Upon receipt of a report, PLU will take immediate steps to ensure that services have been offered to the Impacted Party, and Interim Measures have been taken for the safety and security of the Impacted Party and the PLU community. Then PLU will usually proceed as described below. Since PLU cannot reasonably anticipate every situation, however, PLU, in its sole discretion, will determine appropriate measures based on each individual incident, so the steps below are not promised or guaranteed to any student in any given situation.
A. Initial Title IX Assessment
Upon notice of any report regarding Prohibited Conduct, the Title IX Coordinator or a designee will assess whether a formal Title IX investigation will be conducted under this policy; that is whether the allegation, if true, would rise to the level of a policy violation and, if so, whether a formal investigation is appropriate under the circumstances. The Title IX Coordinator, in consultation with other PLU parties, determines whether an investigation should be commenced based on a variety of factors including but not limited to the Impacted Party’s wish to pursue disciplinary action, the risk posed to any individual or the campus community by not proceeding, and the nature of the allegation.
Before deciding whether an investigation will commence, the Title IX Coordinator, or their designee, will meet with the Impacted Party. At this meeting, the Title IX Coordinator or their designee will discuss support for the Impacted Party, the rights of the Impacted Party, attempt to obtain information related to the alleged incident, and discuss different PLU processes and options for the Impacted Party. The Impacted Party will have the opportunity to state their desired wish for disciplinary action at this meeting.
In circumstances in which the Title IX Coordinator or their designee determines that there is no ongoing risk of harm to the community and that Interim Measures, such as a No Contact Order from PLU, have addressed the concerns, the Title IX Coordinator may forgo a formal investigation. If the determination is that no further action is necessary or that the Interim Measures will remain in place on an ongoing basis, the Impacted Party will be provided written information regarding the decision as well as resources for support. To the extent appropriate under this Policy and if involved in the assessment, the Respondent will also be provided an Outcome Letter. To the extent that the Outcome Letter states that the University will not investigate the report of Prohibited Conduct, that determination may be appealed under Section XI.
B. Prohibited Conduct
If the Title IX Coordinator or their designee determines that an investigation will be initiated, the Impacted Party will be contacted by a staff member in the Student Rights and Responsibilities office who will explain options and will schedule a formal report meeting with a trained investigator. If the Impacted Party is willing to participate in the Student Rights and Responsibilities process, the Impacted Party may be designated as the Complainant. (In some cases, the University may act as the Complainant, in its sole discretion.) The individual alleged to have engaged in the Prohibited Conduct and who must respond to the allegations is designated as the Respondent.
C. Interim Measures
Interim measures are services, accommodations, or other assistance that PLU puts in place for Complainants after receiving notice of alleged sexual misconduct, but before any final outcomes – investigatory, disciplinary, or remedial – have been determined. The university is committed to ensuring that students receive appropriate medical attention, have the support necessary for healing, and continue to access their learning opportunities fully and equitably. Included in this commitment is an investment in ensuring that students understand their reporting options and how to access available interim measures.
Upon receiving a report of sexual misconduct the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities or the Gender Based Violence Advocate will provide the Complainant with a written explanation of the interim measures available on campus and through local community resources and will confirm which interim measures are important to the Complainant’s safety, support, and educational access while proceeding through the conduct process. Some possible interim measures are listed below. Appropriate interim measures are determined in consultation with the Complainant or their advocate based on the specific variables inherent to their situation. In those instances where interim measures unavoidably affect both the Complainant and the Respondent, the Respondent may experience interim measures that ensure the integrity of those interim measures in place for the Complainant. Interim measures may be modified during the course of a conduct process based on the unfolding of the case and greater clarity about the Complainant’s needs.
A Complainant or the Violence Advocate supporting the Complainant may request, the interim measures below as they are and become relevant to the student’s safety, support, and equitable educational access.
- A “no contact” order, pending the outcome of an investigation. A no contact order serves as notice to parties involved in a sexual misconduct case that they may not have verbal, electronic, written, in person, or third party communication or contact with one another.
