Overview of Procedures
When a member of the University community has a complaint against a Faculty Member (defined in Section 2) alleging inappropriate conduct as defined in Section 4.1, a number of response options, both formal and informal, are available. Some individuals may wish to pursue informal means in lieu of, or prior to, making a formal complaint; others may not. If an informal procedure is ineffective, or not preferred, the formal procedures will remain open. Individuals are free to select the route they believe is most appropriate for their circumstances, and there are many resources on campus to help them determine how to proceed. An individual with concerns may consult at any time with various faculty or staff including those in Human Resources, the Division of Student Affairs, and the Graduate School or with the Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion, and Resolution Services or the Chair of the Senate Committee on Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Professional Ethics (“AFTPE” or the “Committee”). The responsibilities of individuals in the units above include assisting students, faculty and staff with complaint issues, be they general or specific, and to assist in the selection of means of resolution.
In the conduct of these procedures, the University is committed to protecting the confidentiality of all parties and their information. The University cannot guarantee confidentiality in situations where maintaining that confidentiality conflicts with the University’s obligations, which include investigating alleged inappropriate conduct and taking corrective action where warranted. In such situations where confidentiality cannot be maintained, disclosure of confidential information will be minimized to the extent practicable.(5)
The University takes seriously its responsibility to address and remediate matters that come to its attention under this Procedure or under any other policies. When appropriate, the University may take interim steps, with consultation with AFTPE or other appropriate individuals or bodies, to protect the safety and well-being of Members of the University community while informal or formal proceedings under this Procedure are pending.
Individuals who participate in any manner under this Procedure (i.e. as complainant, witness, advisor, etc.) will not be subject to retaliation for having participated or opposed inappropriate conduct in good faith. Any individual who feels that he or she has been subject to retaliation for having participated in proceedings under this Procedure, or for having opposed inappropriate conduct, may report allegations of such retaliation to the Offices of Academic Affairs, Human Resources or the Division of Student Affairs or to AFTPE. Allegations of retaliation will be investigated and appropriate remedial action will be taken as warranted.
Complaints under this policy—whether formal or informal—should be filed with the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion, and Resolution Services at 005 Steele Hall, by phone at 315-443-4018, or by email at EqualOpp@syr.edu.
II. Informal Resolution Process
If a complaining individual (“Complainant”) feels comfortable dealing with the situation without assistance, the Complainant can communicate either orally or in writing to the Faculty Member the claim that his/her behavior is inappropriate. The most useful communication will have three parts:
- a factual description of the inappropriate conduct, including date, time, place and specific action;
- a description of the Complainant’s reaction and feelings, including any consequences of the incident(s); and
- a request that the objectionable conduct cease.
Such a communication may cause the alleged inappropriate conduct to stop, particularly where the Faculty Member may not be aware that the conduct is perceived as inappropriate.
A Complainant may also proceed informally, but with the assistance of others. The following options are available to the Complainant:
(A) The Complainant may ask someone in a supervisory position to the Faculty Member, e.g., department chair, dean, or director, to speak to the Faculty Member whose behavior has been claimed to be inappropriate. The purpose of such conversations is to communicate the specific conduct in question, let the Faculty Member know that the conduct has been claimed (and may have been deemed) to be inappropriate and request that any such conduct cease. That intervention should be documented and deposited in the office of Academic Affairs.
(B) The Complainant may consult with trained designated Intake Panel Members (“IPM”). The IPM will, in consultation with the other Panel members, make reasonable efforts to resolve the complaint informally. These efforts may include mediation, involvement of appropriate administrative personnel, individual discussions with the parties, negotiations, etc. A satisfactory resolution must adequately address the needs of the Complainant, the Respondent, and the University. If a satisfactory informal resolution is reached, a report of that resolution will be filed with the Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion, and Resolution Services.
The informal procedure is not mandatory. The informal procedure is not appropriate for use in cases involving egregious allegations, including but not limited to any situation involving sexual or gender based violence or assault.
III. Formal complaint resolution process
The Complainant may initiate the formal complaint process through the Intake Panel. The University reserves the right to act as the Complainant and initiate a formal proceeding under this process.
