Confidentiality of the Investigation
In order to comply with laws and regulations protecting education records of students and to provide an orderly process for the determination and consideration of relevant evidence without undue intimidation or pressure, the investigation findings are confidential. Investigation findings may not be disclosed except as described below or as required or authorized by law or as may be authorized by the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) in connection with responsibilities of the University.
The investigation process will proceed as follows:
- Assignment of Investigator: The Title IX Coordinator (or designee) will assign the matter to a trained investigator or investigators (the “Investigator”) to promptly, fairly and impartially investigate the report. Investigator training is provided at least annually on issues including, but not limited to, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking; how to conduct investigations; protecting safety of all individuals involved, and promoting accountability.
- Conduct of the Investigator: The Investigator will promptly, fairly and impartially investigate the report. The Investigator may not privately discuss the facts or merits of the case with the Complainant or Responding Party or with anyone acting on behalf of the Complainant or Responding Party. The Title IX Coordinator (or designee) will provide the Investigator with a written copy of the report and any other supporting material.
- Initiation of the Investigation: The Title IX Coordinator (or designee) will notify the Complainant and Responding Party, in writing, of the commencement of an investigation under the AHND Policy. Such Notice shall (1) identify the Complainant(s), when the Complainant is otherwise not anonymous, and the Responding Party(ies); (2) specify the date(s)(if known), time(s) (if known), location(s), and nature of the alleged violation(s); (3) identify potential Policy violation(s); (4) identify the Investigator(s); (5) inform the parties of the right to choose and consult with an advisor, who can accompany the parties to any meeting or hearing under the Policy; (6) explain the prohibition against Retaliation; (7) instruct the parties to preserve any potentially relevant evidence in any format; and (8) provide the parties with a copy of the Policy. Note the Department of Public Safety’s contemporaneous response to an incident and any information or statements collected by the Department of Public Safety in response to an incident shall be considered by the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) as part of a determination to initiate an investigation. Both parties will be afforded seven (7) calendar days in which to provide a written response to the Notice of Investigation. A copy of this response will be provided to investigators and will be included in the final investigation report. During this seven (7) day period, the investigation may proceed forward.
- Interviews: The investigation will include, where permissible, interviews of (1) the Complainant, (2) the Responding Party, and (3) any witnesses and other persons who are identified as possibly having relevant information related to the allegation, and who agree to be interviewed. The investigation also will include a review of relevant documentation and other information the Investigator deems relevant.
- Investigation Report: The Investigator will prepare a written report (the “Investigation Report”) concerning the results of the investigation. The Investigation Report will be distributed to the Complainant, the Responding Party, and the Title IX Coordinator (or a designee). If a Board hearing is held, the Board will also be provided with a copy of the Investigation Report. Both parties may respond in writing to the Investigation Report within seven (7) calendar days of the delivery date of the Investigation Report. Any response will be delivered to the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) for review.
- Determination of Charges: The Title IX Coordinator (or designee) reviews the Investigation Report and any response, consult with the Investigator, and make a determination of whether sufficient facts exist to warrant a Formal Hearing. The Title IX Coordinator (or designee) also will determine what charges (e.g., “Discrimination,” “Non-consensual Sexual Contact,” “Non-Consensual Sexual Penetration,” or other forms of “Sexual Harassment” or other “Harassment,” or “Intimate Partner Violence” or “Stalking”), if any, will be referred for a Formal Hearing. That determination will be communicated in writing to the Complainant and Responding Party in the form of the Notice of Charges or other written communication as appropriate.
A Complainant whose request for Formal Adjudication is denied may appeal that denial to the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) within five (5) calendar days. The Title IX Coordinator (or designee) will then review the report and the Investigator’s report and all other available case material. The decision of the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) on the appeal is final and not the subject of further appeal.
- Notice of Charges: If a Formal Hearing is deemed necessary, the Office of Community Standards will commence the hearing process by providing written notice to the respondent (“Notice of Charges”) stating: (1) the nature of the complaint; (2) the offense alleged (including references, as applicable, to the Standards of Conduct allegedly violated); (3) the name of the Complainant; (4) the date, time and place of the Formal Hearing; (5) the date, time, and place of the pre-hearing meeting at which preliminary matters will be discussed as outlined in the “Pre-Hearing Meeting(s) and Determination of Witnesses” section that follows; and (6) the names of the Board members (the “Board”), including the presiding chair. The Notice of Charges is mailed to the respondent’s current local or other address on record with the University and is considered effective three (3) calendar days after such mailing or otherwise when actually received by the respondent, whichever occurs first. The Notice of Charges is simultaneously mailed to the Complainant’s current local or other address on record with the University along with the date, time, and place of a separate pre-hearing meeting at which preliminary matters will be discussed.
