Plymouth State University will act on any formal or informal notice/complaint of violation of the policy on Equal Opportunity, Harassment, and Nondiscrimination (“the Policy”) that is received by the Title IX Coordinator or any other Official with Authority by applying these procedures.
The procedures below apply to all allegations of harassment or discrimination on the basis of protected class status involving students, staff, administrators, or faculty members. A set of technical dismissal requirements within the Title IX regulations may apply as described below, but when a technical dismissal under the Title IX allegations is required, any remaining allegations will proceed using these same grievance procedures, clarifying which policies above are applicable. While the effect of the Title IX regulations can be confusing, these grievance procedures apply to all policies above.
Unionized/other categorized employees are subject to the terms of their agreements/employees’ rights to the extent those agreements do not conflict with federal or state compliance obligations.
The procedures below may be used to address collateral misconduct arising from the investigation of or occurring in conjunction with reported misconduct (e.g., vandalism, physical abuse of another). All other allegations of misconduct unrelated to incidents covered by this Policy will be addressed through procedures elaborated in the student code of conduct, PSU personnel policies, and USNH personnel policies.
Upon receipt of a complaint or notice to the Title IX Coordinator of an alleged violation of the Policy, the Title IX Coordinator initiates a prompt initial assessment to determine the next steps.
The Title IX Coordinator will initiate at least one of three responses:
- Offering supportive measures because the Complainant does not want to proceed formally; and/or
- An informal resolution; and/or
- A Formal Grievance Process including an investigation and a hearing.
The investigation and grievance process will determine whether or not the Policy has been violated. If so, the Title IX Coordinator will promptly implement effective remedies designed to ensure that it is not deliberately indifferent to harassment or discrimination, their potential recurrence, or their effects.
Following receipt of notice or a complaint of an alleged violation of this Policy, the Title IX Coordinator engages in an initial assessment, which is typically one to five business days in duration. The steps in an initial assessment can include:
- If notice is given, the Title IX Coordinator determines if the person impacted wishes to make a formal complaint.
- If the impacted person does not wish to make a formal complaint, the Title IX Coordinator determines whether to initiate a formal complaint because a violence risk assessment indicates a compelling threat to health and/or safety.
- The Title IX Coordinator offers supportive measures and provides the impacted person with information about their rights and options for reporting and resolution.
- If a supportive and remedial response is preferred, the Title IX Coordinator works with the Complainant to identify their wishes and then seeks to facilitate implementation. If no Formal Grievance Process is initiated, the Complainant can elect to initiate one in the future.
If a Formal Grievance Process is preferred, the Title IX Coordinator determines if the misconduct alleged falls within the scope of Title IX:
- If it does, the Title IX Coordinator will initiate the formal investigation and grievance process based on a formal complaint, directing the investigation to address:
- an incident, and/or
- a pattern of alleged misconduct, and/or
- a culture/climate issue, based on the nature of the complaint.
If the misconduct alleged does not fall within the scope of Title IX, the Title IX Coordinator determines that Title IX does not apply (and will “dismiss” that aspect of the complaint, if any), assesses which policies may apply, which resolution process is applicable, and will refer the matter accordingly. Please note that dismissing a complaint under Title IX is procedural and does not limit the Plymouth State University’s authority to address a complaint with an appropriate process and remedies.
Dismissal (Mandatory and Discretionary)
The Title IX Coordinator must dismiss a formal complaint of Sexual Harassment or any allegations therein if, at any time during the investigation or hearing, it is determined that:
- The conduct alleged in the formal complaint would not constitute Sexual Harassment as defined in the Policy herein above, even if proved; and/or
- The conduct did not occur in an educational program or activity controlled by the Plymouth State University (including buildings or property controlled by recognized student organizations), and/or the University does not have control of the Respondent; and/or
- The conduct did not occur against a person in the United States; and/or
- At the time of filing a formal complaint, a Complainant is not participating in or attempting to participate in the education program or activity of the University.
The Title IX Coordinator may dismiss a formal complaint brought forward under this policy or any allegations therein if, at any time during the investigation or hearing:
- A Complainant notifies the Title IX Coordinator in writing that the Complainant would like to withdraw the formal complaint or any allegations therein; or
- The Respondent is no longer enrolled in or employed by the University; or
- Specific circumstances prevent the University from gathering evidence sufficient to reach a determination as to the formal complaint or allegations therein.
Upon any dismissal, the Title IX Coordinator will promptly send written notice of the dismissal and the rationale for doing so simultaneously to the parties.
This dismissal decision is appealable by any party under the procedures for appeal below. The decision not to dismiss is also appealable by any party claiming that a dismissal is required or appropriate.
A Complainant who decides to withdraw a complaint may later request to reinstate it or refile it.
Violence Risk Assessment
The Title IX Coordinator may determine that a Violence Risk Assessment (VRA) should be conducted as part of the initial assessment and monitored throughout an investigation. A VRA can aid in ten critical and/or required determinations, including:
- Emergency removal of a Respondent on the basis of immediate threat to physical health/safety;
- Whether the Title IX Coordinator should pursue/sign a formal complaint absent a willing/able Complainant;
- Whether to put the investigation on the footing of incident and/or pattern and/or climate;
- To help identify potential predatory conduct;
- To help assess/identify grooming behaviors;
- Whether it is reasonable to try to resolve a complaint through informal resolution, and what modality may be most successful;
- Whether to permit a voluntary withdrawal by the Respondent;
- Whether to communicate with a transfer institution about a Respondent;
- Assessment of appropriate sanctions/remedies (to be applied post-hearing); and/or
- Whether a Clery Act Timely Warning/Trespass Order is needed in collaboration with University Police.
Threat assessment is the process of evaluating the actionability of violence by an individual against another person or group following the issuance of a direct or conditional threat. A VRA is a broader term used to assess any potential violence or danger, regardless of the presence of a vague, conditional, or direct threat.
VRAs require specific training and are typically conducted by psychologists, clinical counselors, social workers, case managers, law enforcement officers, student conduct officers, and other Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT)/CARE Team members. A VRA authorized by the Title IX Coordinator should occur in collaboration with the BIT/CARE team. Where a VRA is required by the Title IX Coordinator, a Respondent refusing to cooperate may result in a charge of failure to comply within the appropriate student or employee conduct process.
The Title IX Coordinator is obligated to ensure that the grievance process is not abused for retaliatory purposes. The University permits the filing of counterclaims but uses an initial assessment, described above, to assess whether the allegations in the counterclaim are made in good faith. Counterclaims by the Respondent may be made in good faith, but are, on occasion, also made for purposes of retaliation. Counterclaims made with retaliatory intent will not be permitted.
Counterclaims determined to have been reported in good faith will be processed using the grievance procedures below. Investigation of such claims may take place after resolution of the underlying initial allegation, in which case a delay may occur.
Counterclaims may also be resolved through the same investigation as the underlying allegation, at the discretion of the Title IX Coordinator. When counterclaims are not made in good faith, they will be considered retaliatory and may constitute a violation of this policy.
The parties may each have up to two Advisors of their choice present with them for all meetings and interviews within the resolution process, if they so choose. The parties may select whomever they wish to serve as their Advisor, as long as the Advisor is eligible and available.
