Frequently Asked Questions
Some basic terminology — the term "Complainant" describes the person who may have experienced a violation of policy and "Respondent" describes the person who is accused of the misconduct. The Complainant and Respondent are referred to as the "parties."
If you do not see an answer to your question below, please reach out to the Title IX Coordinator. If you have been accused of misconduct, please visit the Subject of a Report page for frequently asked questions.
- Resolution Process for Title IX Complaints and Non-Title IX Complaints Against Students
- Resolution Process for Non-Title IX Complaints Against Non-Students
What type of conduct can be reported to the Title IX Coordinator?
Both Title IX sexual harassment (which is defined by law) and non-Title IX sexual misconduct (which includes allegations that do not meet the definitions of Title IX, but nonetheless violate the University’s community standards) can be reported to the University.
While the process for reporting allegations of sexual misconduct is the same regardless of the type of sexual misconduct reported, different resolution procedures apply based on the underlying alleged misconduct and/or the classification of the respondent as either a student or employee/non-student.
Title IX sexual harassment means conduct on the basis of sex that occurs in a University education program or activity, against a person in the United States, and satisfies one or more of the following:
- A University employee conditioning the provision of an aid, benefit, or service of the University on an individual’s participation in unwelcome sexual conduct;
- Unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the University’s education program or activity;
- Nonconsensual Sexual Penetration;
- Nonconsensual Sexual Contact;
- Statutory Nonconsensual Sexual Penetration;
- Dating violence;
- Domestic violence; and/or
Non-Title IX sexual misconduct means conduct that does not constitute Title IX sexual harassment, but that meets the jurisdictional requirements for non-Title IX sexual misconduct and satisfies one or more of the following:
- Nonconsensual Sexual Penetration;
- Nonconsensual Sexual Contact;
- Sexual Discrimination;
- Non-Title IX Sexual Harassment;
- Sexual Exploitation;
- Dating violence;
- Domestic violence; and/or
What should I expect when I report an incident of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator?
The Title IX Coordinator will reach out to the complainant and ask to meet in order to inform them of their options and rights as well as supportive measures. During this meeting, complainants can share as much or as little information as they feel comfortable with the Title IX Coordinator.
The Title IX Coordinator can assist the complainant in connecting with medical and mental health resources; implementing a No Contact Directive; and assessing the need for other supportive measures, such as changes to class schedule or living arrangements.
The Title IX Coordinator will ensure that the complainant understands their rights and options for filing a report with the police and commencing a University resolution process through a formal complaint.
Some complainants do not want to file a formal complaint. We will honor the complainant's request whenever possible. If a complainant chooses to not file a formal complaint, supportive measures are still available.
If the complainant chooses to file a formal complaint, the Title IX Coordinator begins the resolution process.
Would the University investigate even if I did not want to move forward with an investigation?
In most situations, the University will respect your choice not to file a formal complaint. However, there are times when the University will still file a formal complaint. These are limited circumstances, like if the respondent had been alleged to have committed sexual violence previously, your report stated that a weapon was used or that there were threats of future sexual violence against you or others. If the University files a formal complaint, you will be notified. From there, you can choose not to participate in the resulting investigation, or you can choose to participate in some or all of the process.
What if I am afraid to report because alcohol and/or illegal drugs were involved?
Our priority is to ensure your safety, and if a sexual misconduct investigation is being conducted, to a full and complete investigation. Our amnesty policy states that neither you or any witnesses will be subject to any University disciplinary action for your own personal consumption of alcohol or drugs at or near the time of the incident.
Is it serious enough to report?
Yes. All violations of the University Policy weaken our community and are antithetical to the values of this institution.
While the sanctions imposed upon any finding of responsibility will vary depending on the severity and impact of the conduct, it is important to have accountability for all violations of University Policy.
Additionally, reporting will help ensure that you have access to any needed resources and supportive measures, even if you decide not to pursue a formal complaint.
How can the Title IX Office help me if I do not want to proceed with a formal complaint?
The Title IX Coordinator can arrange supportive measures such as academic adjustments, changes to residence, no contact directives, and other steps designed to preserve your access to University programs and activities.
Will the University tell my parents or guardians about my report?
No. However, the University encourages you to inform your parents or guardians to obtain support.
Does my report to the University get forwarded to the police?
The University resolution process is independent from the criminal justice process and generally reports are not forwarded to the police without permission from the complainant. However, certain circumstances may trigger mandatory reporting to law enforcement. You will be notified if a report to law enforcement is made that includes your personally identifiable information. An officer will reach out to ensure you understand your law enforcement options; you can choose whether or not you want to proceed with criminal proceedings.
Do I have to name the respondent in my report to the University?
No. You can choose whether to identify the respondent or not in your report. If you want the University to pursue a formal complaint against the respondent we will need the name. If you choose not to pursue a formal complaint, you do not need to name the respondent to obtain supportive measures.
Will the University still help me if I experienced sexual misconduct off campus or while studying abroad?
Yes. The University assists students who have experienced sexual misconduct on or off campus.
