Catalog

Title IX Grievance Procedures

It is the policy of Southern Virginia University to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on sex or gender (including sexual harassment and sexual violence) in the University’s educational programs and activities and on campus. Title IX also prohibits retaliation for asserting or otherwise participating in claims of sex or gender-based discrimination.

Guiding Principles

The University will take steps to prevent recurrence of harassment and to correct its discriminatory effects on the Complainant or others, if appropriate.

Privacy and Confidentiality

All activities under these grievance procedures shall be conducted with due regard for any legitimate privacy and reputational interests of those involved. It is expected that any materials and information prepared or acquired under these grievance procedures will be shared only with those who have a legitimate need to know. Disclosure of such information may also be made if it is permitted by law and the University Title IX Coordinator determines in his or her judgement: (1) that such disclosure is necessary to protect the health, safety, or well-being of members of the Southern Virginia University community; or (2) that such disclosure advances the interests of those involved in the process and/or the University and outweighs the interest in confidentiality. While the Title IX Coordinator will consider any requests made by a Complainant for confidentiality or that a Title IX grievance not be investigated, the University Title IX Coordinator must take appropriate steps to respond to the grievance consistent with the requirements of Title IX.

Notice of Non-discrimination

Southern Virginia University does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, disability, gender identity and/or expression, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status, and family medical or genetic information in its programs and activities as required by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, the Governor’s Executive Order Number One (2018), and other applicable statutes and University policies. The College prohibits sexual and gender-based harassment, including sexual assault, and other forms of interpersonal violence.

Definition

Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, such as quid pro quo, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual assault is a form of sexual harassment and refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent (e.g., due to the student’s age or use of drugs or alcohol, or because an intellectual or other disability prevents the student from having the capacity to give consent). A number of different acts fall into the category of sexual assault, including rape, sexual battery, sexual abuse, and sexual coercion. Gender-based harassment is another form of sex-based harassment and refers to unwelcome conduct based on an individual’s actual or perceived sex, including harassment based on gender identity or nonconformity with sex stereotypes, and not necessarily involving conduct of a sexual nature.

When a student, faculty, or staff member, or other participant in the University’s programs and activities or on anywhere on campus feels that s/he has, at any time, been subjected to discrimination on the bases of sex carried out by employees, students, or volunteers, s/he may use these Title IX grievance procedures to bring concerns to the attention of the University Title IX Coordinator for the purpose of obtaining a prompt and equitable resolution. Academic advisors, department supervisors, full time faculty, members of the university’s president’s council, coaches, and members of the student housing staff are considered responsible employees. As such, they are required to report to the Title IX Coordinator immediately if they become aware of or reasonably suspect any incidents of sexual misconduct. The University’s Title IX Coordinator is Stephanie Hardy. She can be contacted at 540-261-4090, stephanie.hardy@svu.edu, titleix@svu.edu, or in person at Library 1.

No student will have his/her educational status adversely affected as a result of making a complaint.

No employee will have his/her employment adversely affected as a result of making a complaint.

Prohibited Conducts

View Prohibited Conducts

Retaliation

Retaliation against any person in the University community either for alleging discrimination prohibited by Title IX or for cooperating in these grievance procedures is a violation of university policy. Retaliation should be reported promptly to the Title IX Coordinator for investigation, which may result in disciplinary action independent of any sanction or interim measures imposed in response to the underlying allegations of discrimination and/or harassment.

Standard of Evidence

Allegations of discrimination prohibited by Title IX shall be reviewed by applying a preponderance of the evidence standard.

Grievance Process

Receipt of Complaint

The Title IX complaint process is initiated by the alleged victim (referred to as the Complainant) or the Title IX Coordinator. To file a complaint, the Complainant should contact the Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Coordinator. Current contact information can be found on the Southern Virginia University website. The complaint must contain the Complainant’s signature. If the Complainant is unable to sign, the Title IX Coordinator or designee may sign in the Complainant’s stead.

Once the University’s Title IX office receives a signed complaint, a written notice will be provided to the respondent stating the allegations constituting a potential violation of the University’s sexual misconduct policy.

Any University community member who believes s/he has been subjected to discrimination prohibited by Title IX, is encouraged to bring the concern directly to the attention of the Title IX Coordinator or through one of the other individuals noted above as soon as possible in order to facilitate a more accurate and timely investigation. Upon receipt of a report of a Title IX prohibited conduct and when the Complainant has not filed a formal complaint, the Title IX Coordinator will seek to honor the resolution request of the Complainant, whenever possible.

The notice will include sufficient details to prepare a response prior to any initial interview including, but not limited to: a description of the prohibited conduct allegedly constituting the potential violation, the University policy/specific section of the code of conduct allegedly violated, the date and the location of the incident, and the identity of the individuals involved. The respondent will be given at least 10 days to prepare for an initial interview. All parties involved in an investigation will be given at least 10 days to prepare for each interview throughout the investigation and will receive written notice in advance of each interview.