Choosing an Advisor who is also a witness in the process creates potential for bias and conflict-of-interest. A party who chooses an Advisor who is also a witness can anticipate that issues of potential bias will be explored by the hearing Decision-maker(s).
Who can serve as an Advisor?
The Advisor may be a friend, mentor, family member, attorney, or any other individual a party chooses to advise, support, and/or consult with them throughout the resolution process. The parties may choose Advisors from inside or outside of the campus community.
The Title IX Coordinator will also offer to assign a trained Advisor for any party if the party so chooses. If the parties choose an Advisor from the pool available from the University, the Advisor will be trained and be familiar with the University’s resolution process.
If the parties choose an Advisor from outside the pool of those identified by the University, the Advisor may not have been trained by the University and may not be familiar with University’s policies and procedures.
Parties also have the right to choose not to have an Advisor in the initial stages of the resolution process, prior to a hearing.
Advisors in Hearings/PSU- Appointed Advisor
Under U.S. Department of Education regulations applicable to Title IX, questioning of witnesses through cross-examination must be conducted by the parties’ Advisors. The parties are not permitted to directly cross-examine each other or any witnesses. If a party does not have an Advisor for a hearing, the University will appoint a trained Advisor for the limited purpose of conducting any questioning of witnesses.
A party may reject this appointment and choose their own Advisor, but they may not proceed without an Advisor. If the party’s Advisor of choice will not conduct cross-examination, the University will appoint an Advisor who will do so thoroughly (this individual will serve as the party’s second Advisor), regardless of the participation or non-participation of the advised party in the hearing itself. Thorough questioning of the parties and witnesses will also be conducted by the Decision-maker(s) during the hearing.
The parties may be accompanied by their Advisor in all meetings and interviews at which the party is entitled to be present, including intake and interviews. Advisors should help the parties prepare for each meeting and are expected to advise ethically, with integrity, and in good faith.
The University cannot guarantee equal advisory rights, meaning that if one party selects an Advisor who is an attorney, but the other party does not or cannot afford an attorney, the University is not obligated to provide an attorney.
Pre- Interview/Process Overview Meetings
Advisors may request to meet with the administrative officials conducting interviews/meetings in advance of these interviews or meetings. This pre-meeting allows Advisors to clarify and understand their role and PSU’s policies and procedures.
Advisor Violations of PSU Policy
All Advisors are subject to the same PSU policies and procedures, whether they are attorneys or not. Advisors are expected to advise their advisees without disrupting proceedings. Advisors should not address University officials in a meeting or interview unless invited to (e.g., asking procedural questions). The Advisor may not make a presentation or represent their advisee during any meeting or proceeding and may not speak on behalf of the advisee to the Investigator(s) or other Decision-maker(s) except during a hearing proceeding, during questioning of witnesses through cross-examination.
The parties are expected to ask and respond to questions on their own behalf throughout the investigation phase of the resolution process. Although the Advisor generally may not speak on behalf of their advisee, the Advisor may consult with their advisee, either privately as needed, or by conferring or passing notes during any resolution process meeting or interview. For longer or more involved discussions, the parties and their Advisors should ask for breaks to allow for private consultation.
Any Advisor who oversteps their role as defined by this policy will be warned only once. If the Advisor continues to disrupt or otherwise fails to respect the limits of the Advisor role, the meeting will be ended, or other appropriate measures implemented. Subsequently, the Title IX Coordinator will determine how to address the Advisor’s non-compliance and future role.
Sharing Information with the Advisor
The parties may share documentation and evidence related to the allegations with their Advisors. Doing so may help the parties participate more meaningfully in the resolution process.
The University also provides a consent form that authorizes the Title IX Coordinator to share certain information directly with the Advisor(s). The parties must either complete and submit this form to the Title IX Coordinator or provide similar documentation demonstrating consent to a release of information to the Advisor before information is shared with the Advisor.
Privacy of Records Shared with Advisor
Advisors are expected to maintain the privacy of the records shared with them. These records may not be shared with third parties, disclosed publicly, or used for purposes not explicitly authorized by PSU. The University may seek to restrict the role of any Advisor who does not respect the sensitive nature of the process or who fails to abide by PSU’s privacy expectations.
Expectations of an Advisor
The University generally expects an Advisor to adjust their schedule to allow them to attend meetings when planned, but the University may change scheduled meetings to accommodate an Advisor’s inability to attend, if doing so does not cause an unreasonable delay.
The University may also make reasonable provisions to allow an Advisor who cannot attend in person to attend a meeting by telephone, video conferencing, or other similar technologies.
Expectations of Parties with Respect to Advisors
A party may elect to change Advisors during the process and is not obligated to use the same Advisor throughout. The parties are expected to provide timely notice to the Title IX Coordinator if they change Advisors at any time. It is assumed that if a party changes Advisors, consent to share information with the previous Advisor is terminated, and a release for the new Advisor must be secured. Parties are expected to inform the Title IX Coordinator of the identity of their hearing Advisor at least two (2) business days before the hearing.
As a public entity, PSU fully respects and accords the Weingarten rights of employees. For parties who are entitled to union representation, the University will allow the unionized employee to have their union representative (if requested by the party) as well as an Advisor of their choice present for all resolution-related meetings and interviews. To uphold the principles of equity, the other party (regardless of union membership) will also be permitted to have two Advisors. Witnesses are not permitted to have union representation or Advisors in grievance process interviews or meetings.
Assistance Securing an Advisor External to the University
If a party wishes to select an advisor that is from outside of the trained Pool or outside of the University, they may refer to the resources below.
For representation, Respondents may wish to contact organizations such as:
Complainants may wish to contact organizations such as:
Resolution proceedings are private. All persons present at any time during the resolution process are expected to maintain the privacy of the proceedings in accordance with University policy. While there is an expectation of privacy around what Investigators share with parties during interviews, the parties have discretion to share their own knowledge and evidence with others if they so choose. PSU encourages parties to discuss this with their Advisors before doing so.
Informal Resolution can include three different approaches:
- When the parties agree to resolve the matter through an alternate resolution mechanism [including mediation, restorative practices];
- When the Respondent accepts responsibility for violating policy, and desires to accept a sanction and end the resolution process; or
- When the Title IX Coordinator can resolve the matter informally by providing supportive measures to remedy the situation.
To initiate Informal Resolution, a Complainant needs to submit a formal complaint, as defined above. If a Respondent wishes to initiate Informal Resolution, they should contact the Title IX Coordinator to so indicate.
It is not necessary to pursue Informal Resolution first in order to pursue a Formal Grievance Process, and any party participating in Informal Resolution can stop the process at any time and begin or resume the Formal Grievance Process.
Prior to implementing Informal Resolution, the Title IX Coordinator will provide the parties with written notice of the reported misconduct and any sanctions or measures that may result from participating in such a process, including information regarding any records that will be maintained or shared by the University.
The University will obtain voluntary, written confirmation that all parties wish to resolve the matter through Informal Resolution before proceeding and will not pressure the parties to participate in Informal Resolution.
Alternate Resolution is an informal resolution proceeding, including mediation or restorative practices, by which a mutually agreed upon resolution of an allegation is reached. All parties must consent to the use of Alternate Resolution.