Is there a time limit to reporting?
No. Complainants are encouraged to report as soon as possible to maximize the University's ability to respond promptly and effectively. However, there is no time limit on reporting. If the respondent is no longer a student or employee, the University may not be able to take disciplinary action against the respondent, but resources and supportive measures can still be provided.
Is there a way to keep the alleged offender away from me?
Yes. If the respondent is another student, you can contact the Title IX Coordinator to discuss the options for obtaining a No Contact Directive preventing the respondent from having any contact with you.
You can also apply through the courts for an order of protection to keep the respondent from contacting you. If the respondent violates a court order, punishments can include arrest and jail time. Contact W&L Public Safety, law enforcement, or Project Horizon for assistance in filing for a protective order. If you obtain an order of protection, you should provide a copy of the order to the W&L Public Safety and the Title IX Coordinator.
2. Resolution Process for Title IX Complaints and Non-Title IX Complaints Against Students
I have decided to move forward with a formal complaint. How do I file a formal complaint?
Discipline cannot be imposed without first filing a formal complaint. The formal complaint begins either informal resolution or the University's investigation and hearing process. A formal complaint is filed by submitting a written document. This document can be submitted to the Title IX Coordinator in person, by mail (204 W. Washington St, Washington and Lee University, Lexington VA 24450), email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or by submitting an online report on this website.
To constitute a formal complaint the written document must allege sexual misconduct against a respondent and request that the University investigate the allegation. The formal complaint must include the complainant's physical or digital signature, or in some way indicate that the complainant is the person filing the formal complaint.
What will happen after a formal complaint is filed?
The Title IX Coordinator will determine the appropriate resolution process based on the allegations and will notify you.
The Title IX Coordinator will send a letter to the respondent notifying the respondent of the complaint. The letter provides basic details of the report (your name, the specific policy violation alleged, date of the policy violation, approximate time, location, brief description of the allegations).
One or two investigators are chosen from a pool of trained individuals to investigate the report. The investigators are not decision-makers and do not make any conclusions about whether a policy violation occurred.
The Title IX Coordinator will assist you with obtaining an advisor so you can meet with the advisor prior to an investigative meeting.
The investigator(s) will then commence an investigation.
Is there a way to resolve a formal complaint without an investigation and hearing?
Yes, through informal resolution. When appropriate, and requested by the parties, a formal complaint may be resolved through informal resolution. Informal resolution is a voluntary, collaborative process intended to assist parties in finding a resolution to a report of misconduct.
During informal resolution the parties may reach an agreement that may include sanctions agreed to by a respondent. The parties are not required to reach an agreement and the parties may stop informal resolution at any time prior to reaching an agreement and continue with the investigation and hearing process. Likewise, the parties may request to begin informal resolution at any time prior to a decision of the HSMB hearing panel.
Who determines the outcome of the investigation and hearing process?
The Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Board (HSMB).
A panel of three members of the HSMB will be selected to thoroughly review the evidence, hold a hearing, and reach a decision.
You will have the opportunity to object to the appointment of any of the panel members on the basis of suspected bias, conflict of interest, or an inability to be fair and impartial.
Can I have an advisor during the investigation and hearing process?
Yes. Both parties have the right to have an advisor present at all phases of process.
In the Title IX complaint resolution process, both parties have the right to one Advisor of Choice. An Advisor of Choice can be a friend, mentor, family member, Discrimination Policy Advisor, University employee, attorney, or any other supporter you have chosen to advise you.
In the non-Title IX complaint resolution process, you have the right to one Advisor of Choice. Additionally, you may choose either a Discrimination Policy Advisor or a Hearing Advisor:
- Discrimination Policy Advisor=W&L staff who have been trained to provide support and advice.
- Hearing Advisor=law and undergraduate students who have been trained to provide support and advice.
What supportive measures are available to me?
You have the right to request and to receive appropriate supportive measures during the investigation and hearing process. Some nonexhaustive examples of supportive measures include academic adjustments, assistance with scheduling counseling appointments, and changes to housing, class or work schedules, or other measures appropriate to the circumstances.
Will I ever need to be in the same room as the respondent as part of the investigation and hearing process?
Not if you do not want to be.
All meetings up to the formal HSMB hearing are held separately.
If your case proceeds to a hearing before the HSMB, both you and the other party will be invited to participate in person. However, upon request of either party, the hearing can be held virtually.
What happens during the interview with the investigators?
One or two investigators will be present during the interview. Investigative interviews are recorded to assist the investigators with taking effective notes. The investigators will ask about what happened. They also will request the names of witnesses and other evidence that you might have, such as text messages, emails and photos.
You have the right to have your advisors present with you during the interview. While your advisors cannot provide information during the interview, you can request a recess to consult with your advisors when needed.
The investigators will type up the interview. The written version of the interview is sent to you for you to review that the information is correct, add additional information, or provide additional clarification or explanation.
Do I have to participate during the investigation?