Notice of Supportive Measures

When the Title IX office is notified of a report or concern (actual knowledge), the University may impose reasonable and appropriate interim measures, some of which could become permanent upon resolution of the complaint, to protect the parties involved. These supportive measures may be offered to both the Complainant and the Respondent., and are available whether or not the complainant chooses to file a formal grievance. The University will make reasonable efforts to communicate with the parties to ensure that all safety concerns, both emotional and physical well-being, are being addressed. Potential supportive measures, implemented at the discretion of the university, may include:

Determination to Proceed with an Investigation

Upon receipt of a signed complaint, the Title IX office will determine if the allegation(s):

  1. Occurred while participating in or attempting to participate in a Southern Virginia University educational program or activity, or on property owned or controlled by the University,
  2. Occurred within the United States,
  3. If proven, would meet the definition of a prohibited conduct, and
  4. The Respondent is a student or employee at Southern Virginia University

If the allegation does not meet these criteria, it may be dismissed as a Title IX grievance but could still be addressed through another appropriate office at the University.

Formal Grievance Process

A formal grievance process may be initiated by the Complainant or by the Title IX Coordinator. To initiate a formal grievance, the Complainant will need to sign a written statement. At that point, the University will initiate an investigation. The University may designate an investigator of its choosing, provided that the investigator has specific training investigating allegations of sexual misconduct. The University will provide annual training for all investigators, and any investigator chosen to conduct the investigation must be impartial and free of any conflict of interest. The investigator may be an employee of the University or an external investigator engaged to assist the University in its fact-gathering, or a team of investigators that pairs employees or pairs an external investigator with a University employee related to the roles of the parties on campus (student, staff, or faculty).

Investigation

During the investigative process, the Respondent is presumed to be not responsible for the alleged misconduct until a written determination is made at the conclusion of the Title IX grievance process. During the investigation, both parties may have an advisor, either of their choosing or one appointed by the university, present. The investigator will meet separately with each party and their respective advisors. The investigator will also meet separately with any witnesses. The investigator and/or the Title IX coordinator will consider any safety or risk concerns to either party or to the campus community. If appropriate, the university may institute interim actions to protect the safety of individuals. These interim actions may include, but are not limited to, temporary immediate suspension, temporary removal from University housing, temporary employee administrative leave.

As part of the investigation, the University will provide an opportunity for the parties to present statements, witnesses, and other evidence. The interviews will be supplemented by the gathering of any physical, documentary, or other evidence, as appropriate and available. During the investigation and adjudication of the Title IX complaint, any prior relationship history of the Complainant with anyone other than the Respondent will not be considered, unless it is to demonstrate that someone other than the Respondent is responsible for the alleged violation.

Investigation Report

At the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator will write a preliminary Investigation Report, which summarizes the investigation and includes all evidence. The Complainant, the Respondent, and their advisors will have an opportunity to review the report, and will have 10 business days to respond to it. After this, the investigator will compile the final Investigation Report. After the final Investigation Report is complete, both parties and their advisors will have at least 10 business days prior to the live hearing to review the report.

At a minimum, the report will:

  1. Detail the investigative steps taken by the investigator
  2. Provide summaries of testimony for all witnesses interviewed
  3. Provide a recommendation of whether there is sufficient evidence, based on the preponderance of evidence standard, to support a finding of responsibility for a violation of a prohibited conduct
  4. Include copies of all documents reviewed

Live Hearing

Both parties will be notified in writing of the date, time, and location of the Live Hearing. During the Live Hearing, both parties will have an advisor present. If they are unable to obtain an advisor, the Title IX coordinator or designee will assign one.

The Hearing is an opportunity for both sides to present relevant issues before a Decision Maker. The Title IX Coordinator will appoint a person or group of persons to be the Decision Makers in the hearing. This person or persons may be members of the University community who have received training or be an external person who has experience adjudicating cases involving sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

Prior to the Hearing, the Title IX Coordinator will provide the final investigative report to the Decision Maker(s). The Complainant and Respondent will be notified no less than 10 days before the Hearing of the location, time, and date of the Hearing. The Hearing may be conducted with all parties at the same geographic location or, if necessary, present through virtual means. If the parties are physically present, either party may request that they be located in separate rooms or locations with technology enabling all parties and the Decision Maker to see and hear the proceedings. Such requests should be made to the Title IX Coordinator at least three business days prior to the Hearing to allow for the appropriate accommodations to be made.

