Stephen F. Austin State University

Investigation Overview

Investigation Overview

SFA is committed to creating an environment free of all forms of gender discrimination. The university may initiate an investigation regardless of the manner in which a report is received; however, a detailed written complaint may enhance the investigation. To begin the investigation process, the reporting party (complainant) should submit a signed, written statement setting out the details of the conduct that is the subject of the complaint. Reports can be submitted electronically through the online Sexual Misconduct Reporting From. The complainant should include as much information as possible regarding the identity of the person directly responsible for the alleged violation; a detailed description of the conduct or event that is the basis of the alleged violation (e.g., date(s) and location(s) of the occurrence(s); the names of any witnesses to the occurrence(s); the resolution sought; and any documents or information relevant to the complaint. The Title IX Coordinator or designee can assist in this process. If the complaint is not in writing, the investigator will prepare a statement of what he or she understands the complaint to be after the initial interview and ask the complainant to verify that statement.

Complete details regarding the reporting and investigation process can be found in the Sexual Misconduct policy (2.13). Should you have any questions about your rights and responsibilities under this policy, you may contact the Title IX Coordinator.

Interim Measures

At the time the formal complaint is submitted, the need for interim measures will be determined to assure the safety and well-being of the complainant and members of the campus community in order to maintain an environment free from harassment, discrimination or retaliation. Retaliation is any adverse action threatened or taken against someone because the individual has filed, supported, provided information in connection with a complaint of sexual misconduct, or engaged in other legally protected activities. Retaliation includes, but is not limited to, intimidation, threats or harassment against any complainant, witness or third party.

Investigation

Once the complaint is received, an investigator will be assigned to investigate the complaint. As part of the investigation process, the complainant and the respondent will be provided notice of the complaint and be allowed five (5) business days to respond in writing and may include any document or information believed to be relevant to the complaint. During the investigation process, a complainant or respondent may be assisted by a confidential adviser of their choosing: however, the adviser may not actively represent the complainant or respondent in any meeting or interview. Failure to abide by this policy may result in the adviser being dismissed from the meeting or interview.

Persons thought to have information relevant to the complaint will be interviewed, and those interviews will be appropriately documented. Both the respondent and the complainant may recommend witnesses for interview and suggest questions that should be asked. In an effort to encourage reporting of sexual misconduct, the university may grant immunity from disciplinary action to a person who voluntarily initiates a report of sexual misconduct or assists a complainant, if that person acts in good faith in reporting a complaint or participating in an investigation.

After the investigation is complete, a written report will be issued to the Title IX Coordinator. Both the complainant and respondent will be allowed to inspect the report or, at the university's discretion, provided letters summarizing the findings in the report (in keeping with FERPA and Texas Education Code, Section 51.971 to the extent applicable). The complainant and respondent will have five (5) business days from the date the report/letter is issued via email to each party to submit written appeal regarding the investigation to the Title IX Coordinator.

Appeal of Findings

Appeals should be in writing and must include: the appealing party's name, university identification number (if applicable), and the grounds for the appeal. An appeal is not intended to re-hear or re-argue the matter and is limited to the following grounds:

(a) Substantive procedural error that resulted in preventing a fair, impartial, or proper investigation. Deviations from the designated procedures will not be a basis for sustaining an appeal unless material harm or prejudice results;

(b) Discovery of substantial new evidence that was unavailable at the time of the investigation, and which reasonably could have affected the findings of the investigator; and/or

(c) Finding(s) not supported by the evidence

Appeals can be submitted by electronically through the appeal of investigation findings form or email to TitleIX@sfasu.edu. If an appeal is filed by one party, the other party will have two (2) business days to file a response to the appeal.

Appeals will be reviewed within seven (7) business days after being received. The Title IX coordinator will submit all appeal materials to an appeal panel consisting of three (3) members from a pool of trained individuals, typically deputy Title IX coordinators or investigators not affiliated with the matter. The appeal panel may:

(a) Affirm or uphold the determination

(b) Request further investigation into the complaint; or

(c) Take such other action as may be warranted under the circumstances

The complainant and the respondent shall be informed concurrently in writing of the decision. Preponderance of the evidence is the standard for determining allegations of sexual misconduct under this policy. This standard is satisfied if the action is deemed more likely to have occurred than not.

When a determination that the policy was violated is made, the matter will be referred to the appropriate administrator who will impose disciplinary action or sanction(s) in accordance with the applicable policies and procedures dependent on the status of the respondent (i.e., student, faculty or employee). A determination of sanctioning will be determined and forwarded to both the complainant and respondent by the Title IX Coordinator on behalf of the sanctioning authority.

Timeline

The investigation of a complaint will be concluded as soon as possible after receipt of the written complaint. Barring any unforeseen and reasonable delays, the university will endeavor to resolve complaints under this policy no later than 60 calendar days after the initial report was received. The university will not wait for the outcome of a concurrent criminal or civil justice proceeding to take action on policy violations. The university has an independent duty to investigate complaints of sexual misconduct. However, at the request of law enforcement, the university may defer its fact-gathering until after the initial stages of a criminal investigation. If an investigation exceeds 60 calendar days, a justification for the delay will be provided to all parties.

Confidentiality

The university has great respect for the privacy of the parties in a complaint. The review of sexual misconduct complaints, including formal investigation, will be conducted confidentially to the extent permitted by law, except insofar as information needs to be disclosed so that the university may effectively investigate the matter or take corrective action. Responsible Employees who receive a report of sexual misconduct must share that information with the Title IX Coordinator and/or a Deputy Coordinator. Those individuals may need to act to maintain campus safety and must determine whether to investigate further under Title IX, regardless of the complainant's request for confidentiality.

Retaliation Prohibited

Persons who complain about sexual misconduct, or who cooperate in the university's investigation and handling of sexual misconduct reports or complaints, shall not be subject to retaliation for complaining or cooperating, even if the university finds that no sexual harassment occurred. If a complainant or witness believes that she or he is being subjected to retaliation, she or he should promptly contact the Title IX Coordinator.

Cooperation During Investigation

Members of the university community are expected to cooperate in the university's investigations of alleged sexual harassment. If cooperation does not occur, the investigation will generally proceed based on the information available.

False Complaints

Any member of the university community who knowingly files a false complaint of sexual misconduct, or who knowingly provides false information to or intentionally misleads university officials who are investigating or reviewing a complaint of alleged sexual misconduct, is subject to disciplinary action up to and including discharge for employees and dismissal for students.