- Academic accommodations, including transfer to another section of a course; rescheduling an assignment or test; accessing academic support; arranging for incompletes, a leave of absence, or withdrawal from campus; preserving eligibility for scholarships; athletics, internships, study away, or student visas
- Medical and mental health services, including counseling
- Change in campus housing and dining locations
- Assistance in finding alternative housing
- Assistance in arranging for alternative student employment arrangements and/or changing work schedules
- Providing an escort to ensure that the Complainant can move safely between PLU’s educational programs and activities
- Transportation accommodations, such as shuttle service, a cab voucher, or parking arrangements to ensure safety and access to services
- Other interim measures as the university deems appropriate
A Respondent’s compliance with interim measures will be considered in sanctioning, if applicable.
The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities will designate an un-biased, trained investigator to investigate each allegation of Sexual Misconduct. The investigator will conduct a thorough, fact-finding investigation, which will typically include interviews with the Complainant(s), the Respondent(s), and witnesses. The interviews will be supplemented by the gathering of any physical, documentary, or other evidence. As part of the investigation, PLU will allow all parties to provide witnesses and other evidence as appropriate. The investigation is designed to be thorough, impartial and fair, and all individuals will be treated with appropriate sensitivity and respect. The investigation will be conducted in a manner that is respectful of individual privacy concerns.
Complainant(s) and Respondent(s) will have the ability to read through the initial and final report, compiled by the Investigator. Complainant(s) and Respondent(s) will have the ability to respond to any part of the initial report, and submit questions to be asked of other parties throughout the investigation. All documentation submitted by the Complainant(s), Respondent(s) and witnesses will be in the initial and final report, with personal information redacted for privacy.
Throughout the process, any person participating in the process may have a Support Person present at any meeting related to the review of the reported Sexual Misconduct. However, the Complainant(s), Respondent(s) and witnesses are expected to speak for themselves and Support Persons must not be disruptive to the interview or process. The Complainant and/or the Respondent may be represented by legal counsel during the investigation process, but lawyers are subject to the same rules as other Support Persons. See the definition of Support Person for additional detail.
E. Investigation Findings and Outcomes
At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator will prepare a written report synthesizing the facts and the conclusions of the investigation. The report will be sent to the Title IX Coordinator, who will review that the report and investigation were valid and thorough. The report will be passed on to the Review Officers. The Review Officers are two faculty/staff/administrators who have been trained in conduct and Title IX procedures, and are designated by the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. The Review Officers will make a determination if a policy (policies) have been violated, and determine sanctions, if applicable.
Both Complainant(s) and Respondent(s) will be notified at or near the same time when the decision is made, in writing.
F. Standard of Proof
The Review Officers will make a decision regarding the alleged violation(s) based on the Preponderance of Evidence standard. This standard requires that the information supporting a finding of responsible be more convincing than the information in opposition to it. Under this standard, individuals are presumed not to have engaged in a policy violation of sexual misconduct unless it is “more likely than not” based on the information provided, that a violation did occur.
G. Timeline of Process
A Title IX Investigation should normally be completed within 60 calendar days after the University has notification of the complaint. If the timeline is extended for any reasonable reason, the SRR Office will communicate with all affected parties.
H. Normative Sanctioning
In this context, the operational definition for normative sanctioning is grounded in the framing provided by the learning organization literature. Normative sanctioning is a source of organizational influence utilized to communicate and to uphold in clear ways the values of the community. At PLU, normative sanctions serve to communicate expectations about community standards for behavior and the seriousness with which PLU takes issues of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault. Because normative sanctions are situated within the community, they do take into account case specific variables which may affect individuals and the whole and should not be viewed as absolute.