Both the Complainant and the Respondent will have an advisor present. Each party may choose their own advisors. During the Hearing, each party will have the opportunity to provide opening and closing statements and to respond to any questions of the Decision Maker. Each party’s Advisor may cross-examine the other party and any witnesses. The advisor may provide support and advice to a party, but may not speak on behalf of the party, except to cross-examine the other party or witnesses. The University reserves the right to remove any individual, including an advisor, who’s actions are disruptive to the proceedings. If a party’s advisor is removed from a Hearing, the University will provide that party with a different advisor to conduct cross-examination on behalf of that party.

Both Complainant and the Respondent have a right to be present at the Hearing, although neither party is required to participate. The Hearing can proceed if a party chooses not to attend.

The Decision Maker will deliberate on the evidence, determine responsibility using the preponderance of evidence standard, and compose a Written Determination of Responsibly.

Appeal

Either party may appeal the final outcome. The appeal must be filed in writing (which can include email) within ten (10) business days of receiving the written outcome. The appeal shall consist of a plain, concise, and complete written statement outlining the grounds for appeal and all relevant information to substantiate the basis for the appeal.

Dissatisfaction with the outcome of the hearing is not grounds for appeal. The only grounds for appeal are:

  1. A procedural or substantive error occurred that significantly affected the outcome of the hearing (e.g., substantiated bias, material deviation from established procedures, etc.)
  2. New evidence, unavailable during the original hearing or investigation, that could substantially impact the original finding or sanction (a summary of this new evidence and its potential impact must be included)

The Title IX Coordinator or designee will notify the non-appealing party of the other party’s appeal and allow them to submit a written statement in response. The appeal will be conducted in an impartial manner by an impartial decision maker, who will not be the same decision maker in the initial hearing. The designated Appeals Decision Maker will review the evidence and issue a written statement. Appeal decisions are final.

Disciplinary Sanctions

Possible sanctions may include a referral to counseling, restriction from participation in certain university activities, such as sports or student government, temporary suspension, or expulsion.

There will be no disciplinary action prior to hearing and findings, unless the Title IX Coordinator, University Security, or University President determine that there is an imminent danger.

Sanctions imposed are implemented immediately unless the President of the University, or his/her designee, stays implementation in extraordinary circumstances, pending the outcome of the appeal.

Informal Grievance Process

As an alternative to the Formal Grievance process, an Informal Grievance process may be used. The intent of the informal process is to stop, remedy, and prevent future policy violations. This process seeks to adequately address the concerns of the Complainant and the rights of the Respondent. For an informal grievance process, both the Complainant and the Respondent will need to give written consent. At any point prior to the signing of a written resolution, either party may withdraw their consent to an informal grievance process. If this occurs, the process will shift from an informal grievance process to a formal one.

Possible remedies in an informal grievance may include, but are not limited to: education, referral to counseling, or maintaining a No-Contact order. An informal resolution is not part of the Respondent’s permanent record.

An informal grievance process will not be used if the Respondent is currently an employee of Southern Virginia University or was at the time of the alleged misconduct.

Amnesty

As it is in the best interest of the Southern Virginia University community that all individuals who have been the subject of or witness to sexual misconduct report the behavior, the University seeks to remove any deterrents to reporting  to encourage reporting, an individual who reports sexual misconduct, either as a complainant or a third-party witness, will not be subject to disciplinary action by the University for his or her own personal consumption of alcohol or drugs at or near the time of the incident.

Conflicts of Interest

These procedures will be administered in a manner that eliminates any conflict of interest (real or perceived) by the individuals handling the procedures.

Anyone who feels there is any conflict of interest related to a Title IX proceeding should report the conflict to the Title IX Coordinator or the University President if they feel the conflict of interest involves the Title IX Coordinator or his/her supervisor. The final decision as to whether to remove the individual is the prerogative of the University President. When considering whether to remove an individual from the proceedings, the President should consider: (a) the nature of the relationship between the individual and the situation (or those involved), and (b) whether that individual could be reasonably expected to render a fair and impartial analysis regardless of the relationship.

Policy Notices

Distribution of policy to students: At a minimum the University shall, at the end of the add/drop period each semester, make available to each student information about its Notice of Nondiscrimination and Title IX Grievance Procedures. Notice is to be posted in course syllabi, on application for admission to the university, and on employment applications. The University may distribute its Notice of Nondiscrimination and Grievance Procedures by posting them on an internet web site, provided all students are directly notified of how to access this information by an exact address and that they may request a paper copy.

Distribution of policy to employees: The University and the Human Resources office shall make available to fall employees a copy of its Notice of Nondiscrimination and Title IX Grievance Procedures. Distribution may be accomplished by posing on an internet web site, provided all employees are directly notified of the exact address of the policy and procedure and that they may receive a paper copy upon request.

Retention of Records

Records and files of Title IX investigations will be maintained by the University for a period of 7 years.