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Investigation and Disciplinary Process When a Student Is Reported to Have Engaged in Sexual Misconduct

The following is the process used to investigate and resolve reports of sexual misconduct exhibited by students, once the Title IX coordinator has determined that a formal investigation is warranted.

1. Notice

The reporting party is typically aware that an investigation has begun as a result of filing a report. If the reporting party is not the victim, the Title IX coordinator will ensure that the victim receives opportunity for notice of any investigation being initiated, and of the aspects of the policy that are being investigated. The responding party is also entitled to receive notice of the aspects of the violation that are reported to have been violated. Depending upon the specific  circumstances of the case, this notice may be provided after the investigator has met with the reporting party. The responding party will be provided with an opportunity to review the notice prior to being interviewed by the investigator and has the right to review the notice of possible violations and the Sexual Misconduct Policy prior to providing any information about the incident reported. If the responding party decides to talk about the incident prior to reviewing the notice, any information shared may still be utilized in the investigation and resolution process. Such notice may occur the same day that NSU receives and reviews the incident report, or it may occur several days later. For example, law enforcement may request that the campus investigation be temporarily delayed for one–two weeks while evidence gathering occurs in a criminal investigation.

2. Investigation

The investigator will make all reasonable attempts to first offer the reporting party (or the victim) an opportunity for a meeting to

  • ask any questions about the investigation process;
  • share as many details as possible about the incident;
  • provide any information that may be useful in the investigation, such as photographs, screenshots, emails, etc.;
  • describe any impacts the reported misconduct had on the victim’s participation or success in academic programs or activities; and
  • offer the names of witnesses who may have witnessed the incident itself, as well as behaviors relevant to the investigation that may have occurred right before or after the incident

The investigator will keep the reporting and responding parties informed of the status of the investigation as appropriate, including any delay(s) and the reason(s) for such delay(s). The investigation includes speaking with the responding party and any individuals who may have information related to the reported incident. The Title IX coordinator is kept apprised of the information gathered through the investigation and its status. Depending on the complexity of the investigation, it may take a week or several weeks to complete. If the investigation will not be completed within 60 days, both parties will be informed of that and the reason for the delay.

During the investigation process, the reporting party and responding party will be able to review and respond to any information that will be used to determine whether a violation occurred, and also to determine what (if any) sanctions may be appropriate. Both the reporting party and the responding party have the opportunity to share information about the incident(s), provide the names of witnesses to be interviewed, and respond to contradictory information. This will be done separately through meeting(s) with the investigator. Character witnesses, unrelated and irrelevant past sexual behaviors, and other such information are excluded from the investigation. When the investigator has gathered all the information available, an investigation summary will be prepared. It will include

  • a summary of the incident as reported by the reporting party;
  • a summary of the incident as reported by the responding party;
  • any additional information obtained during the investigation that is relevant to determining whether the reported individual is responsible or not for committing violation(s) of the Sexual Misconduct Policy, such as summaries or statements from witnesses;
  • any supporting documentation, such as screenshots, photos, incident or police reports, or other items;
  • the investigator’s assessment(s) of credibility of interviewed parties and/or information;
  • an investigative analysis and conclusion(s)

Both parties are then provided with an opportunity to review the investigation summary and provide any response to it. After reviewing the investigation summary, both parties are also given the opportunity to provide any information to be considered regarding personal impact, unique circumstances, or other factors that do not relate to determining whether or not a policy was violated, but that may be useful in determining sanctions. Any information shared by one party may be reviewed by the other party. The only exception is, if the responding party has a record of misconduct, that information will be shared with the adjudicator after the determination of responsibility has been made; the reporting party will not be informed of that unrelated conduct history.

Once the investigation summary has been completed and the parties have had the opportunity to review it, the investigation summary will be forwarded to the Title IX coordinator. Any information pertaining solely to sanctioning will be provided separate from the investigation summary to minimize bias on the part of the adjudicator.

3. Adjudication

The Title IX coordinator provides the investigation report to a trained adjudicator, usually the assistant dean of student affairs or designee, who is free from conflicts of interest. The adjudicator reviews the investigation summary and any included information (all of which both parties have already seen and have had the chance to respond to) and makes the determination, based on the preponderance of the evidence standard, as to whether the responding party was responsible or not for committing a violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy.

The adjudicator then informs the Title IX coordinator that a decision about responsibility has been made. If the adjudicator determines that the Sexual Misconduct Policy was violated, the adjudicator will receive the information pertaining to sanctioning so he or she can determine appropriate sanctions. If the adjudicator determines that no violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy has occurred, the adjudicator will not receive the information relevant to sanctioning. The adjudication generally should occur no later than one week after the adjudicator receives the investigation summary.

4. Notification of Decision

Within one week of receiving the investigation summary, the adjudicator will provide simultaneous notice of the decision to the reporting party and the responding party, as well as to the Title IX coordinator. The notice of decision will be sent via email to the parties’ NSU email addresses. Additional copies may be provided by personal delivery, postal mail, or other means, if determined necessary by the adjudicator and/or the Title IX coordinator. The notice of decision will include

  • a finding of responsible or not responsible for violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy, including information on the specific aspects of the policy that were in question;
  • a rationale for the finding(s);
  • a description of any sanction(s) to be imposed; and
  • a rationale for the selection of sanction*

*If the responding party had prior conduct sanction(s) that impacted the sanctions issued in a situation, the reporting party/victim will only be informed that there may have been prior circumstances involving the respondent that contributed to the sanctions that were applied in this case.

In the case that the victim of sexual misconduct is not the reporting party or chose not to participate in the investigation or resolution, the victim still has the right to receive notice of the results.