Stage 1: Intake Panel Report and Case Assignment
The Intake Panel will produce a summative version of the formal Complaint, in consultation with the Complainant, specifying the allegations of violations per Section 4.11. The Summative Complaint will be provided to the Complainant and Respondent. The Respondent will have the opportunity to respond to the Summative Complaint in a meeting with Intake Panel members. If the Intake Panel determines that the Complaint involves allegations of material fact involving violations of conduct described in Section 4.1, the Panel will assign the case to a designated Investigative Team Leader. The Leader will select an Investigative Team comprised of no more than three individuals from a trained pool of members of the University community. The Intake Panel will provide all materials, including the written Complaint, to the assigned Investigative Team.
Stage 2: Investigation and issuance of an investigative report
The Investigative Team will normally interview the Complainant(s), the Respondent(s), and relevant witnesses and review relevant documents in conducting its investigation. The Complainant(s) and Respondent(s) will have the right to identify witnesses and present evidence to the Investigative Team. Although confidentiality will be maintained to the greatest extent possible, the team may necessarily have to disclose certain aspects of the allegations in order to conduct a thorough investigation.
Complainant may identify and bring a non-attorney advocate to the interview. Other persons interviewed by the Team will have the right to a representative upon request if the interview in question might result in sanctions or discipline for the individual being interviewed. Attorneys will not be permitted as representatives unless a University attorney is present at the interview.
Upon completion of the investigation, the Team will issue an Investigative Report detailing the following:
- the allegations investigated
- the key factual findings of the investigation
- the conclusions from the investigation.
The Investigative Report will be provided to AFTPE. The Investigative Report may find support for the allegation(s) of misconduct (or subset thereof) or lack of support for the allegations.
Stage 3: Review of findings
Upon receipt of the Investigative Report, AFTPE will review the contents and findings of the Team. AFTPE may request further information and communicate with the Team Leader. AFTPE will forward the Investigative Report with its conclusions to the Complainant and Respondent.
Upon receipt of the Report, the Complainant and Respondent have available to them two options: accept the Report or provide a written response to AFTPE disputing the findings of the Report. Individuals are encouraged to consult with trusted advisors about the possible outcomes of one or more of these choices. Within 10 business days of the issuance of the report, the Complainant, the Respondent, or both, may file a written response with AFTPE. Such a response must specify the nature of the dispute with the report. AFTPE will review the responses for substance and determine the appropriate actions.
AFTPE may, in light of additional or new information brought forth by the Complainant or Respondent, return the report to the Investigative Team for further investigation.
AFTPE will, in the event neither party submits substantive dispute of the findings or after any secondary report comes forward from the Investigative Team, submit its Advisory Report and Recommendations to the Vice Chancellor and Provost, (6) indicating whether or not there is a finding of conduct in violation of University policy. In the event that the AFTPE concludes that there were violations of University policy, the Advisory Report will include recommended sanctions for review and determination by the Vice Chancellor and Provost.
Any recommended sanction and/or penalty should reflect the severity of the conduct. The recommended penalties may include any one or a combination of the following: verbal warning, written warning placed in the Respondent’s file, probation, suspension with or without pay, removal from administrative duties within a department, dismissal, or other recommendation appropriate to the circumstances, such as restitution, apology, professional counseling/treatment, etc.
The Vice Chancellor will, within fifteen (15) days of receipt of the Advisory Report from AFTPE, issue a final decision to all parties and to AFTPE. (7)
Stage 3A: Hearing Process
In cases where the substantial disputes raised by the parties would have a material and significant impact on the resolution of the matter and/or the recommended sanctions, AFTPE will schedule a hearing. When a hearing is scheduled, the following procedure will apply.
AFTPE will designate a three member Hearing Panel from its membership to conduct the hearing. The Panel will elect a Chair and work with members of Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion, and Resolution Services to ensure that the following hearing procedures are followed.
Attendance at a hearing is limited to the Panel; the Title IX Coordinator or a designee of the Vice Chancellor and Provost, Complainant, and Respondent, each of whom may also bring one observer with whom they may consult; Public Safety representatives, if appropriate; and witnesses. Witnesses may be in the hearing room only while testifying. Attorneys are not permitted as observers, except on notice to all other parties and the Panel at least three working days prior to the hearing; however, the Panel may have counsel present to advise on procedure. An observer may also serve as an advisor, but may not ask questions of any hearing participant or witness during the hearing proceedings or address the Panel directly. A complete list of witnesses and observers will be provided to the Panel and the Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion, and Resolution Services at least three working days prior to the hearing.
