Grievance Procedures for the Resolution of Sexual Harassment and Other Sexual Misconduct Complaints
Grievance Procedures for the Resolution of Sexual Harassment and Other Sexual Misconduct Complaints
These Procedures set forth Towson University’s (“University” or “TU”) administrative response to allegations or occurrences of Sexual Harassment and Other Sexual Misconduct under TU Policy 06-01.60- Policy on Sexual Harassment and Other Sexual Misconduct (the “Policy”). Please refer to the Policy for all definitions, which are explicitly incorporated herein by reference.
These Procedures provide for participation by both the Reporting Party (the person alleged to be the victim of conduct prohibited by the Policy) and Responding Party (the individual alleged to have engaged in conduct prohibited by the Policy) to any incident of alleged Sexual Harassment or Other Sexual Misconduct (“OSM”) and also recognize their right to decline to participate in that process, including, without limitation, an Investigation. In the event of a conflict between these Procedures and the Policy, the Policy shall govern.
Information about University programs that can identify resources for victims as well as promote awareness and prevention of Sexual Harassment or OSM are available at www.towson.edu/TitleIX.
The University must receive notice to respond effectively and prevent Sexual Harassment or OSM in the University community. Any person, including, but not limited to, the Reporting Party (the person alleged to be the victim of conduct that could constitute Sexual Harassment or OSM), may inform the University of allegations of Sexual Harassment or OSM against a Student, Staff member, Faculty member, or Third Party in the following ways:
As described above, reports of Sexual Harassment or OSM may be submitted online, verbally or in writing at any time (including during non-business hours) by using the telephone number or electronic mail address, or by mail to the office address, listed for the Title IX Coordinator. No particular method or format is required. A report should include as much pertinent information as possible (e.g., the time and place of the incident, a complete description of what occurred, the identity or a description of the Responding Party (if known), the names of potential witnesses (if known), etc.). Sexual Harassment and OSM may also be reported anonymously. Such anonymous reporting, however, may limit the University’s ability to address the alleged Policy violation, to prevent it reoccurrence or to reduce its effects.
Upon receipt of any report of Sexual Harassment or OSM, the Title IX Coordinator will make an immediate assessment of the risk of harm to the parties or to the University community and will take steps necessary to address any risks. These steps may include working with other campus offices to facilitate Supportive Measures designed to promote the safety of the parties and the University community.
The University recognizes that while Responsible Employees have a duty to report Title IX violations, a Reporting Party’s decision whether to report Sexual Harassment or OSM and participate in an Investigation is a personal decision that may evolve over time. While prompt reporting is strongly encouraged, there is no time limit for reporting Sexual Harassment or OSM. The Title IX Coordinator will coordinate with appropriate University departments and offices to provide support and assistance to each Reporting Party in making important decisions related to reports of Sexual Harassment or OSM.
Consistent with the goal of safety for all community members, the University works to respect a Reporting Party’s autonomy in making their own personal decisions after reporting Sexual Harassment or OSM. While a complaint of Sexual Harassment or OSM may be filed at any time; delay in reporting may limit the ability of OIIE to comprehensively investigate a complaint of Sexual Harassment or OSM.
The University encourages those in an emergency situation, including when they have experienced or witnessed Criminal Sexual Misconduct, to call 911. A person who has experienced or witnessed Criminal Sexual Misconduct may also choose to make a report to the University to pursue resolution under these Procedures or make a report. Contact Towson University Police (“TUPD”) at (410) 704-4444 or other local law enforcement.
In appropriate circumstances, the Title IX Coordinator can assist someone with the notification process. A Reporting Party/person who reports to law enforcement is strongly encouraged to also report to the University/Title IX Coordinator. This allows the University to pursue appropriate and timely action. Please do not assume that law enforcement will necessarily notify University officials. Reporting to police and/or pursing criminal charges are separate and distinct processes. The University’s process is not a law enforcement proceeding or civil or criminal legal proceeding.
