delaware Valley University uses the standard of "preponderance of the evidence" to determine a student's responsibility for violations of our policies. This means that the Central Review Team will decide whether it is "more likely than not," that the behavior occurredand violated the policy, based upon the information provided through the course of the investigation.
Role of the advisor
An advisor is an individual who may assist a student in preparing for the investigation and who may accompany the party that he or she is assisting to the meeting(s) with the Central Review Team. Advisors are not advocates for the party they are assisting and their role is not to speak on behalf of a complainant or respondent during any meetings.
Students participating in a Sexual Miscondcut Policy investigation are entitled to be assisted by an advisor of their choice during the process.
Students who intend to bring a practicing attorney as their advisor of choice are required to provide the CRT with notice of this intent in advance of any meeting(s). This will allow the CRT to inform other parties involved and to encourage all parties (including the University) to be assisted by the presence of such an advisor.
All parties in a hearing have the right to request that the CRT meet with witnesses who may have information that goes to the determination of facts in a case. Because all parties have the right to understand what information may be presented in a Sexual Miscondcut Policy investigation, the names of any witnesses must be submitted to the Title IX Coordinator in advance of a meeting. Such communication should include: 1) The names of any witnesses that either party wishes the CRT to meet with; 2) a written statement and/or description of what each witness observed, if not already provided during investigation; or 3) a summary of why the information the witness has is relevant to making a determination of responsibility in the investigatory process.
The CRT will determine if the witnesses identified for inclusion have information relevant to the finding of facts in the case. Witnesses must have direct, credible information about the specific allegation. Generally speaking, personnel who respond to and are involved with any aspect of a complaint of sexual misconduct will not be permitted as witnesses, nor will confidential support providers (counseling/health services) for either party. Students may always introduce information about their own health or counseling records into the investigation process.
Training of investigative personnel
Members of the CRT have been identified for inclusion in that role by virtue of their positions and training. The CRT meets regularly to continually explore current issues related to prevention and response to sexual misconduct on university campuses, and to review emerging compliance mandates and guidelines.
The members of the CRT, chaired by the Title IX coordinator, provide training to other participants in the student conduct process on issues of non-discrimination, sexual harassment and misconduct, intimate partner violence, dynamics of gender violence, and the proper resolution of allegations under this policy. Ongoing training for the CRT and Conduct Board also includes, but it not limited to, burden of proof, standard of proof, questioning parties and witnesses, assessing credibility and relevance of information, evaluating consent, determining incapacitation, victim/offender behavior, and sanctioning.
Records and confidentiality
The report of the CRT is maintained with the Title IX Coordinator as a Sexual MIsconduct Policy case file.
A copy of the outcome report will also become a part of the student's conduct file maintained in the Dean of Students office for reviewing any subsequent behavioral violations and determining sanctions of same.
Student records are maintained for a period of three years after a student graduates or terminates from the university with the exception of records associated with a recommendation of suspension or expulsion which are maintained indefinitely.
Sexual Misconduct Policy case files constitute "educational records" under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and are subject to its release and confidentiality provisions.
No information shall be released from such proceedings except as required or permitted by law and University policy.
Generally, the policy at Delaware Valley University is to obtain consent from a student before releasing information from a student's education record to parents. When in the judgment of the University a release of information to parents is appropriate for health and safety, and when such release is not in violation of FERPA or other applicable privacy laws, the university reserves the right to notify parents.
Students have a right to request a copy of their educational records and may do so through a written request to the Dean of Students.
In situations where a victim chooses to pursue action through local law enforcement, the University will cooperate with the sharing of all information and records.
Notice of outcome
The outcome of an investigation will be communicated simultaneously to the respondent and the complainant. Generally, the outcome of the hearing will be final and communicated to the parties within five (5) business days from the date the investigation is concluded and will be provided in writing. Any changes as may occur through an appeals process will be similarly communicated to the respondent and complainant.