The Title IX Coordinator may look to the following factors to assess whether Alternate Resolution is appropriate, or which form of Alternate Resolution may be most successful for the parties:
- The parties’ amenability to Alternate Resolution;
- Likelihood of potential resolution, taking into account any power dynamics between the parties;
- The parties’ motivation to participate;
- Civility of the parties;
- Violence risk assessment/ongoing risk analysis;
- Disciplinary history;
- Whether an emergency removal is needed;
- Complaint complexity;
- Goals of the parties;
- Adequate resources to invest in Alternate Resolution (time, staff, etc.)
The determination of whether Alternate Resolution is available or successful is made by the Title IX Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator maintains records of any resolution that is reached, and failure to abide by the resolution agreement may result in appropriate responsive/disciplinary actions through student conduct/human resources. Given that Informal and Alternate resolutions are voluntary, resolutions determined in this manner are not appealable.
Respondent Accepts Responsibility for Alleged Violations
The Respondent may accept responsibility for all or part of the alleged policy violations at any point during the resolution process. If the Respondent indicates an intent to accept responsibility for all of the alleged misconduct, the formal process will be paused, and the Title IX Coordinator will determine whether Informal Resolution can be used according to the criteria above.
If Informal Resolution is applicable, the Title IX Coordinator will determine whether all parties and the University are able to agree on responsibility, sanctions, and/or remedies. If so, the Title IX Coordinator implements the accepted finding that the Respondent is in violation of Plymouth State University policy and implements agreed-upon sanctions and/or remedies, in coordination with other appropriate administrator(s), as necessary.
This result may not be appealed once all parties indicate their written assent to all agreed upon terms of resolution. When the parties cannot agree on all terms of resolution, the Formal Grievance Process will resume at the same point where it was paused.
When a resolution is accomplished, the appropriate sanction or responsive actions are promptly implemented in order to effectively stop the harassment or discrimination, prevent its recurrence, and remedy the effects of the discriminatory conduct, both on the Complainant and the community.
The Title IX Coordinator, with the consent of the parties, may negotiate and implement an agreement to resolve the allegations that satisfies all parties and the University. Negotiated Resolutions are not appealable.
For employees, negotiated resolutions will be facilitated in coordination with the Director of Human Resources in accordance with any applicable collective bargaining agreements.
The Formal Complaint Grievance Process relies on a pool of administrators (“the Pool”) to carry out the process. Members of the Pool, and a description of their roles, are listed on the PSU Title IX, Harassment, and Non-discrimination web page.
Pool Member Roles
Members of the Pool are trained annually, and can serve in in the following roles, at the direction of the Title IX Coordinator:
- To provide appropriate intake of and initial guidance pertaining to complaints
- To act as an Advisor to the parties
- To serve in a facilitation role in informal resolution or Alternate Resolution
- To perform or assist with initial assessment
- To investigate complaints
- To serve as a hearing facilitator
- To serve as a Decision-maker regarding the complaint
- To serve as an Appeal Decision-maker
Pool Member Appointment
The Title IX Coordinator selects and trains the Pool, which acts with independence and impartiality. While members of the Pool are trained in a variety of skills and can rotate among the different roles listed above in different cases, the Title IX Coordinator can also designate permanent roles for individuals in the Pool, using others as substitutes or to provide greater depth of experience when necessary. This process of role assignment may be the result of particular skills, aptitudes, or talents identified in members of the Pool that make them best suited to particular roles.
Advisor training is available for members of collective bargaining grievance committees.
Pool Member Training
The Pool members receive annual training based on their roles. This training includes, but is not limited to:
- The scope of PSU’s policies and procedures
- How to conduct investigations and hearings that protect the rights and safety of Complainants and Respondents, and promote accountability
- Reporting, confidentiality, and privacy requirements
- Applicable laws, regulations, and federal regulatory guidance
- How to apply definitions used by the University with respect to consent consistently, impartially, and in accordance with policy
- How to conduct an investigation and grievance process including hearings, appeals, and informal resolutions
- Issues of relevance to create an investigation report that fairly summarizes evidence
- How to determine appropriate sanctions in reference to all forms of harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation violations
Specific training is also provided for Appeal Decision-makers, intake personnel, Advisors (who are University employees), and Hearing Panel Chairs. All Pool members are required to attend training annually. The materials used to train all members of the Pool are publicly posted on the PSU Title IX, Harassment, and Non-discrimination web page.
The Pool includes:
- Title IX Coordinator
- Director of Human Resources
- Associate Director of Human Resources
- Dean of Students
- Associate Directors of Student Conduct
- Assistant Director of Athletics for Communication
- Head Athletic Trainer
- Director of Campus Accessibility Services
- Associate Provost
Individuals who are interested in serving in the Pool are encouraged to contact the Title IX Coordinator.
Notice of Investigation and Allegations
The Title IX Coordinator will provide written notice of the investigation and allegations (NOIA) to the Respondent upon commencement of a Formal Grievance Process. This facilitates the Respondent’s ability to prepare for a process overview meeting, an information gathering interview, and to identify and choose an Advisor to accompany them. A NOIA is also provided to the Complainant, who will be given advance notice of the timing of delivery of the NOIA to the Respondent.
The NOIA will include:
- A meaningful summary of the allegations,
- The identity of the involved parties (if known),
- The precise misconduct being alleged,
- The date and location of the alleged incident(s) (if known),
- The specific policies implicated,
- A description of the applicable procedures,
- A statement of the potential sanctions/responsive actions that could result,
- A statement that the University presumes the Respondent is not responsible for the reported misconduct unless and until the evidence supports a different determination,
- A statement that determinations of responsibility are made at the conclusion of the process and that the parties will be given an opportunity to inspect and review all directly related evidence obtained during the review and comment period,
- A statement about the University’s policy on retaliation,
- Information about the privacy of the process,
- Information on the need for each party to have an Advisor of their choosing and suggestions for ways to identify an Advisor,
- A statement informing the parties that the University’s Policy prohibits knowingly making false statements, including knowingly submitting false information during the resolution process,
- Detail on how the party may request disability accommodations during the interview process,
- A link to the University’s VAWA Brochure,
- The name(s) of the Investigator(s), along with a process to identify, in advance of the interview process, any conflict of interest that the Investigator(s) may have, and
- An instruction to preserve any evidence that is directly related to the allegations.
Amendments and updates to the NOIA may be made as the investigation progresses and more information becomes available regarding the addition or dismissal of charges.
Notice will be made in writing and may be delivered by one or more of the following methods: in person, mailed to the local or permanent address(es) of the parties as indicated in official Plymouth State University records, or emailed to the parties’ PSU-issued email or designated accounts.
Plymouth State University will make a good faith effort to complete the resolution process within a ninety (90) business day time period, including appeal, which can be extended as necessary for appropriate cause. The Title IX Coordinator will provide notice and rationale for any extensions or delays to the parties as appropriate, as well as an estimate of how much additional time will be needed to complete the process.
Appointment of Investigators
Once the decision to commence a formal investigation is made, the Title IX Coordinator appoints a Pool member to conduct the investigation, usually within two (2) business days of determining that an investigation should proceed. In some cases, the Title IX Coordinator may appoint an external investigator.
Any individual materially involved in the administration of the resolution process [including the Title IX Coordinator, Investigator(s), and Decision-maker(s)] may neither have nor demonstrate a conflict of interest or bias for a party generally, or for a specific Complainant or Respondent.
