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FAQ: Investigation and Adjudication Model for Cases Involving Students

Any student who experiences sexual harassment, including sexual violence, can speak confidentially to their campus CARE advocate to understand their rights and reporting options — including the option not to report. Students will also receive written explanations of these rights and reporting options. In addition, CARE advocates will inform students about counseling and other available support resources. Students accused of sexual harassment, including sexual violence, can contact their local Respondent Services Coordinator to help them understand their rights, the university's investigation and adjudication process, and available resources.


How does the new systemwide student investigation and adjudication framework work?

When the campus Title IX officer receives a report that a student has violated UC’s Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment (SVSH) Policy, they will determine how to proceed based on their assessment of the report and the wishes of the complainant. If the Title IX officer decides to resolve the matter through formal investigation and adjudication, they will assign a Title IX investigator to conduct a fair, thorough and impartial investigation. 

The investigator will make factual findings and a preliminary determination as to whether the respondent violated University policy. If the investigator preliminarily determines that the respondent violated policy, then Student Conduct will propose a sanction. Both parties will receive notice of the investigator’s preliminary determination of whether the respondent violated policies, as well as the investigator’s report, and be notified of any proposed sanctions.

At that point, if neither party wants a hearing, the Title IX office’s preliminary determination of policy violations will become final and Student Conduct will impose any proposed sanction. 

However, if either party wants a hearing to determine whether a policy violation occurred, there will be one. This will be a live hearing to decide issues that are disputed and relevant to determining whether policy violations occurred.  Parties will have the opportunity to provide evidence and propose questions for the hearing officer to ask the other party and witnesses. 

Note that only the hearing officer can ask questions – not the parties or their representatives – and the hearing officer will first screen the questions to ensure they are relevant, and not harassing or unduly repetitive. The hearing officer will also implement measures throughout the hearing as needed to promote the well-being of parties, such as their physical or visual separation. Students can have an advisor and support person throughout the process.

After hearing the evidence, the hearing officer will decide whether the respondent violated University policy. If the hearing officer determines that a policy violation occurred, Student Conduct will determine the appropriate sanction.

Both parties may appeal the sanction, whether or not the case goes through a hearing. If there is a hearing, the parties may also appeal the hearing officer’s decision on certain additional grounds. There is no hearing at the appeal stage.   

How does the July 31, 2019 student investigation and adjudication framework differ from the 2016 version?

UC has had a systemwide framework for investigating and resolving complaints against student respondents – Appendix E – since 2016. Like the previous version, revised Appendix E provides for a respectful and efficient resolution process, incorporates practices sensitive to individuals who have experienced trauma, establishes timeframes for each significant phase of the process, and treats both complainants and respondents fairly.

The most significant change in Appendix E issued July 31, 2019 is the right to a hearing:  if either party wants a live, fact finding hearing to determine whether the respondent violated the SVSH Policy, there will be one. In the previous framework, there was a hearing only on appeal, and the hearing only addressed specific appeal grounds — the hearing did not address the ultimate question of whether the respondent violated the SVSH Policy. (Note that the interim framework UC issued in March 2019 did provide for such a hearing in cases involving suspension or dismissal sanctions.)   

Why is UC changing the process from the 2016 framework?

The legal requirements for ensuring due process for students alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct have evolved recently. In January 2019, an appellate court ruled that California colleges and universities must hold live hearings to resolve sexual misconduct cases in which the respondent is a student, sanctions are potentially severe, and credibility is a central issue. The hearing must provide the respondent the opportunity, directly or indirectly, to pose questions of the complainant and witnesses. UC changed its framework to comply with the court’s ruling through a resolution process that still treats parties fairly and with compassion, and results in just outcomes. Under our framework, complainants and respondents are equally entitled to a hearing, and have the same rights in the process – including the right to pose questions of each other and witnesses.

Does the new framework track the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed Title IX rules that I have been hearing about?

No. The Department of Education has not yet finalized and issued the Title IX rules – they are still only proposed. UC has serious concerns about several aspects of the proposed Title IX rules, and has taken a strong and public stance against them. When the Department eventually issues the rules, UC will respond thoughtfully, keeping the security and well-being of students and the broader community paramount. Until then, the University will continue its efforts to persuade the Department of Education to revise the rules to address the concerns UC has identified.

Must I wait until the investigation and resolution is complete before the University will provide me with assistance or accommodations?

No. When the University learns of possible sexual harassment, including sexual violence, it works with the parties to identify and implement appropriate measures to provide for their safety, well-being, and access to university programs and activities. These measures could include, for example, no-contact orders, housing assistance, academic support, schedule or work station changes, and counseling.

What are the minimum and maximum sanctions for a student found in violation of the SVSH Policy?

Revised Appendix E does not change the sanctioning principles that were included in the prior framework. Student Conduct considers a variety of factors in determining appropriate sanctions, such as the seriousness of the violation.  These factors are discussed in Section VIII.E of Appendix E. The revised framework still includes a range of potential sanctions, ranging up to dismissal for the most serious violations.

What is the purpose of the investigation?

