Procedure For Sexual Misconduct Investigations At Central Michigan University
PROCEDURE FOR SEXUAL MISCONDUCT INVESTIGATIONS AT CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY
Sexual misconduct allegations in a university setting are serious, and can have serious, life-long consequences. It is important to understand what is going to happen during the course of these investigations, and to ensure that you put yourself in the best possible position to avoid a finding of responsibility for sexual assault or sexual harassment.
At Central Michigan University, the office that investigates allegations of sexual misconduct is called the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity (OCRIE), and the office that imposes discipline if the OCRIE office makes a determination that you are responsible for sexual misconduct is the Office of Student Conduct (OSC).
The following is a description of the procedure that is utilized by Central Michigan University in investigating an allegation of sexual misconduct and in imposing discipline:
A complaint is made.
A sexual misconduct investigation begins when a complaint is made to the Title IX coordinator. A complaint can be made by a number of different people. The complaint can be made by the “Complainant,” or the person who claims to have been subjected to or have been the victim of a sexual assault or sexual harassment.
A complaint can be made by a “Third Party Complainant,” which is either a person or entity who has knowledge of an alleged sexual assault or alleged sexual harassment, and makes a complaint on behalf of the person who claims to have been subjected to or to have been the victim of a sexual assault or sexual harassment.
A complaint can be made by a “Responsible Employee.” A responsible employee is an employee of Central Michigan University who is required by their sexual misconduct policy to act as a mandatory reporter of sexual misconduct. This means that if an employee of Central Michigan University, which includes nearly all faculty and staff of the university, learns about allegations of sexual misconduct by either a student or other faculty, they are required to report it to the Title IX coordinator or face termination of their employment.
Finally, a complaint can be made by a “University Community Member,” which means anyone else in the university community, including all other students, faculty, staff, guests, contractors, consultants, and their employees.
The complaint is reduced to writing.
After a complaint is made to the Title IX coordinator, who works in the OCRIE office, the complaint is reduced to writing. This writing is intended to be a brief description of the alleged sexual misconduct that puts the accused on notice of the alleged violation of the sexual misconduct policy.
The complaint is given to the accused.
After the complaint is reduced to writing, the Title IX coordinator first verifies with the complainant that the information within the written complaint matches the allegations being made by the complainant. Then, the Title IX coordinator gives a copy of the complaint to the accused student. This generally happens via email, to the student’s university issued email address. However, occasionally the complaint is given to the accused student in person by a member of the OCRIE office.
A meeting is scheduled to explain the procedure and to discuss interim measures.
The OCRIE office will schedule a meeting with the accused student to explain their investigation steps and procedure. This meeting is generally for informational purposes only.
During this meeting, “interim measures” will also be discussed. Interim measures are steps that the university can take while the investigation is pending. They can include things like no contact orders, residential reassignments or removal, changes to employment or academic assignments, counseling, temporary suspension, or temporary delay of graduation.
While most of the interim measures are designed to protect the complainant and not the accused, the policy provides that the accused is just as entitled to request interim measures that are favorable to them as well. At this meeting, you can request things such as accommodations in your classes to help you deal with the stress of the pending investigation, a change in your campus housing, to drop classes without financial or academic penalty, or to take an incomplete for the semester in classes you would like to finish later.
As an accused student, you have the right to either participate in this meeting, or not. It is recommended that you do participate in the entire process; however, because sexual misconduct allegations can always lead to a criminal investigation in addition to the university investigation, it is highly recommended that you do not engage in this process without the assistance of a lawyer.
At this meeting, you are entitled to have a “support person” present. Your “support person” can be your attorney, who can guide you through the process, and try to prevent serious discipline from being imposed as well as avoid criminal charges, if possible.
An interview is scheduled to question the accused regarding the allegations.
After the initial meeting where the investigation procedure and interim measures are discussed, the OCRIE office will schedule an interview with the accused student to discuss the allegations.
The accused student is not required to attend this interview. As an accused student, you must be very careful in proceeding with the interview. Whenever there is an allegation of sexual misconduct, the possibility of criminal charges being brought is always present. Those criminal charges carry extremely serious penalties – some up to life in prison. Whatever you say during the course of the interview with the university investigators can also be used against you later in a criminal investigation. Even if you are not admitting to illegal conduct, any statements you make can later be twisted to be used against you, or you may confirm details of the complainant’s account of the incident that could not otherwise be confirmed.
There is a balancing act in participating in this interview, because on one hand, you want to do everything you can to avoid criminal charges that carry serious penalties, but on the other hand, you want to cooperate with the university to the extent that you can avoid serious academic discipline. Having an attorney to guide you through the process will help you navigate this balancing act.