The Title IX Coordinator will select the Investigator(s) to ensure impartiality and that there are no actual or apparent conflicts of interest or disqualifying biases. The parties may, at any time during the resolution process, raise a concern regarding bias or conflict of interest, and the Title IX Coordinator will determine whether the concern is reasonable and supportable. If so, another Pool member will be assigned and the impact of the bias or conflict, if any, will be remedied. If the source of the conflict of interest or bias is the Title IX Coordinator, concerns should be raised with Director of Human Resources or Provost.
The Formal Grievance Process involves an objective evaluation of all relevant evidence obtained, including evidence which supports that the Respondent engaged in a policy violation and evidence which supports that the Respondent did not engage in a policy violation. Credibility determinations may not be based solely on an individual’s status or participation as a Complainant, Respondent, or witness.
The University operates with the presumption that the Respondent is not responsible for the reported misconduct unless and until the Respondent is determined to be responsible for a policy violation by the applicable standard of proof.
Delays in the Investigation Process; Interactions with Law Enforcement
The University may undertake a short delay in its investigation (several days to a few weeks) if circumstances require. Such circumstances include, but are not limited to, a request from law enforcement to temporarily delay the investigation, the need for interpreter assistance, the absence of parties and/or witnesses, and/or accommodations for disabilities or health conditions.
The Title IX Coordinator will communicate in writing the anticipated duration of the delay and reason to the parties and provide the parties with status updates as necessary. The investigation and resolution process will promptly resume as soon as feasible. During such a delay, the Title IX Coordinator will implement supportive measures as deemed appropriate.
Plymouth State University action(s) are not typically altered or precluded on the grounds that civil or criminal charges involving the underlying incident(s) have been filed or that criminal charges have been dismissed or reduced.
Steps in Investigation Process
All investigations are thorough, reliable, impartial, prompt, and fair. Investigations involve interviews with all relevant parties and witnesses; obtaining available, relevant evidence; and identifying sources of expert information, as necessary.
All parties have a full and fair opportunity, through the investigation process, to suggest witnesses and questions, to provide evidence and expert witnesses, and to fully review and respond to all evidence on the record.
The assigned Investigator typically takes the following steps:
- Identify all policies implicated by the alleged misconduct and inform the Complainant and Respondent of all of the specific policies implicated
- Identify issues and develop a strategic investigation plan, including a witness list, evidence list, intended investigation time frame, and order of interviews for all witnesses and the parties
- Conduct information gathering interviews with Complaint and Respondent and their respective Advisor(s) as well as any identified witnesses
- Provide each interviewed party an opportunity to review and verify the Investigator’s summary notes (or transcript) of the relevant evidence/statement from their respective interviews and meetings
- Make good faith efforts to notify the parties of any meeting or interview involving the other party, in advance when possible
- When participation of a party is expected, provide that party with written notice of the date, time, and location of the meeting, as well as the expected participants and purpose
- Allow each party the opportunity to suggest witnesses and questions they wish the Investigator(s) to ask of the other party and witnesses, and document in the report which questions were asked, with a rationale for any changes or omissions.
- Complete the investigation promptly and without unreasonable deviation from the intended timeline
- Provide regular status updates to the parties throughout the investigation. This is typically done via the Title IX Coordinator
- Prior to the conclusion of the investigation, provide the parties with a list of witnesses whose information will be used to render a finding
- Write a comprehensive investigation report fully summarizing the investigation, all witness interviews, and addressing all relevant evidence. Appendices including relevant physical or documentary evidence will be included
- Prior to the conclusion of the investigation, provide the parties and their respective Advisors(if so desired by the parties) a secured electronic or hard copy of the draft investigation report as well as an opportunity to inspect and review all of the evidence obtained as part of the investigation that is directly related to the reported misconduct, including evidence upon which the University does not intend to rely in reaching a determination, for a ten (10) business day review and comment period so that each party may meaningfully respond to the evidence.
- The Investigator may elect to respond in writing in the investigation report to the parties’ submitted responses and/or to share the responses between the parties for additional responses
- The Investigator will incorporate relevant elements of the parties’ written responses into the final investigation report, include any additional relevant evidence, make any necessary revisions, and finalize the report. The Investigator should document all rationale for any changes made after the review and comment period
- Investigator delivers the report to the Title IX Coordinator
Role and Participation of Witnesses
Witnesses (as distinguished from the parties) who are employees of Plymouth State University are expected to cooperate with and participate in the University’s investigation and resolution process. Failure of such witnesses to cooperate with and/or participate in the investigation or resolution process constitutes a violation of policy and may warrant disciplinary action.
Witnesses who are students are expected to provide complete and truthful information when participating in the University’s investigation and resolution process and must not retaliate against others for participating in the process.
While in-person interviews for parties and all potential witnesses are ideal, circumstances (e.g., study abroad, break periods, campus closure/remote learning and working) may require individuals to be interviewed remotely. Video conference technology may be used for interviews if the Investigator(s) determine that timeliness or efficiency dictate a need for remote interviewing. The University will take appropriate steps to reasonably ensure the security/privacy of remote interviews.
Witnesses may also provide written statements in lieu of interviews or choose to respond to written questions, if deemed appropriate by the Investigator. If a witness submits a written statement but does not intend to be and is not present for cross examination at a hearing, their written statement may not be used as evidence or considered by decision-makers.
No unauthorized audio or video recording of any kind is permitted during investigation meetings. If the Investigator elects to audio and/or video record interviews, all involved parties must be made aware of and consent to audio and/or video recording. Recordings made by Investigators will be made available for evidence review.
Evidentiary Considerations in the Investigation
The investigation does not consider: 1) incidents not directly related to the possible violation, unless they evidence a pattern; 2) the character of the parties; or 3) questions and evidence about the Complainant’s sexual predisposition or prior sexual behavior, unless such questions and evidence about the Complainant’s prior sexual behavior are offered to prove that someone other than the Respondent committed the conduct alleged by the Complainant, or if the questions and evidence concern specific incidents of the Complainant’s prior sexual behavior with respect to the Respondent and are offered to prove consent.
Referral for Student Conduct Hearing/ Employee Conduct Action
Provided that the complaint is not resolved through Informal Resolution, once the final investigation report is shared with the parties, the Title IX Coordinator will refer the matter for a student conduct hearing (“hearing”) or employee conduct action.
The final investigation report will be transmitted to the parties and the Decision-maker(s) at least ten (10) business days before the hearing. If all parties agree to an expedited timeline, a hearing may be scheduled in fewer than 10 business days.
The Title IX Coordinator will select the Student Conduct Hearing Decision-makers from the Pool when the Respondent is a student. Allegations involving student-employees will be directed to the appropriate Decision-maker depending on the context of the alleged misconduct.
When the Respondent is an employee, the Title IX Coordinator will refer the investigation report to the Director of Human Resources to determine the appropriate Decision-maker.
Plymouth State University will designate a single Decision-maker for matters where an employee is the Respondent. Where the Respondent is a student, the Title IX Coordinator will select a three-member panel from the Pool. With a panel, one of the three members will be appointed as Chair by the Title IX Coordinator.