As described in the Policy, a Confidential Employee is (1) any employee who is a licensed medical, clinical, or mental-health professional (i.e., physicians, nurses, physicians’ assistants, psychologists, psychiatrists, professional counselors, and social workers (and those performing services under their supervision) (“Health Care Providers”)) or pastoral care providers acting in their professional role in the provision of services; (2) any employee providing administrative, operational and/or related support for such Health Care Providers in their performance of such services or providing individual intake, advocacy, and referrals to clinical and counseling services; and (3) any individual acting in an approved confidential role as so designated by the Title IX Coordinator. Confidential Employees are not required to report any information regarding an incident of Sexual Harassment or OSM to the Title IX Coordinator.
Confidential Employees should inform Reporting Parties of their right to file a report or complaint with the University and/or a separate complaint with campus or local law enforcement. They typically identify campus resources for counseling, medical, or professional support. Confidential Employees may assist with filing such reports or complaints. They can also explain that the Policy protects against retaliation and the University works to respond appropriately to it and prevent its recurrence.
Upon receipt of a report of Sexual Harassment or OSM, OIIE will ensure that the Reporting Party is provided with a copy of the Policy, informed of their rights and responsibilities, and given the opportunity to participate in an Intake Meeting with the Title IX Coordinator to discuss available options and resources. The Title IX Coordinator will promptly contact the Reporting Party to discuss the availability of Supportive Measures, consider the Reporting Party’s wishes with respect to Supportive Measures, inform the Reporting Party of the availability of Supportive Measures with or without the filing of a Formal Complaint, and explain to the Reporting Party the process for filing a Formal Complaint.
During the Intake Meeting, the Title IX Coordinator will provide information about the Policy and these Procedures. The Title IX Coordinator will also review the Reporting Party’s rights and responsibilities associated with the process, including:
Based on the available information, the Title IX Coordinator will assess the Reporting Party’s immediate safety and well-being and make appropriate referrals (e.g., to medical care, mental health counseling, etc.). The Reporting Party will receive information about community and campus resources and services. Supportive Measures that are appropriate can be discussed and arranged. They will also have an opportunity to ask questions and seek additional information.
While the University cannot force a Reporting Party to meet with the Title IX Coordinator for an Intake Meeting, such a meeting enables the University to conduct a thorough Initial Review, described above, of the report/complaint and take appropriate action. Where a student does not wish to meet with the Title IX Coordinator the University will proceed with assessing the report and determining whether additional action is necessary regardless of participation from the Reporting Party.
A Reporting Party may request that their name or other information be kept private and not disclosed to alleged perpetrators or that no Formal Complaint or disciplinary action be pursued to address the Sexual Harassment or OSM. The University evaluates such requests for privacy in light of its responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment.
While Anonymous Complaints are considered and the University respects privacy considerations, there are situations in which the University must override a request for privacy in order to meet its obligations. The University also must necessarily weigh the safety of the University Community and other factors, as noted above, in determining whether to proceed with an Investigation.
The University will maintain a confidential record of reports of Sexual Harassment or OSM and related evidence, documents, records, and information pertaining to the investigation and resolution of the complaints. The records will be maintained in accordance with applicable policies, procedures and legal requirements. Records may be subpoenaed by law enforcement authorities as part of a parallel investigation into the same conduct, or required to be produced through other compulsory legal process.
The University’s ability to fully investigate and respond to a complaint may be limited if the Reporting Party requests that their name not be disclosed to the Responding Party or declines to participate in the grievance process. If a Reporting Party requests their name or other identifiable information not be disclosed and/or that no further action be taken, the Title IX Coordinator will seek to honor such requests, balancing the Reporting Party’s wishes for privacy with the University’s obligation to provide a safe and non-discriminatory environment for all members of the University community.
Upon receiving a report of Sexual Harassment or OSM, the Title IX Coordinator may impose Supportive Measures to protect the University Community. After an initial report of Sexual Harassment or OSM, OIIE shall, as appropriate, offer and implement reasonable Supportive Measures to all parties. Supportive Measures are reasonable actions offered on a case-by-case basis designed to support and meet the needs of the individuals involved relative to the specific allegations of Sexual Harassment or OSM in order to ensure their safety so that they may continue to access their education and/or workplace. Supportive Measures may be provided even if a Reporting Party does not ultimately file a Formal Complaint resulting in an Investigation.