The investigation is the process for the University to gather and analyze evidence relevant to whether a policy violation occurred. During the investigation, the parties can identify witnesses and submit evidence for the investigator to consider, and review and respond to evidence on which the investigator might rely. At the end of the investigation, the investigator will make a preliminary determination as to whether the respondent violated University policy. If the parties do not contest the investigation’s preliminary determination, it will become the final decision and the investigation will serve that purpose. If one or both parties do contest, then the University will have a hearing, and the investigation will serve the purpose of helping to focus the scope of the hearing on disputed, relevant issues.  

How long does the investigation process take?

Investigations typically take 60 to 90 days, although the actual time required depends on the specific circumstances. The Title IX office will keep both parties informed throughout the investigation.

What if I disagree with the results of the investigation?

If either party disagrees with the investigator’s preliminary determination of policy violations, they may notify Student Conduct, and they will get a hearing to determine whether a policy violation occurred.

What if I choose not to contest the investigation’s preliminary determinations but disagree with the proposed sanction?

If neither party contests (or is presumed to contest) the investigator’s preliminary determinations, then those become final and Student Conduct’s proposed sanction becomes the sanction. At that point, either party may appeal that sanction (see below).

If the other party contests the preliminary determination, there will be a hearing even if you do not contest.   

What will the hearing cover?

The hearing will cover all disputed issues that are relevant to whether a policy violation occurred. The pre-hearing procedures are designed to define the scope and to promote an orderly, productive, and fair hearing. 

How will the parties interact during a hearing?

The hearing will be conducted in a respectful manner that promotes fairness and accurate factfinding. The parties and witnesses will address only the hearing officer, and not each other. Only the hearing officer will question witnesses and parties. The parties will have equal opportunity to propose questions for the hearing officer to ask the other party and witnesses.

The parties may also be physically or visually separated at the hearing, if requested.

What if, after a hearing, I disagree with the hearing officer’s determination of whether a policy violation occurred, or with a sanction?

Either party may appeal the hearing officer’s determination of whether a policy violation occurred or the sanction, on certain specific grounds. The appeal should identify the reasons the student is challenging the outcome, under one or more of the grounds outlined in the framework. An appeal officer will consider the written appeal and decide whether to uphold, overturn or modify the decision or sanctions. In certain cases, the appeal officer may send the matter back to the hearing officer for further factfinding. The appeal officer’s decision is final. There is no hearing at the appeal stage.

Will my name be kept confidential during the investigation?

When the Title IX office initiates an investigation, it notifies both the complainant and respondent of the other’s identity.  This is necessary for a fair and thorough process.

The University must balance the privacy interests of parties against the need to gather information, ensure a fair process, and stop, prevent and remedy misconduct. In this context, the University tries to protect people’s privacy to the extent permitted by law and University policies. Some UC personnel involved in the case must have access to personal information, including identifying information, in order to effectively respond to the complaint and maintain a safe environment.

How will UC ensure a fair process for both the complainant and the respondent?

Revised Appendix E continues to provide equal opportunities for the complainant and respondent to present, review, and respond to evidence during the investigation and adjudication process. Both students also have an equal right to a hearing, and to appeal a decision or sanction.

Because these processes can be complex, all UC campuses provide resources to help both student complainants and respondents understand their rights and the investigation and adjudication process. Complainants can contact their confidential campus CARE Advocate Office. Respondents can contact their campus Respondent Services Coordinator. Both resources also provide referrals to other services, such as counseling and academic support. Both students may be accompanied by a support person and an advisor of their choice, including an attorney, at any stage of the process.

How will I know what’s happening during the investigation and adjudication process?

UC strives to communicate with parties in a clear and timely manner. The appropriate campus officials will keep both parties informed throughout the process. The Title IX office will send both parties a letter notifying them when an investigation begins. At the end of the investigation, they will be notified of the investigator’s factual findings and preliminary determination about policy violations, provided the investigation report, and notified of any proposed sanctions. The University will also inform them of whether it will have a hearing to determine if a policy violation occurred. 

If there is a hearing, the hearing officer and hearing coordinator will meet with each party beforehand to educate them about the process and answer questions, among other purposes. The hearing coordinator will then notify both parties of the hearing officer’s decision on the scope of the issues to be addressed at the hearing and the expected witnesses, and provide copies of the evidence that the hearing officer will consider. After the hearing, the parties will receive the hearing officer’s determination of whether the respondent violated policies and, if so, any sanction imposed by Student Conduct.  They will also receive information on their appeal options. If either party chooses to appeal, both students will be notified of the appeal and then the results of the appeal.

The complainant can contact the CARE Advocate Office and the respondent can contact the Respondent Services Coordinator at any time for help in determining the status of the complaint.

What is the process if the accused is a faculty or staff member?

You can learn more about the investigation and adjudication models for faculty and staff here.

Where can I find UC’s policies related to sexual harassment, including sexual violence?

You can find UC’s policies and codes of conduct on the university’s systemwide Sexual Violence Prevention and Response website: http://sexualviolence.universityofcalifornia.edu/policies/index.html.

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