The Decision-maker(s) will not have had any previous involvement with the investigation. The Title IX Coordinator may elect to have an alternate from the Pool sit in throughout the hearing process in the event that a substitute is needed for any reason.
The Investigator will be a witness at the hearing and therefore may not serve as a Decision-maker. Those who are serving as Advisors for any party may not serve as Decision-makers in that matter.
The Title IX Coordinator may not serve as a Decision-maker or Chair in the matter but may serve as an administrative facilitator of the hearing if their previous role(s) in the matter do not create a conflict of interest. Otherwise, a designee may fulfill this role. A student conduct hearing will convene at a time determined by the Title IX Coordinator.
Evidentiary Considerations During Adjudication
Any evidence that the Decision-maker(s) determine(s) is relevant and credible may be considered. The hearing does not consider: 1) incidents not directly related to the possible violation, unless they evidence a pattern; 2) the character of the parties; or 3) questions and evidence about the Complainant’s sexual predisposition or prior sexual behavior, unless such questions and evidence about the Complainant’s prior sexual behavior are offered to prove that someone other than the Respondent committed the conduct alleged by the Complainant, or if the questions and evidence concern specific incidents of the Complainant’s prior sexual behavior with respect to the Respondent and are offered to prove consent.
Previous disciplinary action of any kind involving the Respondent may be considered in determining an appropriate sanction or disciplinary action upon a determination of responsibility. This information is only considered at the sanction stage of the process.
The parties may each submit a written impact statement for the consideration of the Decision-maker(s) at the sanction stage of the process when a determination of responsibility is reached.
The Decision-maker(s) render a determination based on the preponderance of the evidence; whether it is more likely than not that the Respondent violated the Policy as alleged. The University bears the burden of proof.
Notice of Hearing
No less than ten (10) business days prior to the hearing, the Title IX Coordinator or the Chair will send notice of the hearing to the parties. Once mailed, emailed, and/or received in-person, notice will be presumptively delivered.
The notice will contain:
- A description of the alleged violation(s), a list of all policies allegedly violated, a description of the applicable procedures, and a statement of the potential sanctions/responsive actions that could result.
- The time, date, and location of the hearing and a reminder that attendance is mandatory, superseding all other campus activities.
- Any technology that will be used to facilitate the hearing.
- Information about the option for the live hearing to occur with the parties located in separate rooms using technology that enables the Decision-maker(s) and parties to see and hear a party or witness answering questions. Such a request must be raised with the Title IX Coordinator at least five (5) business days prior to the hearing.
- A list of all those who will attend the hearing, along with an invitation to object to any Decision-maker on the basis of demonstrated bias. This must be raised with the Title IX Coordinator at least two (2) business days prior to the hearing.
- Information on how the hearing will be recorded and on access to the recording for the parties after the hearing.
- A statement that if any party or witness does not appear at the scheduled hearing, the hearing may be held in their absence, and the party’s or witness’s testimony and any statements given prior to the hearing will not be considered by the Decision-maker(s) (For compelling reasons, the Title IX Coordinator may reschedule the hearing.).
- Notification that the parties may have the assistance of two Advisors of their choosing at the hearing and will be required to have one present for any questions they may desire to ask. The party must notify the Title IX Coordinator if they do not have an Advisor, and the Title IX Coordinator will appoint one (Each party must have an Advisor present. There are no exceptions).
- Access to all the materials provided to the Decision-maker(s) about the matter, unless already provided.
- An invitation to each party to prepare an impact statement pre-hearing that the Decision-maker(s) will review during any sanction determination.
- An invitation to contact the Title IX Coordinator to arrange any disability accommodations, language assistance, and/or interpretation services that may be needed at the hearing, at least seven (7) business days prior to the hearing.
- A copy of the Rules of Decorum to review along with Advisors.
Hearings for alleged violations that occur near or after the end of an academic term (assuming the Respondent is still subject to this Policy) and are unable to be resolved prior to the end of term will typically be held immediately after the end of the term or during the summer, as needed, to meet the resolution timeline followed by the University and remain within the ninety (90) business day goal for resolution.
In these cases, if the Respondent is a graduating student, a hold may be placed on graduation and /or official transcripts until the matter is fully resolved (including appeal). A student facing charges under this Policy is not in good standing to graduate.
Alternative Hearing Participation Options
If a party or parties prefer not to attend or cannot attend the hearing in person, the party should request alternative arrangements from the Title IX Coordinator at least five (5) business days prior to the hearing.
The Title IX Coordinator can arrange to use technology to allow remote testimony without compromising the fairness of the hearing. Remote options may also be needed for witnesses who cannot appear in person. Any witness who cannot attend in person should let the Title IX Coordinator know at least five (5) business days prior to the hearing so that appropriate arrangements can be made.
The Title IX Coordinator, after any necessary consultation with the parties and Investigator, will provide the names of persons who will be participating in the hearing, all pertinent documentary evidence, and the final investigation report to the parties at least ten (10) business days prior to the hearing.
Any witness scheduled to participate in the hearing must have been first interviewed by the Investigator(s) or have provided a written statement or answered written questions, unless all parties and the Chair assent to the witness’s participation in the hearing (the same holds for any evidence that is first offered at the hearing). If the parties and Chair do not assent to the admission of evidence newly offered at the hearing, the Chair will delay the hearing and instruct that the investigation needs to be re-opened to consider that evidence.
The parties will be given a list of the names of the Decision-maker(s) in advance of the hearing. All objections to any Decision-maker based on bias or conflict of interest must be raised in writing, detailing the rationale for the objection, and must be submitted to the Title IX Coordinator as soon as possible and no later than two business days prior to the hearing. Decision-makers will only be removed if the Title IX Coordinator concludes that bias or conflict of interest precludes an impartial hearing of the allegation(s).
The Title IX Coordinator will give the Decision-maker(s) a list of the names of all parties, witnesses, and Advisors at least five (5) business days in advance of the hearing. Any Decision-maker who cannot make an objective determination must recuse themselves from the proceedings when notified of the identity of the parties, witnesses, and Advisors in advance of the hearing. If a Decision-maker is unsure of whether a bias or conflict of interest exists, they must raise the concern to the Title IX Coordinator as soon as possible.
During the ten (10) business day period prior to the hearing, the parties have the opportunity for continued review and comment on the final investigation report and available evidence. That review and comment can be shared with the Title IX Coordinator at the pre-hearing report review meeting. Any written response to the final investigation report must be submitted at least two days prior to the scheduled start of the hearing.
Pre-Hearing Report Review Meetings
The Title IX Coordinator will convene a pre-hearing Report Review Meeting(s) with the parties, their Advisors, and the Investigator to actively review the report and all evidence, asking questions and making comment so as to ensure parties are prepared in advance of a hearing. This advance review opportunity does not preclude the Advisors from asking questions at the hearing.
The pre-hearing meeting(s) will not be recorded.
At the hearing, the Decision-makers have the authority to hear and make determinations on all allegations of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation and may also hear and make determinations on any additional alleged policy violations that have occurred in concert with the discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation, even though those collateral allegations may not specifically fall within the policy on Equal Opportunity, Harassment, and Nondiscrimination.
Participants at the hearing will include the Chair, additional panelists, the Investigators who conducted the investigation, the parties, Advisors to the parties, any called witnesses, the Title IX Coordinator, and anyone providing authorized accommodations or assistive services.