The university process is educational in nature, and is different from, but may occur at the same time as, a civil or criminal legal process. In the educational context, the university is making a determination as to whether the Respondent violated university policy, and not whether the Respondent is “guilty” or “innocent.” In making this determination, the university uses a “preponderance of evidence” (or more likely than not) standard. If a Respondent is found responsible for a violation of the sexual misconduct policy, the University will initiate a sanctioning process designed to eliminate the misconduct, prevent its reoccurrence, and remedy its effects on the complainant and the community. Sanctions also are designed to facilitate safety for individuals and the community and to deter individuals from participating in similar future behavior. This approach to sanctioning aligns with the Pacific Lutheran University educational mission and its focus on care and fulfills the University’s Title IX obligations.
Just as there is a range of behaviors that violate this policy (e.g. sexual and gender-based harassment, sexual and gender-based stalking, interpersonal violence – including dating and domestic partner violence, non-consensual sexual contact, and non-consensual sexual intercourse), there is a range of sanctions that may be imposed. General categories of sanctions include educational intervention, evaluation and/or treatment, warning, probation, suspension, and expulsion from the university.
The variables affecting each case are unique and inform the determination of sanctions when a Respondent(s) is found responsible. Factors that may influence the severity of sanctions include, but are not limited to: use of force or coercion; use of alcohol or other drugs, active communication regarding consent throughout the interaction, supporting evidence, corroboration of evidence, and impact on community.
The following represent guidelines for sanctions in cases where a student has been found responsible for sexual misconduct. These guidelines demonstrate the seriousness with which Pacific Lutheran University considers and responds to issues of gender-based violence and sexual misconduct.
Sanctioning Guidelines When a Respondent Has Been Found Responsible
When a Respondent is found responsible for a sexual misconduct violation, the following questions will guide the assignment of sanctions that are aligned in consequence to each infraction.
Question 1: Was there a sexual misconduct violation?
- If yes, possibility of a minimum of 1 calendar year1 suspension*.
Question 2: Was there physical and/or sexual contact?
- If yes, possibility of a minimum of suspension until Complainant graduates.
Question 3: Was there penetration of any form?
- If yes, possibility of expulsion**.
1 Example: January 2018-January 2019, with reentry date of Spring 2019 semester.
*Suspension is defined at PLU as the separation of the student from the university for a specified minimum period of time, with conditions imposed for the student’s reinstatement to PLU. Suspended students are not in Good Standing with respect to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, and will not return in Good Standing with respect to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities until they have met the conditions of their suspension.
**Expulsion is defined as the permanent and total withdrawal of the privilege of attending PLU or participating in the PLU community. Expulsion may be recommended as a result of very serious violations, multiple or compounding violations associated with the same case, or for repeated violations. Only the Dean of Students or the Vice President for Student Life (or their approved designee) may impose expulsion. Expulsion is a normative, not a prescriptive, sanction in the case of Sexual Misconduct and will be reviewed and determined whether applicable for individual respondents based on the specific variables associated with each individual sexual misconduct case.
Additional variables that may be considered by Review Officers in sanctioning decisions are reflected in, but are not limited to, the following questions:
- Was active consent obtained at every point during the interaction?
- Was the capacity to give consent available (Involvement of alcohol/other drugs/sleep)?
- Was force or threat of force used?
- Has the Respondent been found responsible for multiple infractions of the code of conduct for this incident and/or in the past?
- Is the Respondent found responsible invested in learning and committed to following through on relevant learning opportunities (e.g., conditions for return, such as evaluation or treatment that are directly aligned with expected learning outcomes)
Some of the additional sanctions that may be assigned at the discretion of the Review Officer may include, but are not limited to:
- Removal from leadership positions
- Removal from co-curricular or extra-curricular activities, including those that may carry academic credit or be connected to academic programs
- Removal from residence halls
- Hold on transcripts until completion of sanctions
- Parental notification
- Ineligibility for PLU-sponsored study away programs
- Completion of appropriate psychological evaluation and treatment
- On-going no contact order
Reasons Normative Sanctions May Not be Met
In cases of sexual misconduct, each case is nuanced and specific, with no two cases being alike. Therefore, normative sanctions are the guide, but not always the prescriptive measure of any given case. The below examples, while not an exhaustive list, may be some reasons why the sanctions above may not apply in a given case.