- Request to Terminate the Investigation: Upon mutual consent, the Complainant and Responding Party may seek to terminate a formal investigation, but the Title IX Coordinator (or designee), in consultation with the Investigator, may nevertheless determine, in his judgment and discretion, that the interests of the University community require the continuation of the formal investigation.
A Formal Hearing before the Student Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Board (the “Board”) results if and when charges are determined by the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) as a result of the Investigation.
The Formal Hearing must take place not more than fourteen (14) calendar days after delivery of the Notice of Charges to the Responding Party, unless the Board Chair, in their sole discretion, allows for a longer period of time.
If a report is filed within sixty (60) calendar days of the Responding Party’s intended graduation, during a University recess or Summer Session, or in other circumstances where the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) determines that the report cannot otherwise be resolved in a timely manner, procedural options may be limited. In particular, a Formal Hearing under these circumstances may instead take the form of an administrative hearing by a designated Student Affairs employee appointed by the Title IX Coordinator (or designee).
Confidentiality of the Formal Hearing Process
In order to comply with laws and regulations protecting education records of students and to provide an orderly process for the presentation and consideration of relevant evidence without undue intimidation or pressure, the hearing process before the Board is confidential and is closed to the public. Documents prepared in anticipation of the hearing (such as the Investigator’s report, the Notice of Charges, or any written pre-hearing submissions), documents, testimony, or other evidence introduced at the hearing; or any transcript of the hearing itself, may not be disclosed except as required or authorized by law or as may be authorized by the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) in connection with responsibilities of the University.
The hearing process shall proceed as follows:
Composition and Purpose of the Board
- Composition of the Board: The Board will be composed of three (3) impartial and trained, professional staff members of the University community. The Title IX Coordinator (or designee) designates one Board member to serve as the presiding chair of the Board (the “Board Chair”). Board member training is provided at least annually on issues including, but not limited to, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking; how to conduct investigations and hearings; protecting the safety of all individuals involved, and promoting accountability.
- Challenge of Board Member: A Complainant or Responding Party wishing to challenge the participation of any Board member must notify the Board Chair and the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) in writing, stating the reason(s) for the party’s objection. Such a challenge must be made in writing and delivered to the Board Chair and the Title IX Coordinator at 2083 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville, New Jersey 08648-3099, Moore Library Room 108, or by email within seven (7) calendar days of the mailing of the Notice of Charges to the Responding Party and Complainant in the manner set forth in the Notice of Charges section. Except with respect to challenges to the participation of the Board Chair, the Board Chair determines whether the challenge has merit and reserves sole discretion to make changes in the Board’s composition at all times. In the event of a challenge to the participation of the Board Chair, the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) determines whether the challenge has merit and reserves sole discretion to appoint another Board member or other person as the Board Chair for a given hearing.
- Conduct of the Board: The Board will seek to encourage an open exchange of information within the rules of confidentiality articulated in these procedures. While the Board’s procedures are designed to ensure due process for the Complainant and Responding Party, the Board is not bound by the rules of criminal or civil procedures that govern judicial proceedings in court. Board members will serve as impartial fact finders and not as advocates for either the Complainant or Responding Party. Once an individual has been named to the Board, they may not privately discuss the facts or merits of the case with the Complainant or Responding Party or with anyone acting on behalf of either the Complainant or Responding Party. The Board Chair will provide Board members with a copy of the Notice of Charges, the Investigation Report, the incident report, written statements, and list of witnesses and documents or other evidence submitted by the Complainant and Responding Party in advance of the hearing date.
- Pre-Hearing Submissions: No less than seven (7) calendar days prior to the hearing date, the Complainant and Responding Party must provide the Board Chair with brief written statements describing their positions, a list of witnesses they propose to call, and copies of documents and a description of any other evidence they propose to present at the hearing. The Board Chair provides a copy of such written statements and documents to the other party as set forth below. In the absence of good cause as determined by the Board Chair in their sole discretion, the Complainant and Responding Party may not introduce witnesses, documents, or other evidence at the hearing that were not timely provided to the Board Chair as set forth above. The Complainant and Responding Party are also responsible for securing the attendance of their proposed witnesses at the hearing.