If a Reporting Party does not file a Formal Complaint and Supportive Measures are instituted, the time period during which the Supportive Measures are provided shall be determined on a case-by-case basis within the discretion of OIIE.
The University applies Supportive Measures as appropriate to ensure an individual’s safety and well- being, as well as their ability to participate in campus academic and employment activities. Supportive Measures are not intended to be punitive nor are they intended to be permanent resolutions.
The Title IX Coordinator manages and oversees the provision of Supportive Measures on behalf of the University. The University will take appropriate, responsive, and prompt action to enforce Supportive Measures and to respond to any reports about the inadequacy or failure of another University community member to abide by the Supportive Measures. Supportive Measures may be withdrawn or amended by the Title IX Coordinator.
Possible Supportive Measures may include actions from the following list, which is not intended to be exhaustive or limit the options available in a given case:
After an individualized safety and risk analysis, a Staff or Faculty Responding Party may be placed on an Administrative Leave or may be restricted from University Property (Denial of Access) as Supportive Measure where the Responding Party poses an immediate threat to the physical health or safety of the Reporting Party (or any other individual) prior to the conclusion of a grievance process (or even where no grievance process is pending). In such cases, the Responding Party will receive notice and an opportunity to challenge the decision. An “Administrative Leave” is defined consistent with applicable University policies and procedures outlining disciplinary actions against staff and faculty.
In cases involving an allegation of Sexual Harassment or OSM against a staff or faculty member, Administrative Leave may be initiated by the Vice President of Human Resources, Provost, or a designee, in consultation with the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel and the Title IX Coordinator.
After an individualized safety and risk assessment, a student Responding Party may be placed on an Emergency Suspension or otherwise restricted from University Property as an Supportive Measure where the Responding Party poses an immediate threat to the physical health or safety of the Reporting Party (or any other individual) prior to the conclusion of a grievance process (or even where no grievance process is pending). In such cases, the Responding Party will receive notice and an opportunity to challenge the decision. An Emergency Suspension may also be referred to as an “Interim Suspension.” For the purposes of these Student Procedures, “Emergency Suspension” is defined consistent with the Code of Student Conduct.
In order for the University to investigate allegations of Sexual Harassment or OSM, a Reporting Party must file a Formal Complaint. A Formal Complaint is a document filed by the Reporting Party with OIIE or signed by the Title IX Coordinator alleging Sexual Harassment or OSM against a Responding Party and requesting that the University investigate the allegation of Sexual Harassment or OSM. At the time of filing a Formal Complaint, a Reporting Party must be participating in or attempting to participate in an education program or activity of the University for purposes of Title IX jurisdiction. A “document filed by the Reporting Party” means a document or electronic submission that contains the Reporting Party’s physical or digital signature, or otherwise indicates that the Reporting Party is the person filing the Formal Complaint. A Reporting Party may withdraw a Formal Complaint at any time by notifying the Title IX Coordinator in writing of the Reporting Party’s desire to do so.
When appropriate, in consideration of the safety and wellbeing of the campus community, the University, through the OIIE, retains the right to initiate a Formal Complaint on its own, independent of any individual’s decision or request about how they would prefer the University proceed. In such instances, the Title IX Coordinator will sign the Formal Complaint alleging the Sexual Harassment or OSM, and will communicate this decision to all parties. Where the Title IX Coordinator signs a Formal Complaint, the Title IX Coordinator is not a Reporting Party or otherwise a party to any grievance proceeding.
At OIIE’s discretion, multiple Formal Complaints may be consolidated in one investigation if the information related to each incident is relevant in reaching a determination. Matters may be consolidated where they involve multiple Reporting Parties, multiple Responding Parties, or related conduct involving the same parties, provided that it does not delay the prompt investigation and resolution of complaints.
If the conduct alleged in the Formal Complaint would not constitute Sexual Harassment, even if proved, did not occur in the University’s education program or activity, or did not occur against a person in the United States, then the University must dismiss the Formal Complaint with regard to that conduct for the purposes of Sexual Harassment under Title IX; such a dismissal does not preclude the University from continuing to investigate and adjudicate an allegation of Sexual Harassment or OSM that is outside Title IX jurisdiction. Upon dismissal of a Formal Complaint with regard to Sexual Harassment under Title IX, the University will promptly send written notice of the dismissal and reason(s) therefor simultaneously to the parties.