- Complainant requests: a Complainant in a sexual misconduct process may request a specific sanction, in which Review Officers will consider the request and balance that request out with specifics from the incident
- Student Withdrawal from PLU: If a Complainant and/or Respondent withdraws from the University before or during a sexual misconduct process, PLU will determine appropriate actions for the individual and the community
- Egregiousness of Incident: Each violation of sexual misconduct has a spectrum; while all complaints are taken seriously, complaints may fall in different ranges. Example: a sexual harassment incident that was a one time, low-impact situation in which intent was not meant to harm could be an educational sanction rather than suspension
I. Appeal Process
In the case of a Sexual Misconduct investigation, the Respondent and the Complainant have the right to appeal a determination. Grounds for Appeal are:
- Procedural error that substantially impacted the outcome of the investigation process
- Bias unknown at the beginning of the investigation that substantially impacted the outcome of the investigation
- New Information, previously unavailable, which would substantially impact the outcome of the investigation
- Severity of sanction
All appeals must be received in writing by the deadline indicated in the written outcome letter, with the deadline (typically 72 hours) after the outcome was given. The student should complete the Online Appeal Form (link in the determination letter) and submit it to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
Appeals will go to the Vice President of Student Life, who will make a determination based on all materials provided, including the Investigative Report, supplemental documentation, audio interviews, and the appeal form. Appeal decisions will generally be completed within 5 business days of the Appeal Form submission, and all parties will be notified of the status of the appeal by the SRR Office.
Either the Complainant or Respondent may appeal a determination. As the university appellate officer, the Vice President for Student Life decides the appeal. Typically, they will decide from among the following options, but this list provides only some of the options available to the appellate officer, and each case will be determined on its own merits.
- Upholding the original case determination and sanctioning decisions made by the Review Officers;
- Identifying a need for a continuation of the investigative process;
- Revising the sanctions assigned by the Review Officers based on severity and /or alignment of the sanctions with associated conduct violations;
- Revising the determination made by the review officers based on new information
J. Coordination with Concurrent Legal Proceedings
Students may engage criminal prosecution procedures and/or civil litigation in connection with the same behavior that forms the basis of a sexual misconduct report under this policy. In such cases, the University will cooperate and assist with coordination with local law enforcement and may, if requested and appropriate, share information with those agencies as FERPA allows. The University will fulfill its legal and ethical obligation to take immediate and appropriate action to investigate possible violations of this policy, even if there are external processes or procedures pending in connection with that same report of Prohibited Conduct.
Standards for criminal investigations are different than the standards for a violation of this policy, and therefore the University will not base its decisions under this policy solely on law enforcement reports and/or action. Accordingly, the University will not normally wait for the conclusion of a criminal investigation or other proceedings before implementing its review of reported sexual misconduct under this policy.
If legal counsel is being used in the PLU Investigative process by any party, the SRR Office will notify all parties as soon as SRR is made aware of this.
K. Reporting Prohibited Conduct to Law Enforcement and for Statistical Disclosure
Students who believe any Prohibited Conduct they have experienced may be criminal in nature will receive support and assistance in contacting law enforcement and/or reporting the conduct for statistical disclosure under the Clery Act. PLU encourages accurate and prompt reporting of all crimes to Campus Safety and the appropriate police agencies.
As a part of its prevention and awareness programs for incoming students and new employees, and its ongoing prevention and awareness programs for students and employees, PLU includes the definitions of sexual misconduct, the definition of consent in reference to sexual activity, and the definitions of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking that are used by the criminal laws in applicable jurisdictions. The criminal law definitions used in Washington State are described in Appendix A for the sake of information only. However, PLU utilizes its own definitions of these prohibited behaviors for purposes of this policy that are consistent with the Clery Act, as amended effective 2014 (and expand upon the Clery Act as noted above), and determines responsibility for violations of PLU policy through its own procedures and standards of proof (that is, by preponderance of the evidence standard), not through the procedures or standards of proof employed in the criminal justice system.