The Title IX Coordinator will answer all questions of procedure. Anyone appearing at the hearing to provide information will respond to questions on their own behalf.
The Chair will allow witnesses who have relevant information to appear at a portion of the hearing in order to respond to specific questions from the Decision-maker(s) and the parties and will then be excused.
Order of the Hearing- Introductions and Explanation of Procedure
The Chair explains the procedures and introduces the participants. This may include a final opportunity for challenge or recusal of the Decision-maker(s) on the basis of bias or conflict of interest. The Chair will rule on any such challenge unless the Chair is the individual who is the subject of the challenge, in which case the Title IX Coordinator will review and decide the challenge.
The Chair then conducts the hearing according to the hearing agenda. At the hearing, recording, witness logistics, party logistics, curation of documents, separation of the parties, and other administrative elements of the hearing process are managed by the Title IX Coordinator or designee.
Investigator Presents Final Report
The Investigator will then present a summary of the final investigation report, including items that are contested and those that are not, and will be subject to questioning by the Decision-maker(s) and the parties (through their Advisors). The Investigator will be present during the entire hearing process, but not during deliberations.
Neither the parties nor the Decision-maker(s) should ask the Investigator their opinion on credibility, recommended findings, or determinations. The Investigator, Advisors, and parties will refrain from discussion of or questions about these assessments. If such information is introduced, the Chair will direct that it be disregarded.
Testimony and Questioning
Following the Investigator’s presentation, the parties and witnesses may provide relevant information in turn, beginning with the Complainant, and then in the order determined by the Chair. The parties/witnesses will submit to questioning by the Decision-maker(s) and then by the parties through their Advisors (“cross-examination”).
All questions are subject to a relevance determination by the Chair. The Advisor, who will remain seated during questioning, will pose the proposed question orally, electronically, or in writing. The proceeding will pause to allow the Chair to consider the question, and the Chair will determine whether the question will be permitted, disallowed, or rephrased.
The Chair may explore arguments regarding relevance with the Advisors, if the Chair so chooses. The Chair will then state their decision on the question for the record and advise the party/witness to whom the question was directed, accordingly. The Chair will explain any decision to exclude a question as not relevant, or to reframe it for relevance.
The Chair will limit or disallow questions on the basis that they are irrelevant, unduly repetitious (and thus irrelevant), or abusive. The Chair has final say on all questions and determinations of relevance, subject to any appeal. The Chair may ask advisors to frame why a question is or is not relevant from their perspective but will not entertain argument from the advisors on relevance once the Chair has ruled on a question.
If the parties raise an issue of bias or conflict of interest of an Investigator or Decision-maker at the hearing, the Chair may elect to address those issues, and/or refer them to the Title IX Coordinator, and/or preserve them for appeal. If bias is not at issue at the hearing, the Chair should not permit irrelevant questions that probe for bias.
Refusal to Submit to Cross-Examination and Inferences
If a party or witness chooses not to submit to cross-examination at the hearing, either because they do not attend the meeting, or they attend but refuse to participate in questioning, then the Decision-makers may not rely on any prior statement made by that party or witness at the hearing (including those contained in the investigation report) in the ultimate determination of responsibility. The Decision-makers must disregard those statements. Evidence provided that is something other than a statement by the party or witness may be considered.
If the party or witness attends the hearing and answers some cross-examination questions, only statements related to the cross-examination questions they refuse to answer cannot be relied upon. However, if the statements of the party who is refusing to submit to cross-examination or refuses to attend the hearing are the subject of the allegation itself (e.g., the case is about verbal harassment or a quid pro quo offer), then those statements are not precluded from admission. Statements can be relied upon when questions are posed by the Decision-makers, as distinguished from questions posed by Advisors through cross-examination.
The Decision-makers may not draw any inference solely from a party’s or witness’s absence from the hearing or refusal to answer cross-examination or other questions.
If charges of policy violations other than sexual harassment are considered at the same hearing, the Decision-maker(s) may consider all evidence it deems relevant, may rely on any relevant statement as long as the opportunity for cross-examination is afforded to all parties through their Advisors, and may draw reasonable inferences from any decision by any party or witness not to participate or respond to questions.
If a party’s Advisor of choice refuses to comply with the University’s established Rules of Decorum for the hearing, the University may require the party to use a different Advisor. If a University-provided Advisor refuses to comply with the rules of decorum, the University will provide that party with a different Advisor to conduct cross-examination.
Hearings, with the exception of deliberations, are recorded for purposes of review in the event of an appeal. The parties may not record the proceedings and no other unauthorized recordings are permitted.
The Decision-makers, the parties, their Advisors, and appropriate administrators of the University will be permitted to listen to the recording in a controlled environment determined by the Title IX Coordinator. No person will be given or be allowed to make a copy of the recording without permission of the Title IX Coordinator.
Deliberation, Decision-making, and Standard of Proof
The Decision-makers will deliberate in closed session to determine whether the Respondent is responsible or not responsible for the policy violation(s) in question. If a panel is used, a simple majority vote is required to determine the finding. The preponderance of the evidence standard is used. The hearing facilitator may be invited to attend the deliberation by the Chair, but is there only to facilitate procedurally, not to address the substance of the allegations.
When there is a finding of responsibility on one or more of the allegations, the Decision-makers may then consider the previously submitted party impact statements in determining appropriate sanction(s).
The Title IX Coordinator will ensure that each of the parties has an opportunity to review any impact statement submitted by the other party(ies). The Decision-maker(s) may – at their discretion – consider the statements, but they are not binding.
The Decision-maker(s) will review the statements and any pertinent student conduct history and will determine the appropriate sanction(s).
When possible, the panel will deliver findings to parties in person at the conclusion of the hearing. If extended time is required for deliberations, parties will be dismissed and the outcome will be delivered in writing.
Following a hearing, the Chair will then prepare a written deliberation statement and deliver it to the Title IX Coordinator, detailing the determination, rationale, the evidence used in support of its determination, the evidence disregarded, credibility assessments, and any sanctions or recommendations.
This report typically should not exceed three (3) to five (5) pages in length and must be submitted to the Title IX Coordinator within two (2) business days of the end of deliberations, unless the Title IX Coordinator grants an extension. If an extension is granted, the Title IX Coordinator will notify the parties.
Notice of Outcome
Using the deliberation statement, the Title IX Coordinator will work with the Chair to prepare a Notice of Outcome. The Title IX Coordinator will then share the letter, including the final determination, rationale, and any applicable sanction(s) with the parties and their Advisors within 3 business days of receiving the Decision-makers’ deliberation statement.
The Notice of Outcome will be shared with the parties simultaneously. Notification will be made in writing and may be delivered by one or more of the following methods: in person, mailed to the local or permanent address of the parties as indicated in official Plymouth State University records, or emailed to the parties’ PSU-issued email or otherwise approved account.
The Notice of Outcome will identify the specific policy(ies) reported to have been violated, including the relevant policy section, and will contain a description of the procedural steps taken by the University from the receipt of the misconduct report to the determination, including any and all notifications to the parties, interviews with parties and witnesses, site visits, methods used to obtain evidence, and hearings held.