If the University decides to move forward with the investigation and adjudication of a Formal Complaint involving members of the University community notwithstanding a lack of Title IX jurisdiction (e.g., the alleged violation of Policy did not occur in education program or activity, or took place outside the United States), the notice of dismissal of the Formal Complaint regarding Sexual Harassment under Title IX will alert the parties that the University will nonetheless be moving forward with investigating the Formal Complaint as a violation of this Policy. In such instances, both parties will receive the same notice and process set forth in the Policy and these Procedures as if there were Title IX jurisdiction.
The University may dismiss the Formal Complaint or any allegations therein regardless of Title IX jurisdiction, if at any time during the investigation or hearing: a Reporting Party notifies the Title IX Coordinator in writing that the Reporting Party would like to withdraw the Formal Complaint or any allegations therein; the Responding Party is no longer enrolled or employed by the institution; or specific circumstances prevent the University from gathering evidence sufficient to reach a determination as to the Formal Complaint or allegations therein. Upon dismissal, the University will promptly send written notice of the dismissal and reason(s) therefor simultaneously to the parties.
Upon receipt of a Formal Complaint, OIIE will provide written notice to the all parties who are known:
The Notice will also inform the parties of their right to attend (separately) an initial meeting with an OIIE Investigator. At this meeting, the parties may ask the Investigator questions and learn more about the grievance processes. The University may proceed with an Investigation regardless of whether a party decides to attend an initial meeting.
Throughout the process, the Title IX Coordinator, Investigator(s), and other University representatives will communicate and correspond directly with the parties. The Parties are responsible for ensuring that their Advisor and/or Support Person acts consistent with the definition of an Advisor and Support Person set forth in the Policy and the rules and expectations provided below. Parties are also responsible for making sure appropriate authorization exists (e.g., authorization related to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”)) for the University to communicate the non-party participation requirements below to any Advisor or Support Person.
Both a Reporting Party (the person bringing the complaint) and a Responding Party (the person reported to have engaged in the prohibited conduct) are given the opportunity to have support or advice through the process. Both parties may have up to two individuals accompany them to any meetings, interviews, or hearings related to the matter – one (1) Advisor and one (1) Support Person. A party must provide the Title IX Coordinator with full name and contact information (physical and email address) of their Advisor and/or Support Person in advance of any meeting or proceeding. All Advisors and Support Persons must closely review the University’s Policy on Sexual Harassment and Other Sexual Misconduct and these Procedures. The Policy prohibits retaliation against any individuals filing a complaint or participating in the investigation of the complaint. Advisors and Support Persons are also protected by and subject to this retaliation prohibition. This means an Advisor or Support Person may not retaliate against any person participating in this process, nor can anyone retaliate against an Advisor or Support Person. To report possible retaliation, please contact the Title IX Coordinator at titleix AT_TOWSON.
Notwithstanding the limit of one Advisor and one Support Person, nothing herein precludes a party from seeking reasonable accommodations, including, but not limited to, the presence of sign-language interpreters at all meetings and proceedings during the grievance process. In such cases, individuals serving in such capacity are not counted as an Advisor or Support Person.
Witnesses are individuals who have factual information about an alleged violation of Policy. The University expects witnesses to provide true and accurate information. Anyone can be a witness if they have relevant information. All witnesses, including the Reporting Party and Responding Party, are expected to respond to questions during any meeting or proceeding on their own behalf. Witnesses should understand that some evidence may not be deemed relevant to an alleged Policy violation and therefore excluded from consideration. Witnesses are also protected from retaliation.
An Investigation is an impartial, fact-gathering process. It is intended to provide the parties an opportunity to share their perspectives and identify information they believe relevant to the allegations of Sexual Harassment or OSM.