The Panel will audiotape the proceedings and at the conclusion of their deliberations, will forward the tapes to the Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion, and Resolution Services for storage. Tapes will not be forwarded to the Coordinator until after the Panel has concluded all deliberations. The tapes are accessible to the parties in the case of an appeal on the basis of procedure.
The hearing will begin with an opening statement from the Panel Chair, followed by opening statements from the Complainant and Respondent. Opening statements are limited to 15 minutes.
Following opening statements, witnesses (if any) are called to testify. Both the Complainant and Respondent have the right to question each witness. The Panel Members may ask questions of the witnesses, Complainant, or Respondent at any time during their testimony. The Panel may call its own witnesses (or recall witnesses) or request documents or other evidence from the parties as it deems appropriate. The Complainant or Respondent may submit written questions and request that a Panel Member question certain witnesses on his/her behalf.
The hearing will end with closing statements, limited to 15 minutes each, from the Complainant, the Respondent, and Panel Chair, if they so desire.
Strict rules of evidence will not be applied. Supplemental hearing procedures that are consistent with this Procedure may be set forth with the approval of the Vice Chancellor and Provost.
A finding of inappropriate conduct will result only where there is a preponderance of evidence that such conduct has occurred.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the Panel will submit a draft advisory report to AFTPE for its review and approval. AFTPE will issue a final report with factual findings and recommended remedial actions. Any recommended sanction and/or penalty should reflect the severity of the conduct. The recommended penalties may include any one or a combination of the following: verbal warning, written warning placed in the Respondent’s file, probation, suspension with or without pay, removal from administrative duties within a department, dismissal, or other recommendation appropriate to the circumstances, such as restitution, apology, professional counseling/treatment, etc. AFTPE will submit a final advisory report to the Vice Chancellor and Provost in the case of a recommended penalty of suspension or dismissal or in the case of a penalty other than suspension or termination or a finding of no inappropriate conduct (and therefore no penalty).
The Vice Chancellor will, within fifteen (15) business days of receipt of the advisory report from AFTPE, issue a final decision to all parties and to AFTPE. If the decision is made to pursue dismissal of a tenured University Faculty Member, the procedure found at Faculty Manual 4.41will be followed.
Stage 4: Appeal of Decision and/or Sanction
Either party may, within five (5) business days of the communication of the Decision and/or Sanction, file either a Notice of Intent to Appeal or an Appeal to the Office of the Vice Chancellor, which will notify the other parties of the action. Appeals must be based on one or more of the following:
- new evidence not reasonably available at the time of the original hearing, the absence of which can be shown to have had a detrimental impact on the outcome of the hearing;
- procedural error that can be shown to have had a detrimental impact on the outcome of the hearing;
- errors in the interpretation of University policy so substantial as to deny either party a fair hearing; or
- grossly inappropriate sanction having no reasonable relationship to the charges.
The party has an additional five (5) business days to submit the Appeal, and the Vice Chancellor and Provost will render a decision within five (5) business days of receipt of the Appeal. This answer to the Appeal is final.
IV. Annual Reporting
Each academic year prior to the final meeting of the University Senate, the Title IX Coordinator will be responsible for reporting the frequency of informal and formal complaints and the status of the resolution of those reported complaints to AFTPE. AFTPE will include this report in their annual report to the University Senate.
AFTPE (Committee on Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Professional Ethics) — is a standing committee of the University Senate charged with addressing complaints concerning faculty. AFTPE will jointly oversee the procedure described above with the Office of Academic Administration.
IP/M (Intake Panel/Member) — will normally consist of two faculty members and an academic administrator assigned by the Vice Chancellor and Provost from a trained group of individuals identified through AFTPE and the Office of Academic Administration.
Investigative Team — will normally consist of three trained individuals assigned by the Intake Panel for each case. The team members and team leader will be designated from a pool of individuals identified through AFTPE and the Office of Academic Administration.
The Office of Equal Opportunity, Inclusion and Resolution Services – Individuals from this Office will staff and jointly oversee (with AFTPE) the procedures described above. This Office will be responsible for arranging and providing annual training for individuals involved in the intake, investigation, and adjudication of matters covered in this policy.