Resolution Options: The Formal and Informal Resolution Processes
The Title IX and Gender Equity Office’s staff is available to meet with anyone who wants to learn about the university’s formal and informal resolution processes. Below are summaries and flowcharts describing each process.
- Resolution Options Flowchart [pdf]
- Informal Resolution Process Flowchart [pdf]
- Formal Resolution Process Flowchart [pdf]
The Informal Resolution Process Summarized
An informal resolution is a remedies-based resolution process that does not involve an investigation, hearing, or appeal. It is an alternative to the formal resolution process and may take a variety of customizable forms that can include, but is not limited to, shuttled mediation, a facilitated conversation(s), or the submission of impact and mitigation statements. An informal resolution process may only be initiated with the consent of the Complainant, Respondent, and the university.
Generally speaking, the informal resolution process includes the following steps:
Both Parties agree to pursue Informal Resolution;
Both Parties sign a written agreement to participate in Informal Resolution;
A trained facilitator meets with the Complainant (and their advisor if applicable) to understand their desired outcomes;
The same facilitator meets with the Respondent (and their advisor if applicable) to see if they agree with the Complainant’s desired outcomes, whether the Respondent wants to alter any of the proposed outcomes, and/or whether the Respondent disagrees with any/all of the desired outcomes;
The facilitator continues to meet with the Complainant and Respondent (and their advisors), if necessary;
If both Parties agree on outcome(s), they will sign a written agreement and the matter will be considered closed. The Title IX and Gender Equity Office monitors compliance with the Agreement.
If both Parties do not agree on outcome(s) the Informal Resolution process ends and the formal resolution process (investigation, hearing, and optional appeal) begins. If the Complainant does not wish to proceed with the formal resolution process, they may ask the Title IX and Gender Equity Office to stop the formal process.
The Title IX and Gender Equity Office handles the informal resolution process just as carefully as the formal resolution process; every informal resolution is overseen by a trained and impartial facilitator, and trained support advisors are available to assist both the Complainant and Respondent throughout the process. Generally, the outcome of an informal resolution does not include an admission of responsibility. However, the outcome focuses on the harm caused to the Complainant and may include agreement by the Respondent to participate in appropriate and reasonable remedies. These remedies could be similar to measures imposed as disciplinary sanctions, but they are always determined through mutual agreement.
The Formal Resolution Process Summarized
There are three different investigation procedures for formal complaints involving
student Respondents: Track 1, Track 2, and Track 3.
There are two different investigation procedures for formal complaints involving employee Respondents: Track 1 and Track 3.
The applicable procedural Track is determined by the criteria below.
Track 1 applies when the alleged conduct:
- Meets the definition of Sexual Harassment as defined in Article VII.C of the Nondiscrimination Policy; and
- Occurred in the United States; and
- Occurred in an education program or activity at the university, as defined in the section of the Nondiscrimination Policy titled, “Track 1: Federal
- Mandated Hearing Process. Prohibited Conduct Defined.”
Track 2 applies when:
- The Complaint involves a Student Respondent; and
- The Complaint alleges Sexual Misconduct, Dating Violence, or Domestic Violence, as defined in the Nondiscrimination Policy; and
- The credibility of one (or both) of the Complainant and the Respondent ("the Parties"), or any witness is central to the determination as to whether the Student violated the Nondiscrimination Policy; and
- The Student is facing a severe disciplinary sanction (expulsion or suspension) if
found to be in violation of the Nondiscrimination Policy.
Track 3 applies to all other Complaints that allege a Nondiscrimination Policy violation
The Track 3 process is commonly referred to as a “single-investigator model” because it does not involve a hearing. Instead, the assigned investigator is responsible for conducting the investigation and making determinations about the alleged policy violation(s).
The main stages of each procedural Track is displayed in the following diagram and summarized below.
Step 1: The Formal Complaint
A formal complaint is an official request for an investigation that is made by either the Complainant or the Title IX and Gender Equity Officer.
Step 2: The Notice of Allegations (sometimes referred to as a “Notice of Investigation”)
The Title IX and Gender Equity Office will issue a written Notice of Allegations that includes important information such as the identities of the individuals involved in the incident, a summary of the reported conduct, the potential policy violations, the name of the assigned investigator, and the university’s policy against retaliation.
Step 3: The Investigation, Review of Evidence, & Final Report
BThe Title IX and Gender Equity Office will appoint a trained and impartial investigator
to conduct the investigation.
Both Parties have the right to participate in an interview(s) with the investigator, but are not required to do so. Additionally, the Parties may present witnesses and evidence for consideration, regardless of whether the Party participates in an interview. The Parties will not be restricted from gathering and presenting relevant evidence to the investigator.
After the investigator has gathered all reasonably available and relevant information, the Complainant and Respondent will receive a preliminary version of the investigation report and all relevant evidence for review and comment. The investigator will consider the Parties’ comments to the preliminary report and evidence and determine whether to conduct any additional investigation. The investigator will then prepare a final investigation report and share it with the Parties and their advisors.
For Track 3 matters, the investigation report will include a determination of responsibility. However, for matters in either Track 1 or Track 2, the case will proceed to a hearing after the investigation prior to any determination of responsibility.
Step 4: The Hearing (For Tracks 1 and 2 only)
The hearing is an opportunity for the Complainant and Respondent to present relevant information to an independent decision-maker (“hearing officer”) for consideration. Attendance at the hearing is not required and the hearing officer will not draw any negative inference from a Party’s decision to not participate. The Complainant and Respondent will not be required to be physically present in the same room; the hearing will take place using videoconferencing technology, so the Parties can participate in the hearing from wherever they choose. Additionally, the Complainant and Respondent may be accompanied by one advisor and one support person.
The hearing will follow one of two formats, which are both fully described in the Nondiscrimination Policy.
Regardless of the hearing format, the Complainant and Respondent should expect that they will be asked relevant questions posed by the hearing officer and the other Party through their Advisor—either in writing or directly.
Following the hearing, the hearing officer will determine, using a preponderance of the evidence standard, whether the information is sufficient to find the Respondent responsible for any of the policy violations at issue.
- If the hearing officer determines that the Respondent is responsible for violating
any university policy, the Parties will be given the opportunity to submit written
impact statements that will be considered before any sanction(s) are imposed or remedy(ies)
- The hearing officer will then prepare a written outcome letter describing the outcome of the hearing, including any sanction(s) imposed or remedy(ies) implemented, and the Parties’ appeal rights
- If the hearing officer determines that the Respondent is not responsible for violating any university policy, the Parties will receive written notice of the outcome along with their appeal rights.
Step 5: Optional Appeal
Both Parties have the right to appeal the determination of responsibility and/or sanction, in writing, on any of the following grounds:
- There was no reasonable basis for the findings or conclusions that resulted in the investigation or hearing outcome.
- Procedural errors occurred that would have likely changed the outcome of the investigation or hearing.
- New evidence that was not reasonably available at the time of the investigation or hearing and would have likely affected the investigation outcome or hearing officer's decision about whether the Respondent violated the Policy.
- For certain matters, the sanction(s) imposed was objectively unreasonable, or arbitrary based on substantiated conduct.
The appeal will not be decided by the Title IX and Gender Equity Officer, investigator, nor hearing officer; rather, the appeal will be decided by an independent university official free of any conflict of interest or bias. Both Parties will receive written notice of the appeal outcome, after which the matter will be considered closed.