The Notice of Outcome will specify the finding on each alleged policy violation; the findings of fact that support the determination; conclusions regarding the application of the relevant policy to the facts at issue; a statement of, and rationale for, the result of each allegation to the extent the University is permitted to share such information under state or federal law; any sanctions issued which the University is permitted to share according to state or federal law; and any remedies provided to the Complainant designed to ensure access to the University’s educational or employment program or activity, to the extent the University is permitted to share such information under state or federal law (this detail is not typically shared with the Respondent unless the remedy directly relates to the Respondent).
The Notice of Outcome will also include information on when the outcome is considered by the University to be final, any changes that occur prior to finalization, and the relevant procedures and basis for any available appeal options.
Factors considered when determining a sanction/responsive action may include, but are not limited to:
- The nature, severity of, and circumstances surrounding the violation(s)
- The Respondent’s disciplinary history
- The need for sanctions/responsive actions to bring an end to the discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation
- The need for sanctions/responsive actions to prevent the future recurrence of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation
- The need to remedy the effects of the discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation on the Complainant and the community
- The impact on the parties
- Any other information deemed relevant by the Decision-makers
The sanctions will be implemented as soon as is feasible, either upon the outcome of any appeal or the expiration of the window to appeal without an appeal being requested.
The sanctions described in this policy are not exclusive of, and may be in addition to, other actions taken or sanctions imposed by external authorities.
The following sanctions may be imposed, singly or in combination, upon students or organizations found responsible for the violation of University policy:
- Warning: A formal statement that the conduct was a violation of University policy and a warning that further violations may result in more severe sanctions/responsive actions.
- Loss of Privileges: The University may deny specified privileges for a designated period of time.
- Financial Charges: A previously established and published charge may be imposed.
- Restitution: A requirement to compensate for loss or damage. This may take the form of appropriate service and/or monetary or material replacement.
- Discretionary Sanctions: The assignment of work, essay, service to the University, or other related discretionary requirement.
- Alcohol and Other Drug Sanctions (AOD)– An educational sanction related to alcohol and/or drug use. A fee will be billed to the student’s account for enrollment in AOD educational sanctions; the fee structure of which is listed in the Student Code of Conduct.
- Counseling Referral: A requirement to meet with and engage in either University-sponsored or external counseling to better comprehend the misconduct and its effects.
- Probation: A written reprimand for violation of institutional policy. Probation is for a designated period of time and includes the probability of more severe disciplinary sanctions if the student is found to violate policy during the probationary period.
- Residence Hall Suspension: The separation of the student from any or all residence facilities for a definite period of time, after which the student is eligible to return. Conditions for this sanction and readmission will be specified in the student’s outcome letter. Students who are suspended from residential life due to a conduct matter are not eligible for a housing or dining refund.
- Residence Hall Expulsion: A permanent separation of the student from the residence halls/facilities. Students who are expelled from residential life due to a conduct matter are not eligible for a housing or dining refund.
- Suspension: Termination of student status for a definite period of time not to exceed two years and/or until specific criteria are met. Students who are suspended from the University due to conduct matters are not eligible for any refunds including but not limited to housing, tuition, dining and fees. Student who are suspended are not eligible to be on campus for any reason during the duration of the suspension. Students who return from suspension are automatically placed on probation through the remainder of their tenure as a student at Plymouth State University. This sanction will be noted as a Judicial Withdrawal on the student’s official transcript for the semester during which the suspension is sanctioned.
- Expulsion: Permanent termination of student status and revocation of rights to be on campus for any reason or to attend PSU-sponsored events. Students who are expelled from the University due to conduct matters are not eligible for any refunds including but not limited to housing, tuition, dining and fees. This sanction will be noted permanently as a Judicial Withdrawal on the student’s official transcript.
- Withholding Degree: The University may withhold awarding a degree otherwise earned and/or deny a student participation in commencement activities until the completion of the student conduct process including any sanction imposed, if any.
- Revocation of Admission and/or Degree: Admission to or a degree awarded from the University may be revoked for fraud, misrepresentation, or other violation of University standards required to obtain admission into or a degree from the University.
- Other Actions: In addition to or in place of the above sanctions, the University may assign any other sanctions as deemed appropriate.
- Organizational Sanctions: The University may deactivate, revoke recognition, revoke some or all privileges for a specified period of time, and/or apply any sanction listed above.
Responsive actions for an employee who has engaged in harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation include:
- Warning – Verbal or Written
- Performance Improvement/Management Process
- Counseling Referral
- Required Training or Education
- Loss of Performance Pay Increase
- Loss of Oversight or Supervisory Responsibility
- Suspension with pay
- Suspension without pay
- Other Actions: In addition to the above sanctions, other sanctions may be assigned, as deemed appropriate.
If a student has an allegation pending for violation of the Policy on Equal Opportunity, Harassment, and Nondiscrimination, and withdraws from Plymouth State University, the University will place a student conduct hold on the student’s account until the matter is resolved.
Should a student Respondent decide to participate in the resolution process, the process will continue to a reasonable resolution. Should a student Respondent permanently withdraw from the University and not participate in the resolution process, the resolution process ends, as the University no longer has disciplinary jurisdiction over the withdrawn student. A student Respondent who withdraws or leaves while the process is pending may not return to the University. A hold will be placed on their ability to be readmitted. They may also be banned from University property and/or events.
The University will continue to address and remedy any systemic issues, variables that may have contributed to the alleged violation(s), and any ongoing effects of the alleged harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation.
If the student Respondent takes a leave of absence for a specified period of time (e.g., one semester or term), the resolution process may continue.
Should an employee Respondent resign with unresolved allegations pending, the resolution process ends, as the University no longer has disciplinary jurisdiction over the resigned employee.
However, the University will continue to address and remedy any systemic issues, variables that contributed to the alleged violation(s), and any ongoing effects of the alleged harassment or discrimination.
An employee who resigns with unresolved allegations pending is not eligible for rehire, and the records retained by Human Resources will reflect that status. All PSU responses to future inquiries regarding employment references for that individual will include that the former employee is not eligible for rehire.
A decision reached by the Student Conduct Panel may be appealed by either the Responding Party or the Complainant within four (4) business days (by 4:30 pm) of the decision. Matters involving violations of the Student Code of Conduct will be directed to the Dean of Students or their designee. Matters involving student violations of the Equal Opportunity, Harassment and Nondiscrimination Policy with be directed to the Title IX Coordinator for referral to the appropriate appellate officer. Such appeals shall be in writing and submitted electronically via the Appeal form. Upon submission, the form will be sent to the appropriate corresponding administrator.
Grounds for Appeal
Except as required to explain the basis of new information, an appeal shall be limited to a review of the information of the Student Conduct Board Hearing and supporting documents for one or more of the following purposes:
- Procedural irregularity that affected the outcome of the matter;
- New evidence that was not reasonably available at the time of determination that would affect the outcome of the matter;
- The sanction was not appropriate for the violation (may not be applicable for standard sanctions); or
- The investigator or hearing officer/decision-maker had a conflict of interest or bias for or against either party that affected the outcome of the matter.
Submitting a Petition for an Appeal does not guarantee that an appeal will be granted. The petition provides information to the administrator to determine whether or not there is a basis for an appeal.
If an appeal is granted the decision and/or sanction(s) may be upheld, amended (increased or decreased), or overturned.
