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.
- Investigation and Hearing Process Against Students
- Investigation Process Against NonStudents
What should I expect when I report an incident of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator?
When a report of sexual misconduct is received, the first concern is the safety and well-being of the complainant.
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 support resources. 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 or protective 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 investigation.
Some complainants do not want a University investigation to move forward. We will honor the complainant's request whenever possible. If a complainant chooses to not move forward, supportive and protective measures are still available.
If the complainant chooses to move forward with an investigation, the Title IX Coordinator begins the formal investigation.
Would the University investigate even if I did not want to move forward with an investigation?
In most situations, the University will be able to respect your choice and will not proceed with an investigation. However, there are times where you might choose not to participate in an investigation, but the University will still investigate. 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 needs to investigate, you will be notified. From there, you can choose not to participate at all, 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 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 and protective measures, even if you decide not to pursue an investigation.
How can the Title IX Office help me if I do not want to proceed with an investigation?
The Title IX Coordinator can assist you even if you choose not to go through the investigation and hearing process. The Title IX Coordinator can arrange supportive measures such as academic flexibility, changes to residence, and other steps designed to perserve your access to University programs and activities.
When appropriate, cases may also be resolved through informal resolution processes such as mediation. Mediation is a voluntary, collaborative process intended to assist parties in finding a resolution to a report of misconduct. The parties seek to determine their own solution through a negotiation faciliated by an impartial mediator. The parties are not required to reach an agreement and the parties may terminate the mediation at any time prior to reaching an agreement.
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. For example, if sexual violence is being alleged and 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. You will be notified if a report to law enforcement is made. 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?
You can choose whether to identify the respondent or not. If you want the University to pursue an investigation through the student investigation and hearing process, you must name the respondent. If you choose not to pursue an investigation, you do not need to name the respondent.
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.
If the respondent is a Washington and Lee student, the Policy applies to any conduct that occurs in the City of Lexington or Rockbridge County, occurs in a University program or activity, or has a continuing adverse effect while you are on campus. W&L can investigate and determine responsibility in the same manner as if the incident occurred on campus.
If the respondent is not affilated with the University, our ability to take direct action against that individual may be limited. But the University will take steps to provide appropriate supports, and where appropriate, the broader community. This may include offering support services to you, notifying you of the right to file a complaint with the respondent's school (if respondent is a student) or local law enforcement, and taking any other appropriate steps to protect the 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 violations of this policy. If the respondent is no longer a student or employee, the University may not be able to take disciplinary action against the respondent, but remedies and resources can still be provided to you.
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 your concerns and 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 or restraining order 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.
I have decided to move forward with a Title IX investigation. What will happen next?
After meeting with you where the Title IX Coordinator will explain the investigative process and next steps, the Title IX Coordinator will send a letter to the respondent notifying the student of the complaint and setting up a meeting. 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). The Title IX Coordinator will then meet with the respondent and advise the student of next steps and the investigative process.
Two investigators are chosen from a pool of trained individuals to investigate the report.
The Title IX Coordinator will assist you with obtaining advisors so you can meet with the advisors prior to an investigative meeting.
The investigators will then commence an investigation by conducting separate interveiws with each of the parties and collecting additional information by interviewing witnesses and collecting documents and other available and relevant evidence.
Who determines the outcome of the investigation and hearing process?
The Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Board (HSMB) is the body that determines whether the Sexual Discrimination and Misconduct Policy was violated, and if so, administers sanctions against a respondent.
Upon completion of the investigation, the HSMB Chair evaluates the complaint to determine whether a charge of misconduct should be issued. If a charge is issued, 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?
Both parties have the right to have advisors present at all phases of process.
You have the right to choose either a Staff Advisor or a Hearing Advisor:
- Staff 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.
In addition, you have the right to one Advisor of Choice. An Advisor of Choice can be a friend, mentor, family member, attorney, or any other supporter you have chosen to advise you.
- Advise of applicable procedures, including the appeal process, if applicable.
- Offer support
- Provide information on additional resources
- Accompany you to all meetings
- Assist you in preparing for meetings
Advisors may not...
- Present evidence at an investigative meeting or at the hearing
- Verbally question witnesses during the hearing.
What supportive measures are available to me?
You have the right to request and to receive appropriate supportive interim measures during the investigation and hearing process. The Title IX Coordinator will ensure that the supportive measures are implemented in a prompt, fair, and equitable manner. Some nonexhaustive examples of supportive measures include academic assistance, assistance with scheduling counseling appointments, and changes to work schedules.
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. However, a partition is placed between you and the respondent so you cannot see each other during the hearing. Additionally, either party is welcome to participate remotely (via video conference).
What happens during the interview with the investigators?
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 in specific detail. 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 participate during the investigation, you cannot provide information at a hearing that could have been provided during an investigation. If you did not participate in an investigation, you would be able to ask questions of the respondent or any witnesses present at the hearing, but you would not be able to respond to questions or provide any statements or evidence to the hearing panel.
What happens after my interview with the investigators?
The investigators will continue their investigation based on the information you provided.
The investigators will prepare a written report that summarizes the information gathered and synthesizes the areas of agreement and disagreement between the parties and any supporting information. The investigators are not decision-makers and do not make any conclusions about whether a policy violation occurred.
You and your advisors will have the opportunity to review a draft of the investigation report. You may submit any additional comments, request changes, or request further investigation from the investigation team.
The investigators will make changes to the investigation report based on those comments and will then submit the report to the designated Chair of the Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Board for the specific matter. The Chair of the HSMB will determine whether to issue a charge of misconduct.
What happens if there is a charge of misconduct?
A charge will be issued if it is plausible and more than a sheer possibility that your factual allegations could constitute a violation of this policy. In making this inquiry, the Chair will not evaluate credibility; your factual allegations will be accepted to be true.
If there is a charge of misconduct, you will receive access to the investigation report and all information collected during the investigation for your review and further comment. A pre-hearing conference is held with the Chair of the HSMB where any requested changes will be discussed.
What happens at a hearing before the Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Board?
The HSMB hearing panel will review the investigation report proir to the hearing.
The parties both have the option to give an opening statement to the HSMB hearing panel.
After the opening statements, the HSMB hearing panel may question the complainant, the respondent, any witnesses called, and/or the investigators, and examine related information and evidence.
The parties may submit written questions to the Chair of the HSMB to ask on their behalf to the relevant party or witness.
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?
In order to determine that a student has violated the University Policy 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?
- 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
How long does the investigation and hearing process take?
Generally, you can expect the process to follow these time frames:
- An investigation will be completed within thirty calendar days
- A charge decision is made within two calendar days
- The hearing will be held within fourteen days of the charge
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.
Status updates on the progress of the complaint are available upon request.
What happens if my complaint is against a nonstudent?
There are both informal and formal options for resolution of reports against nonstudents.
Discrimination Policy Advisers (DPAs), 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 will be initiated through a DPA or 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 held in every case, 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.