5. Appeals

Both the responding party and the reporting party have the opportunity to appeal the decision of responsibility and/or the sanction(s) based on any one of the following:

  • new, relevant evidence that was not available during the investigation or adjudication that would substantially alter the outcome of the case;
  • information that procedures (as published on the Title IX website) were not followed and the deviance would substantially alter the outcome of the case; or
  • that the sanction(s) do not relate appropriately to the violation(s)

An appeal must be made in writing and must explain the basis for appeal. The written appeal must be received by the Vice President for Student Affairs within five business days of NSU sending the notice of decision. Upon receipt of an appeal, the office of the Vice President of Student Affairs will notify the Title IX Coordinator. The Title IX coordinator will notify the other party that an appeal has been received, and will provide up to five business days for the other party to provide any information in writing that he or she would like considered in the appeal review.

The Title IX coordinator will ensure that any information submitted by the parties for consideration is provided to the vice president of student affairs, who will review the appeal(s) and issue a decision within 10 business days of receiving the appeal information. The vice president of student affairs may review the investigation summary and decision letters in considering the appeal. The decision of the vice president of student affairs will be final.

At the conclusion of the process, both parties are welcome to contact the Title IX coordinator to provide any feedback about their experience during the proceedings.

6. Records of Proceedings

The records (i.e., investigation summary, sanctioning information, and copies of letters sent) of proceedings involving students are subject to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the university respects the privacy of the individuals involved. While the investigation is focused on determining violations of the Sexual Misconduct Policy, relevant information may also be used to address other violations committed. As the university does not wish to deter reporting or full participation in the investigation process, violations that do not pose a threat to health or safety will not be pursued. The university recognizes that reporting and responding to reports of sexual misconduct may be difficult at times and encourages all involved parties to utilize confidential resources offered through the university during and after the disciplinary process as appropriate. The university does not issue nondisclosure agreements or prohibit individuals from discussing their experiences; however, all parties should take caution to avoid illegal acts such as libel or slander. If there are sanctions that require campus offices or entities to enforce, or when university employees have a legitimate educational interest in the information, a separate notice containing only the information necessary will be provided by the adjudicator. For example, if the responding party is suspended, dismissed, or expelled from the university, written notification of the sanction is provided to the dean of the student’s academic program and appropriate university administrative offices. If the violation has implications to the standards of practice or supplementary standards of the student’s academic program, the relevant information regarding the responding party is sent to the responding party’s academic program dean (once the matter is subject to a final, non-appealable disposition). No personally identifiable information about the reporting party will be shared.

Records will be maintained in accordance with relevant recordkeeping practices, including compliance with the Clery Act, which requires some records to be maintained for a minimum of seven years. Students may view their FERPA-protected education records pertaining to sexual misconduct, but they may not receive copies of them.

7. Sanctions

When a student is found to have violated the Sexual Misconduct Policy, one or more sanctions from the Student Code of Conduct may be imposed. NSU does not have mandatory minimums or prescriptive sanctions. Factors considered by adjudicators when determining sanctions include, but are not limited to, the nature and egregiousness of the behavior, any prior misconduct and sanctions, and impacts of the behavior.

Available Sanctions

Expulsion

Permanent dismissal from the university with no right for future readmission under any circumstances. A student who has been expelled is barred from campus visiting privileges.

Suspension

Mandatory separation from the university for a period of time specified in an order of suspension. An application for admission will not be entertained until the period of separation indicated in the suspension order has elapsed. Readmission is subject to approval of the university. During the period of suspension, the student is barred from campus visiting privileges, unless specific permission is granted by the assistant dean of student affairs or his or her designee. Suspensions may range from one term to several years.

Temporary Suspension

Action taken by the vice president or assistant dean of student affairs that requires a student’s temporary separation from the university until a final determination is made of whether or not a student has committed the reported offense.

Final Disciplinary Probation

A disciplinary sanction serving notice to a student that his or her behavior is a flagrant violation of university standards, under which the following conditions exist:

  • The sanction is for the remainder of the student’s academic career and may be reviewed by the vice president of student affairs no sooner than two regular academic semesters or equivalent after the sanction is imposed.
  • After two semesters in attendance, a student may initiate a request, in writing, for reduction of the sanction to Disciplinary Probation, but must also demonstrate reason to substantiate the request.
  • Another violation of the Code of Student Conduct and Academic Responsibility will result in the minimum of suspension being imposed if the student is found in violation.
Disciplinary Probation

A disciplinary sanction serving notice to a student that his or her behavior is in serious violation of university standards. A time period is indicated during which another offense of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or violation of the Code of Student Conduct will automatically raise the question of a more severe sanction (suspension or expulsion) if the student is found in violation.

Disciplinary Warning

A disciplinary sanction serving notice to a student that his or her behavior has not met university standards. This sanction remains in effect for a designated number of semesters of attendance, after which it is expunged from the student’s file.

Verbal Warning

A verbal admonition to the student by a university staff member that the student’s behavior is inappropriate. A verbal warning will be noted in the student’s file.

Restitution

Payment made for damages or losses to the university, as directed by the adjudicating body.

Restriction or Revocation of Privileges

Temporary or permanent loss of privileges, including, but not limited to, the use of a particular university facility, visitation privileges, and parking privileges.

Termination or Change of Residence Hall Agreement/Accommodation

A disciplinary sanction that terminates or changes the Residence Hall Agreement/Accommodation. This should be accompanied by another form of disciplinary action. It is considered permanent unless lifted by the vice president of student affairs, the assistant dean of student affairs, the director of residential life, or their designees.

Counseling Intervention

Mandatory assessment and/or referral to receive assistance from a licensed care provider.

Other Appropriate Action

Disciplinary action not specifically outlined above, but approved through the vice president or assistant dean of student affairs or their designees.

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