At the interview, you are again permitted to have a support person present. This person can be your attorney, and your attorney can help to ensure that anything you say during the course of the interview is not going to cause you harm in the academic or criminal proceedings.
The OCRIE investigator conducts interviews with the complainant and other witnesses.
During the time period that OCRIE is completing your interview, they will also be completing an interview with the complainant, as well as any other witnesses they wish to interview. These witnesses may be witnesses that the OCRIE office has discovered in their own investigation, or whose names have been provided to them by the accused student or the complainant. The OCRIE investigator will choose which witnesses they want to interview, and which witnesses they do not.
The OCRIE investigator may also attempt to obtain other types of evidence, such as social media, text messages, photos, videos, or other electronic evidence. If there is a criminal investigation being conducted at the same time as the university investigation, the OCRIE investigator may also request that law enforcement provide them with copies of their reports or other evidence collected by the police.
The OCRIE office completes a summary of the evidence that they have collected.
After the OCRIE investigator has completed his or her investigation, they compile a summary of the interviews conducted and the evidence obtained during the course of the investigation.
The accused and the complainant review the summary of the evidence.
When the summary of the interviews and evidence is completed, the OCRIE office will make the summary available for review for a period of at least five days. The accused and the complainant will have the opportunity to review the summary at the OCRIE office, with a support person present. The accused student can bring a lawyer as their support person to help them review the evidence.
The accused and the complainant may provide comments or additional evidence.
After the accused student and the complainant review the summary of the evidence, they will both be given the opportunity to provide comment disputing part of the evidence, to provide the OCRIE investigator with additional witnesses that should be interviewed, or with additional evidence that should be reviewed prior to a final determination being made by the OCRIE office.
The OCRIE office completes additional investigation and revises their summary, if necessary.
If either the accused student or the complainant provide the investigator with additional evidence or suggest additional witnesses to be interviewed, then the OCRIE may complete additional investigation if they believe that it is necessary.
When the additional investigation is completed, the investigator will supplement or revise their summary to reflect the new interviews or evidence. The new summary is then provided to the accused student and complainant in the same manner as before. The accused student and complainant may again comment and provide additional evidence or suggested witnesses. This process continues until the OCRIE investigator believes that their investigation is complete.
The OCRIE office issues a determination.
Once the OCRIE investigator has deemed their investigation to be complete, they will make a determination about whether or not they believe, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the accused student has committed sexual misconduct in violation of the university’s policy.
The determination can find the student responsible for sexual misconduct, not responsible for sexual misconduct, or that there is not enough evidence to make a determination that sexual misconduct has occurred.
The accused and complainant review the determination.
The determination, along with a complete summary of the interviews and evidence, is then provided to both the accused student and the complainant for review.
The accused and the complainant have the opportunity to file an appeal of the determination.
There is a short time period during which both the accused and the complainant can file an appeal of the determination, but only for limited reasons. An appeal of the determination can only be based on new information or evidence that both could materially affect the determination of whether or not sexual misconduct occurred, and that could not have been or was not known during the investigation.
If an appeal of the determination is filed, it must be done so within seven days of the accused student and the complainant receiving notice that the determination has been issued.
The accused and the complainant may file impact statements.
After a determination has been made, if the OCRIE office found the accused student responsible for sexual misconduct, the file will be transferred to the Office of Student Conduct to take disciplinary action. Before disciplinary action is taken by the OSC, the accused student and the complainant will both be given the opportunity to provide impact statements to the Title IX coordinator.
Impact statements contain any information that the accused student and the complainant want the OSC to know about them before imposing discipline.
Because there may also be a criminal investigation or charges pending, it is important that the accused student be assisted by a lawyer in drafting their impact statement. The balancing act between preventing criminal charges, a criminal conviction, and a severe academic penalty continues throughout the process.
Impact statements must be provided within three days of the accused student and complainant being provided with the determination.
The Office of Student Conduct issues a sanction.
If there has been a determination that the accused student is responsible for sexual misconduct, then the Office of Student Conduct will issue a disciplinary sanction. These sanctions can include a reprimand, removal from CMU housing, campus restrictions, ordered participation in educational programs, revocation of CMU privileges, disciplinary probation, no contact orders, suspension, or expulsion from the university.
The accused and complainant have the opportunity to file an appeal of the sanction.
After the sanction has been issued, both the accused student and the complainant will have the opportunity to file an appeal of the sanction based on limited grounds. The only grounds available for appeal of the sanction are that the discipline imposed is fundamentally inappropriate or disproportionate based on the determination.
An appeal of the sanction must be completed within seven days of the accused student and complainant receiving notice of the sanction.
If you have been accused of sexual misconduct at Central Michigan University, Keeley Blanchard is an experienced attorney representing students accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment in Title IX proceedings at the university and in criminal investigations and proceedings.