If any of the grounds in the Petition for Appeal do not meet the grounds in this Policy, the appeal will be denied by the Appeal officer and the parties will be notified in writing of the denial and the rationale.
If any of the grounds in the Petition for Appeal meet the grounds in this Policy, then the Appeal Chair will notify the parties, the Title IX Coordinator, and, when appropriate, the Investigators and original Decision-maker(s).
The Appeal Officer will collect any additional information needed and review all documentation regarding the approved grounds and the subsequent responses and will render a decision in no more than 5 business days, barring exigent circumstances.
If an appeal is granted, the decision and/or sanction(s) may be upheld, amended (increased or decreased), or overturned. The Appeal Officer may refer the matter to the original Decision-maker(s) for reconsideration based on the grounds for appeal that were granted.
A Notice of Appeal Outcome will be sent to all parties simultaneously including the decision on each approved ground and rationale for each decision. The Notice of Appeal Outcome will specify the finding on each ground for appeal, any specific instructions for remand or reconsideration, any sanctions that may result which the University is permitted to share according to state or federal law, and the rationale supporting the essential findings to the extent the University is permitted to share under state or federal law.
Notification will be made in writing and may be delivered by one or more of the following methods: in person, mailed to the local or permanent address of the parties as indicated in official institutional records, or emailed to the parties’ PSU-issued email or otherwise approved account.
Sanction Status During Appeal
Any sanctions imposed as a result of the hearing are on hold during the appeal process. Supportive measures may continue or be reinstated, subject to the same supportive measure procedures above.
If any of the sanctions are to be implemented immediately post-hearing, then emergency removal procedures (detailed above) will be followed.
Plymouth State University may still place a conduct hold on a student’s accounts pending the outcome of an appeal when the original sanctions included separation.
- Decisions on appeal are to be deferential to the original decision, making changes to the finding only when there is clear error and to the sanction(s)/responsive action(s) only if there is a compelling justification to do so.
- Appeals are not intended to provide for a full re-hearing (de novo) of the allegation(s). In most cases, appeals are confined to a review of the written documentation or record of the original hearing and pertinent documentation regarding the specific grounds for appeal.
- An appeal is not an opportunity for the Appeal Officer to substitute their judgment for that of the original Decision-maker(s) merely because they disagree with the finding and/or sanction(s).
- The Appeal Officer may consult with the Title IX Coordinator on questions of procedure or rationale, for clarification, if needed. Documentation of all such consultation will be maintained.
- Appeals granted based on new evidence should normally be remanded to the original Investigator(s) and/or Decision-maker(s) for reconsideration. Other appeals may be remanded at the discretion of the Title IX Coordinator or, in limited circumstances, decided on appeal.
- Once an appeal is decided, the outcome is final: further appeals are not permitted, even if a decision or sanction is changed on remand (except in the case of a new hearing).
- In rare cases where a procedural or substantive error cannot be cured by the original Decision-maker(s) (as in cases of bias), the appeal may order a new hearing with a new Decision-maker(s).
- The results of a remand to a Decision-maker(s) cannot be appealed. The results of a new hearing can be appealed, once, on any of the available appeal grounds.
- In cases in which the appeal results in reinstatement to the University or resumption of privileges, all reasonable attempts will be made to restore the Respondent to their prior status, recognizing that some opportunities lost may be irreparable in the short term.
Following the conclusion of the resolution process, and in addition to any sanctions implemented, the Title IX Coordinator may implement additional long-term remedies or actions with respect to the parties and/or the campus community that are intended to stop the harassment, discrimination, and/or retaliation, remedy the effects, and prevent reoccurrence.
These remedies/actions may include, but are not limited to:
- Referral to counseling and health services
- Referral to the Employee Assistance Program
- Education to the individual and/or the community
- Permanent alteration of housing assignments
- Permanent alteration of work arrangements for employees
- Provision of campus safety escorts
- Climate surveys
- Policy modification and/or training
- Provision of transportation accommodations
- Implementation of long-term contact limitations between the parties
- Implementation of adjustments to academic deadlines, course schedules, etc.
- Support with academic progress considerations
At the discretion of the Title IX Coordinator, certain long-term support or measures may also be provided to the parties even if no policy violation is found.
When no policy violation is found, the Title IX Coordinator will address any remedies owed by the University to the Respondent to ensure no effective denial of educational access.
The University will maintain the privacy of any long-term remedies/actions/measures, provided privacy does not impair the University’s ability to provide these services.
All Respondents are expected to comply with the assigned sanctions, responsive actions, and/or corrective actions within the time frame specified by the final Decision-maker(s) (including the Appeal Officer).
Failure to abide by the sanction(s)/action(s) imposed by the date specified, whether by refusal, neglect, or any other reason, may result in additional sanction(s)/action(s), including suspension, expulsion, and/or termination from the University and may be noted on a student’s official transcript.
A hold on a student’s account following suspension will only be lifted when compliance is achieved to the satisfaction of the Title IX Coordinator.
Plymouth State University will maintain for a period of at least seven years records of:
- Each sexual harassment investigation including any determination regarding responsibility and any audio or audiovisual recording or transcript required under federal regulation;
- Any disciplinary sanctions imposed on the Respondent;
- Any remedies provided to the Complainant designed to restore or preserve equal access to the University’s education program or activity;
- Any appeal and the result;
- Any Informal Resolution and the result;
- All materials used to train Title IX Coordinators, Investigators, Decision-makers, and any person who facilitates an Informal Resolution process. PSU will make current training materials publicly available on its website; and
- Any actions, including any supportive measures, taken in response to a report or formal complaint of sexual harassment, including:
- The basis for all conclusions that the response was not deliberately indifferent;
- Any measures designed to restore or preserve equal access to the University’s education program or activity; and
- If no supportive measures were provided to the Complainant, document the reasons why such a response was not clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances.
Plymouth State University will also maintain any and all records in accordance with state and federal laws.
Plymouth State University is committed to providing reasonable accommodations and support to qualified students, employees, or others with disabilities to ensure equal access to the University’s resolution process.
Parties may access accommodations by either informing the Title IX Coordinator, who will consult the appropriate offices to make arrangements or by contacting the Director of Campus Accessibility Services or Director of Human Resources directly to request accommodations.
This Policy and related procedures supersede any previous policy(ies) addressing harassment, sexual misconduct, discrimination, and/or retaliation and will be reviewed and updated annually by the Title IX Coordinator. The review and update process shall include consultation with appropriate campus, community, and state partners. The University reserves the right to make changes to this document as necessary, and once those changes are posted online, they are in effect.
During the resolution process, the Title IX Coordinator may make minor modifications to procedures that do not materially jeopardize the fairness owed to any party, such as to accommodate summer schedules. The Title IX Coordinator may also vary procedures materially with notice (on the institutional website, with the appropriate effective date identified) upon determining that changes to law or regulation require policy or procedural alterations not reflected in this Policy and procedures.
If government laws or regulations change – or court decisions alter – the requirements in a way that impacts this document, this document will be construed to comply with the most recent government regulations or holdings.
This document does not create legally enforceable protections beyond the protection of the background state and federal laws which frame such policies and codes, generally.
This Policy and related procedures are effective August 14, 2020.