- Pre-Hearing Meeting(s) and Determination of Witnesses: The Board Chair (or designee) will seek to schedule one or more pre-hearing meeting(s) with the Complainant and Responding Party, either jointly or separately at the sole discretion of the Board Chair (or designee), no less than three (3) calendar days prior to the hearing date. At the meeting(s), the Board Chair (or designee) will review hearing procedures with the Complainant and Responding Party. The Board Chair (or designee) will also review the list of proposed witnesses to assist the Complainant and Responding Party in eliminating redundant testimony. At the pre-hearing meeting(s), the Board Chair (or designee) will provide the Complainant and Responding Party with a copy of the written statement, list of witnesses, and identification or copies of documents or other evidence submitted by the other individual. The Complainant and Responding Party may be accompanied by their respective advisors at any pre-hearing meeting(s).
- Hearing Moderator: The Title IX Coordinator (or designee) may designate an administrator to act as a hearing moderator to be present at a hearing to control the hearing and ensure the hearing follows procedural guidelines. The moderator will be impartial and has no interest or input in the outcome of the hearing.
- Persons Participating: Typically, the Complainant and Responding Party, their respective advisors, the University’s counsel, the Board members and a moderator are the only individuals present at the hearing. The Complainant and Responding Party may have an advisor of their choice present at the hearing and any related meetings. Advisors are not permitted to address the Board, examine witnesses or otherwise directly participate in the hearing on behalf of either party. The University may remove or dismiss advisors who become disruptive or who do not abide by the restrictions on their participation. See definition of advisor for more information.
Should either the Complainant or Responding Party fail to appear at the scheduled hearing, the Board Chair may postpone the proceedings or the Board may proceed and determine the report on the basis of the evidence presented, provided the absent party was duly notified in advance of the scheduled hearing date as outlined above. The Complainant and Responding Party are not required to be present at the hearing. However, the exercise of that right does not preclude the Board from proceeding and determining responsibility on the basis of the facts and circumstances presented. If requested, the University will make arrangements such that the Complainant and Responding Party are not present in the same room at the same time as part of the hearing.
- Recording: The Board Chair will arrange for the hearing to be audio-recorded.
- Conduct of the Hearing: The hearing before the Board will not follow a courtroom model. The Board Chair will determine the order of the witnesses and resolve any questions of procedure arising during the hearing. Absent extraordinary circumstances, the Investigator will not testify at the hearing unless approved by the Board Chair upon finding that the Investigator may have material information that cannot otherwise be provided to the Board. The Complainant and Responding Party will not be expected to repeat undisputed details or non-material circumstances that would merely duplicate the written materials. The Board, in its discretion, may seek to have other persons speak at the hearing. Only the Board Chair and the Board may question the Complainant, Responding Party, and any witnesses. However, the Complainant and Responding Party may ask the Board Chair to pose additional questions or inquire further into specific matters by submitting these requests in writing. If necessary, a brief recess may be granted to allow the Complainant and Responding Party an opportunity to prepare and submit such requests. The Board Chair is empowered to disallow any questions that are irrelevant or redundant. After all witnesses have been questioned, the Complainant and Responding Party may make a closing statement and request a short recess to prepare their statement(s). If the Board determines that unresolved issues exist that would be clarified by the presentation of additional evidence, the Board Chair may recess the Board hearing and reconvene it for the presentation of additional evidence in a timely manner. A recess may not be based on the failure of witnesses to appear without good cause or on the proposed introduction of documents or other evidence that should have been presented at the pre-hearing meeting(s).
- Impact Statement: During the hearing, the Complainant may present the Board with a statement recommending a sanction (“Impact Statement”). The Responding Party will be provided an opportunity to respond to the Impact Statement. The Board is not bound by these statements in determining responsibility or the sanction. Witnesses other than the parties normally are not permitted at the Impact Statement phase of the hearing; however, the Board Chair reserves the sole discretion to authorize the presence of other persons.
- Standard for Responsibility Finding: All decisions by the Board will be made by majority vote. The Board first determines whether the Responding Party is responsible for the alleged violation(s) of the Policy (the “Responsibility Finding”), and then, if appropriate, determine by majority vote the sanction to be imposed Responding Party (the “Sanction Finding”). A finding of responsibility must be supported by a “preponderance of the evidence.” “Preponderance of the evidence” means that the University establishes that it is more likely than not that the Responding Party is responsible for committing the act or acts complained of.