Neither party is required to participate in the investigation. If a party chooses not to participate in an investigation, the investigation and hearing may still proceed based on the information available. If you do not choose to participate, it may limit the ability of the investigators to gather evidence.
What type of information is gathered during an investigation?
In addition to the statements of the parties, the following is a non-exhaustive list of the information that the investigators may collect, if relevant and available, during an investigation:
- Witness statements
- Text messages, chat, social media, and similar materials
- Transcripts and other performance evaluations
- Medical records (only upon voluntary written consent)
- Police reports
- The investigative team or HSMB may also visit the location(s) where the incident(s) occurred to better understand the information gathered in the course of investigation
Will I be able to review the information gathered during the investigation?
After the investigators have finished gathering information, but before the investigators complete the investigation report, all information gathered during the investigation that is directly related to the allegations will be shared with the parties and their advisors. You will have the opportunity to respond to this information in writing. After receiving the written responses, the investigators will draft an investigation report that summarizes the relevant information. This report will be shared with you and you can respond to the investigation report in writing.
What happens at a hearing before the Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Board?
The parties both have the option to give an opening statement to the HSMB hearing panel.
After opening statements, the HSMB hearing panel may question the complainant, the respondent, any witnesses called, and/or the investigators. For non-Title IX complaints, the parties may submit written questions to the Chair of the HSMB to ask on their behalf to the relevant party or witness. For Title IX complaints, questioning of the other party and witnesses can be conducted directly, orally, and in real time by the party's Advisor of Choice.
After questioning has been completed, both parties have the option to give a closing statement to the hearing panel.
What is the standard of proof needed before a policy violation will be found?
The standard of proof required is a preponderance of the evidence, i.e., the evidence demonstrates that it is more likely than not that the conduct occurred. It is often described as needing at least a 51% likelihood that the policy violation occurred.
What are the potential sanctions that could be imposed?
For cases against students:
For cases against emploees:
- Suspension (the HSMB can impose conditions for reinstatement to the University)
- Loss of privileges (will be tailored to the circumstances of the specific case, but can include denial of the right to participate in certain activities or use certain facilities)
- Change in on-campus residence
- Change in academic schedule
- Counseling consultation
- Required education
- Verbal or written warning;
- Requirement to utilize the Employee Assistance Program or other mandatory conditions, which may include training, or some other professional development;
- A no contact directive;
- Loss of privilege;
- Modified employment duties;
- Suspension with pay;
- Suspension without pay;
- Nonrenewal or non-reappointment;
- Demotion in rank or pay;
- Loss of rank;
- Denial of salary increase;
- Transfer to another position;
- Relocation of office;
- Dismissal from academic course if respondent is taking a course at the University;
- Termination or referral/recommendation for dismissal under the Faculty Dismissal Procedures; and/or
- Trespassing respondent from the University.
How long does the investigation and hearing process take?
In general, you can expect that the resolution process will proceed according to the following time frames:
If these timeframes need to be extended, the parties will be notified in writing of the reason for the delay and the expected adjustment. The timeframe may vary depending on the complexity of the investigation, the severity and extent of the allegations, the number of witnesses, and the possibility of interruption by break periods.
- An investigation will be completed within thirty calendar days.
- The parties have ten calendar days to submit written comments on the evidence collected during the investigation.
- The investigators have ten calendar days to draft an investigation report and provide to the parties and the Chair of the HSMB.
- The parties have ten calendar days to submit written responses to the investigation report.
- The hearing will be held within twenty calendar days after the submission of the investigation report to the Chair.
What is the difference between a Title IX complaint and a non-Title IX complaint?
Some conduct is defined by law as Title IX Sexual Harassment. The University has chosen to address additional conduct that may not meet that legal definition. The formal complaint resolution procedures for Title IX and non-Title IX misconduct are generally the same for complaints against students with two main differences:
- In the Title IX process, questioning at the hearing is done verbally in real time by the advisor of choice; in the non-Title IX process the parties submit written questions that are posed by the Chair of the HSMB.
- If the parties prefer to attend the hearing in person rather than virtually, a physical privacy partition will separate the parties in a non-Title IX hearing; a physical partition cannot be erected in a Title IX matter, but the parties can still choose to participate virtually.
3. Resolution Process for Non-Title IX Complaints Against Non-Students
What happens if my complaint is against a nonstudent and is not Title IX sexual harassment?
There are both informal and formal options for resolution of reports against nonstudents.
The Title IX Coordinator or Assistant Title IX Coordinator, a Human Resources staff member, or a staff supervisor or Dean may informally resolve concerns. Informal resolution could result in an investigation with human resources and sanctions being imposed.
A formal complaint may be filed with the Title IX Coordinator. An investigator will be appointed to interview the parties and other witnesses as necessary. After an investigation, the investigator will prepare an investigation report, which will be reviewed by a three-person Investigation and Review Panel (IRP). A hearing is not generally held, but if the IRP has any questions, it may meet with the Investigator(s) in person and/or may request that the parties separately meet with the IRP. The IRP will determine whether University Policy was violated, and if so, what sanction is recommended.