The Title IX Coordinator will designate an Investigator(s) to conduct a prompt, thorough, fair, and impartial investigation. The Investigator interviews the parties and/or witnesses separately. They also gather physical evidence, such as documents, communications (including correspondence, email, text messages, social media, or other digital information), recordings (including audio and video), and other records, as appropriate and available. The Investigator is also responsible for drafting the investigative report that fairly summarizes the relevant evidence.
Evidence is relevant when a reasonable person would likely accept the information as having probative value about the underlying allegations. An Investigator may exercise discretion in not interviewing a witness or considering a piece of evidence that the Investigator deems is reasonably likely to lack relevance to the allegations of Sexual Harassment or OSM.
Information related to the prior sexual history of either party is generally not relevant to the determination of a Policy violation. Accordingly, the University will not use an individual’s sexual history for purposes of illustrating their character or reputation. However, prior sexual history between the parties may be relevant in very limited circumstances. For example, where there was a prior or ongoing consensual relationship between the parties and where Consent is at issue, evidence as to the parties’ prior sexual history may be relevant to assess the manner and nature of communications between the parties and whether Consent occurred. The Investigator will determine the relevance of prior sexual history and inform the parties if information about the parties’ prior sexual history is deemed relevant.
At the conclusion of the Investigation, the Investigator will draft a written investigative report summarizing the relevant evidence gathered during the investigation.
Prior to the completion of the investigative report, the Investigator will send to each party and the party’s advisor, if any, the evidence subject to inspection and review in electronic format or hard copy, and the parties will have ten (10) calendar days from the date notice is sent to submit a written response, which the Investigator will consider prior to completion of the investigative report.
After receipt of any written response to the evidence, the Investigator will create an investigative report that fairly summarizes relevant evidence. The investigative report will be sent in electronic format or hard copy to each party and the party’s advisor, if any, for a party’s review and written response at least ten (10) calendar days prior to a hearing or other time of determination regarding responsibility.
The live hearing will take place in front a Hearing Panel that will determine whether, by a preponderance of the evidence, a Policy violation occurred. The Hearing Panel will be comprised of three (3) Hearing Officers appointed by the Title IX Coordinator from a pool of trained faculty, staff, administrators, and/or outside experts, one of which shall be designated by the Title IX Coordinator as the Chair of the Hearing Panel (the “Chair”). The Chair shall facilitate the hearing; verbally exclude non-relevant questions and testimony during the hearing; and take reasonable steps to maintain order and decorum. All three (3) Hearing Officers will review the Investigative Report, along with the relevant evidence relied upon in the Investigative Report, prior to the hearing, and all will be voting members for purposes of deliberations after the conclusion of the hearing.
B. Notice of Hearing
The Title IX Coordinator will provide a written Notice of Hearing to all parties simultaneously at least ten (10) calendar days prior to the hearing, which will include the purpose of the hearing, the makeup of the Hearing Panel, the participants (including witnesses), the date, time and location of any pre-hearing conference, and the date, time and location of the live hearing. Within 24 hours of receipt of the notice, either party (not an Advisor or Support Person) may assert to the Title IX Coordinator, in writing, that a Hearing Officer has a conflict of interest or bias. If the Title IX Coordinator determines that such a conflict or bias exists, the Title IX Coordinator will replace the Hearing Officer with an alternate from the pool. The Title IX Coordinator’s decision is final. A written Notice of Hearing including the purpose of the hearing and the date, location, and time will also be provided to all witnesses expected to testify during the live hearing.
The Title IX Coordinator may, in their discretion, coordinate a pre-hearing conference that includes the Chair of the Hearing Panel and the parties and the parties’ Advisors (and Support Persons, if any).
During the pre-hearing conference, if any, the Chair of the Hearing Panel will:
The University has discretion to tailor disciplinary sanctions to address specific situations and may use the disciplinary process as an educational tool rather than a punitive tool due to wide discretion to utilize informal resolution processes.
In determining the appropriate sanction(s), the University will examine a number of factors, including, but not limited to: 1) level of risk of harm to the community; 2) the nature and seriousness of the offense; 3) use of drugs or alcohol in the perpetration of the violation; 4) motivation underlying the Responding Party’s behavior; and/or 5) the Responding Party’s record of past misconduct, including prior violations of the same or similar type.