- Sanction Findings: After the Board has made a Responsibility Finding, the Board may impose any sanction that it finds to be fair and proportionate to the violation and in the interests of the University community, including the Responding Party and Complainant, and that is authorized for violations of the Student Code of Conduct (the “Sanction Finding”), including disciplinary probation, suspension, and expulsion. In determining an appropriate sanction, the Board may consider any record on the part of the Responding Party of past violations of the Student Code of Conduct, as well as the nature and severity of the violation(s) and any mitigating circumstances. The Board will consider as part of its deliberations whether the Responding Party poses a continuing risk to the Complainant and/or University community. The University expects all cases involving a finding of sexual assault to involve consideration of the sanctions of suspension or expulsion. Any sanction imposed is based on a majority vote of the Board. All Sanction Findings require a finding that the sanction to be imposed is warranted by a preponderance of the evidence.
- Sanction Levels: In instances involving student violations of the Policy, the charge(s) will correspond with the following sanction ranges, based on the severity of the alleged violation(s):
- Non-Consensual Sexual Penetration (Level 1 to Level 3)
- Non-Consensual Sexual Contact (Level 1 to Level 3)
- Sexual Harassment (Level 1 to Level 3)
- Sexual Discrimination (Level 1 to Level 3)
- Intimate Partner Violence (Level 1 to Level 3)
- Stalking (Level 1 to Level 3)
- Sexual Exploitation (Level 1 to Level 3)
- Harassment/Discrimination (Level 1 to Level 4)
- Effective Date of Sanction: Sanctions imposed by a Board are not effective until any timely administrative appeal of the decision by the Complainant and/or Responding Party is completed. However, if advisable to protect the welfare of the Complainant or the University community, the Board may include in its Determination Letter that any probation, suspension, or expulsion is effective immediately and will continue in effect until such time as the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) may otherwise determine in their sole discretion. The Title IX Coordinator (or designee) may suspend the Board’s determination pending exhaustion of an appeal or allow the Responding Party to attend classes or participate in other University activity(ies) on a supervised or monitored basis. The decision(s) of the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) in this regard is in their sole discretion and is not appealable. Any interim measures, no contact orders, or other administrative actions imposed prior to the hearing will remain in place during the appeal process unless otherwise notified.
- Determination Letter: Within ten (10) calendar days following the hearing, or such longer time as the Board Chair may for good cause determine, the Board will issue its decision in writing (the “Determination Letter”). The Determination Letter will be simultaneously mailed to the Complainant’s and the Responding Party’s official university email address with a copy provided to the Title IX Coordinator. (Should there be any change to the hearing result prior to the time it becomes final, the Complainant and Responding Party will also be notified simultaneously in writing.) The Determination Letter will contain the following information: (1) the name of the Responding Party; (2) whether the Responding Party has been found responsible or not responsible of the charges; (3) the sanction imposed, if any; (4) the rationale for the Board’s finding as to responsibility and, if appropriate, the rationale for the sanction imposed; and (5) procedures for filing an appeal. University policy neither encourages nor discourages further disclosure of the Determination Letter by either the Complainant or Responding Party. The University encourages a student who wishes to disclose the Determination Letter to any other person to consult with legal counsel before doing so.
- Early Resolution: The Board Chair may propose a resolution of a report and request for Formal Hearing, with the consent of the Complainant, at any time in cases where the Responding Party wishes to acknowledge responsibility for the acts of discrimination/ harassment (including, but not limited to, non-consensual sexual penetration, non-consensual sexual contact, or sexual harassment) and the Responding Party agrees to be subjected to a sanction.
Informal Procedures for Employee Violations of the Policy
Mediation is an informal, voluntary process that allows the Complainant and Responding Party involved in an alleged report of discrimination or harassment to discuss their respective understandings of the incident with each other through the assistance of a trained mediator. Mediation is designed to encourage each person to be honest and direct with the other and to accept personal responsibility where appropriate. Mediation is only offered as an option if both the Complainant and Responding Party are employees of Rider University. Mediation is not appropriate for certain cases, such as alleged sexual assaults, even on a voluntary basis.
