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Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The student-run community news site of Vermont State University - Johnson

Basement Medicine

The 411 on Title IX/Policy 311

If you were the target of discrimination or harassment on campus, would you know how to get help? Employees of the University are required to report information they may be aware of involving inappropriate conduct, but if you or someone you know has had an issue under the discrimination or harassment umbrella that you want a resolution to, your first method of action should be to file a complaint.

What you may not know about issuing a Title IX/policy 311 or 311A complaint is that you can always get advice from your university beforehand. Anyone, including students, employees, and otherwise, can reach out to a designated contact person if they feel they may have been a victim of said conduct or have information about such situations occurring. You can receive clarification on what to file, how to file, and other information including possible outcomes should you choose to file a complaint. Detailed is the summarized information from VSC Chancellor’s Procedures for Implementation of Policy 311 document, which can be found with other relevant information on the VTSU website under Code of Conduct.

Individuals have the option to file either an informal or a formal complaint. An informal complaint is made either orally or written of the situation, but specifically asks for an “informal resolution process.” This means, generally, that no investigation will be held. Instead, meetings will be arranged with the parties involved and the designated contact person, a letter or notice to stop the behavior may be sent, or other measures meant to prevent the incident(s) from reoccurring may be put into place. Should the complainant (the person filing the report) wish to, at any point they may stop the informal complaint process and seek alternatives. Filing an informal complaint is not required before filing a formal complaint.

The process of filing a formal complaint is longer and a bit more complicated. A formal complaint is issued as a hand or digitally written, signed, and dated statement to the Title IX/Policy 311 Coordinator or designated contact person, usually a dean. It can be delivered in any way possible, but it must be written. This complaint should provide all the details of the issue, including any relevant date(s) and time(s) that the incident(s) occurred, and include the identities of every party involved. You can also go to the Title IX/Policy 311 coordinator, or other designated contact person for assistance.

After the complaint is received, the respondent, or the person the complaint is filed against, will be given a written notice of the complaint and a summary of its contents, the information detailing what policy(ies) they may have violated, and the procedural information for the investigation. According to Vermont State Colleges (VSC) Chancellor’s Procedures for Implementation of Policy 311 document (revised in 2018), the identities of all parties involved are “typically” included in this notice to the respondent. Copies will also be sent to investigators appointed to the case, the Title IX/Policy 311 Coordinator, and the VSC general counsel. If necessary, interim measures may be taken in order to minimize conflict, such as changes in work or academic schedules, housing, transportation, or suspension or employee leave. The Title IX/Policy 311 document states that such measures do not “indicate a presumption of guilt” nor “preclude subsequent disciplinary action.” More detailed information about protective measures can be found on page four of the document.

At any point, the respondent can choose to accept responsibility, and the appropriate disciplinary sanctions will be issued by the Responsible College Administrator (RCA) of wherever the incident occurred. This means, however, that the respondent waives the right to appeal the RCA’s decisions.

 The RCA can vary depending on who is involved, but it is usually the Dean of Students for student-based violations, and the President, should the violation be against an on-campus employee.

Next, an investigation will take place. Two investigators will be appointed “to conduct an adequate, reliable and impartial investigation” into the alleged violations of the policy. These investigators may or may not be employees of the system, according to the document. If any party has objections to the appointed investigators, they are to immediately bring it up with the RCA, who will make the appointment decision.

The investigators will meet with each party individually and request relevant evidence and information, as well as any witnesses they should interview and the questions they would like the investigators to ask them. The investigators will then decide what information they “reasonably believe to be related” to the issue. During these interviews, both the compliant and the respondent are allowed advisors to be present during their interviews, but the advisor must not speak on behalf of them and can only advise them privately. If the Advisor does not follow these conditions during the interview, the investigator may terminate the meeting.

The investigators have 45 calendar days (excluding breaks and extenuating circumstances) to prepare a thorough report. Included in that report would be the investigator’s findings and a conclusion detailing their recommendation of whether or not any policy was violated. According to the document, this should be formulated using “the preponderance of evidence standard, i.e., whether it is more likely than not that the policy was violated.” The investigators may also include suggested training, education, or other such actions that may be taken to minimize future misconduct, but otherwise they will not provide suggestions for disciplinary action.

Within 14 days of receiving the report, The RCA will present their final decision to both parties, “by preponderance of evidence,” whether or not a Title IX/Policy 311 or other policy violation was made, and what sanctions will be given to the respondent. Multiple factors will be taken into account for the determination of sanctions. For more details, see page 11 of the document. Both the respondent and the complainant have seven days to call for an appeal of the RCA’s decision if they feel the sanctions were inappropriate, there was an error in the investigation procedure, or new evidence appeared that may have changed the investigators’ recommendations. This should also be in written form. Should one party choose to appeal, the non-appealing party will be notified and has an additional seven days to submit a written response.

This all may sound really complicated, but these methods and procedures are in place to ensure the safety of the campus and surrounding communities. For assistance, information, or a more in-depth explanation of Title IX/Policy 311 and its procedures, students, staff, and faculty can reach out to Amy Daviarz, VTSU’s Title IX and Protected Rights Coordinator, by email at [email protected] or by phone at (802) 279-2808.

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About the Contributor
Dayne Bell, Editor in Chief
Dayne (he/they) is a creative writing student who has probably already told you where he's from. His zodiac sign is Pisces, which tells you everything you need to know.