The range of possible disciplinary sanctions that the University may implement following any determination of responsibility for Student, Staff, and Faculty Responding Parties may be found in Section XI of the Policy.
As appropriate, upon issuance of a written determination and, if applicable, issuance of sanctions, the Title IX Coordinator, in consultation with appropriate University departments, will identify reasonable short-term and/or long-term remedies to address the effects of the conduct on the Reporting Party, prevent its reoccurrence, restore the Reporting Party’s safety and well-being, and address the effects of this conduct in the educational workplace.
Both parties have the right to appeal a dismissal of a Formal Complaint or any allegation therein, and any finding or sanction imposed as set forth below. Such appeals are heard consistent with these Procedures.
Either party may appeal the dismissal of a Formal Complaint or any allegations therein, and from a written determination regarding responsibility on the following grounds only:
Either party may also appeal any sanction imposed in the written determination on the following grounds only: the severity or proportionality of the sanction.
Mere dissatisfaction with a dismissal, determination regarding responsibility, or sanction is not a valid basis for appeal.
A party must submit their own appeal in writing within five (5) business days of the date of the written determination is sent by the Title IX Coordinator. Failure of a party to submit their own appeal within the allotted time will render the written determination final and conclusive.
If an appeal is received by one party, the Title IX Coordinator will notify the other party in writing of the appeal submitted. The other party will be permitted to review the written appeal and any supporting documentation submitted by the other party, and will have an opportunity to submit a written response to the appeal within five (5) business days of the date the Title IX Coordinator sent the notification of an appeal. Any written response and supporting documentation to an appeal will be shared with the appealing party. No replies are permitted.
Upon receipt of a written response, or expiration of the time to provide a written response if no response is submitted, the Title IX Coordinator will appoint a trained Appellate Officer to decide the appeal. The Appellate Officer will not be the same person as the decision-makers that reached the determination being appealed, the Investigator(s), or the Title IX Coordinator.
The Title IX Coordinator will promptly provide written notice of the name of the Appellate Officer to both parties simultaneously. Within 24 hours of receipt of the notice, either party (not an Advisor or Support Person) may assert to the Title IX Coordinator, in writing, that the Appellate Officer has a conflict of interest or bias. The written objection must be filed with the Title IX Coordinator, who has the sole and final authority to determine whether good cause exists to replace the Appellate Officer. When the selection of the Appellate Officer is final, the Title IX Coordinator will provide the appeal and all related documents to the Appellate Officer. The Appellate Officer will review the appeal documents along with the relevant written and audio/audio visual record. The Appellate Officer will defer to the original finding and sanction(s) of the Hearing Panel, remanding a matter on a specific issue(s), or modifying a finding or sanction(s) only when there is compelling justification to do so. An Appellate Officer may take one of the following actions on appeal:
Upon completion of their review, the Appellate Officer will issue a written decision and rationale for the result. The Title IX Coordinator will distribute the written decision to all parties simultaneously within ten (10) business days after the Appellate Officer’s receipt of the appeal from the Title IX Coordinator, unless good cause exists for an extension of time. The University will provide written notice of any extension and the reasons justifying good cause for the extension to the parties.
All appeals and responses to appeals must be submitted by the party on their own behalf (appeals and responses signed by a party’s Advisor or Support Person will not be accepted) in writing to OIIE via hard-copy or email to:
Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity
8000 York Road, AD 214
Towson, MD 21252
The appeal must specifically state the basis for appeal and include relevant supporting documentation. The party appealing should address the central issue of the appeal directly, as irrelevant information will not be considered. Any response to the appeal should address the central issues of the other party’s appeal. An appeal is not a review of the entire matter. It is an objective review of the written documentation related to the investigatory and hearing process, and record of the hearing along with appeal-related submissions as permissible herein. Accordingly, the Appellate Officer will not interview, question, or meet with witnesses, parties or a party’s Advisor or Support Person.
After the appeal process has concluded (or when the time for an appeal has passed with no appeal submitted, whichever is later), the Title IX Coordinator will promptly notify the appropriate University officials as well as the Reporting and Responding Parties, in writing, of the final outcome of the Formal Complaint.
August 14, 2020
Amended: August 25, 2021