Upon the consent of all parties to the report, the Title IX Coordinator (or designee), with relevant supervisors when appropriate, will seek an outcome through mediation to be conducted by University staff or an external professional engaged by the University. Any resolution through mediation also must be mutually agreed upon by all parties to the report. Both the Complainant and Responding Party have the right to bypass or end the informal report process at any time in order to begin the formal stage of the report process.
Records arising from informal procedures will not be used for any purpose other than those described above unless a report subsequently results in a formal hearing or otherwise becomes part of a legal action. Since informal level records represent allegations not supported by formal findings of fact, they will be maintained in a confidential manner separate from any other records for four (4) years. They will be destroyed after that period if no further allegations or formal reports have been received concerning the same individual. Such records shall not be used as evidence of guilt or innocence in any investigation or hearing involving a future report involving the same Responding Party. The Responding Party is entitled to include a response to documents contained in the confidential personnel file(s).
Formal Procedures for Employee Violations of the Policy
If the allegation of harassment has not been resolved as a result of the informal procedures or is of the kind, in the Title IX Coordinator’s (or designee) opinion, that is not suitable to informal resolution, or if either the Complainant or Responding Party request to begin the formal report process, a formal investigation will be initiated.
The Responding Party will be afforded fourteen (14) calendar days from the date that the formal investigation was initiated to provide a written response to the allegations. A copy of any response will be provided to the Complainant.
The Title IX Coordinator (or designee) will either investigate the matter or assign the matter to an investigator (in either instance the “Investigator”) to promptly, fairly and impartially investigate the report. An investigator is a trained professional staff member of the University community or an external professional. Training for professional staff members are provided at least annually on issues including, but not limited to, intimate partner violence, sexual assault and stalking; how to conduct investigations; safety and promoting accountability.
The investigation of all formal reports will include, when appropriate, interviews of the (1) Complainant, (2) the Responding Party, and (3) any witnesses and other persons who are identified as having relevant information and who agree to be interviewed. The Complainant and Responding Party will have the opportunity to identify witnesses and other evidence for consideration. If the Responding Party is represented by a bargaining agent, the Responding Party may have that agent present at any interview with the Investigator.
The Investigator will investigate the allegations and report the results, conclusions and recommended actions, if any, in writing to the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) and the appropriate vice-president/division head. A summary of the report will also be provided to the Complainant and Responding Party. After consulting with the Title IX Coordinator (or designee), the appropriate vice-president/division head will initiate disciplinary action as soon as reasonably practicable, when in their judgment it is appropriate, and will attempt to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent recurrence of the offending behavior and to correct its discriminatory effects on the Complainant and others, if appropriate. The Complainant, Responding Party, and the union president (when appropriate) will be informed of the final decision and any actions to be taken. Disciplinary action may include, but is not limited to, additional mandatory training, documented warning, suspension with or without pay, and termination.
The Responding Party is entitled to include a response to allegations, investigative findings, and documents included in the confidential personnel or student file(s), as the case may be. Implementation of, and challenge to, any disciplinary action will be handled according to applicable procedures, as provided by the relevant collective bargaining agreement.
Appeals of Resolution of Employee Violations
Both the Complainant and Responding Party may appeal the final decision. Either party may appeal by notifying the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) in writing of the specific grounds for the appeal within seven (7) calendar days of the date of the final decision. The non-appealing party has seven (7) calendar days to respond to any written appeal. A non-appealing party is under no obligation to respond to any appeal.
Appeals are limited to the following grounds:
- There were procedural defects or procedural omissions that significantly impacted the outcome of the investigation and final decision. When an appeal alleges a procedural defect or procedural omission in either the investigation process or final decision making process, the appeal will be shared with the investigator and/or final decision maker so they may provide a written response for the Appellate Officer to review.
- There exists new evidence which could significantly impact the original finding or sanction that was not known and could not have been known at the time of the original hearing. Minimally, a summary of this new information and its potential impact must be included.
- The sanction was clearly disproportionate to the conduct for which the person was found responsible
All appeals are reviewed by an appellate officer (the “Appellate Officer”) who is a University official designated by the Title IX Coordinator (or designee). The Appellate Officer reviews the record with respect to the grounds for the appeal.
The decision of the Appellate Officer is final. The Appellate Officer’s decision will be issued in writing and simultaneously shared with the Complainant’s and the Responding Party’s with a copy provided to the Title IX Coordinator.