What is the process for sexual misconduct hearings

 

An alleged violation of College standards or policies will first be investigated by an appropriate College official. This involves meeting with individuals involved in the situation and examining the circumstances of the complaint. The student in question receives a written description of the specific alleged violation of College standards or policies and information regarding the conduct process. Evidence regarding the alleged violation may be reviewed but not kept by the student.  All reporting documentation remains in the student conduct folder.

 

The Vice President for Student Affairs / Dean of Students reserves the right to remove a student from the campus, restrict access to campus property or restrict contact with other college community members (no contact order) prior to a formal hearing if there are concerns for the student’s emotional or physical welfare or for the well-being of the College community. On occasions when such action is necessary, a hearing will be held as soon as possible. Customarily, pending action taken by the College Conduct Council or pending an appeal, the status of a student and his or her right to be present on the campus or attend classes will not be altered. A complainant may also request housing and/or academic environment changes while the conduct case is pending.

 

Cases involving allegations of major sexual misconduct violations are heard by a Sexual Misconduct Hearing Panel. The panel consists of one faculty and three administrative staff who have been trained on the procedures and issues of hearing such cases.

 

Conduct hearings are closed. Once a hearing has begun, entering and leaving the hearing is to be restricted by the Chair in order to maintain the objectivity and privacy of the proceedings. All non-academic discipline hearings will be informal and strict rules of evidence shall not apply. The student(s) in question shall be notified, in writing, of the alleged charge(s) and of the date, time, and place of the hearing. Every effort will be made to set up a hearing within seven (7) working days after an incident occurs; however, factors – such as holiday breaks, end of academic term, on-going investigation, etc. may prevent the College from meeting this guideline.

 

Responding to the Charge

For each charge, a student will be asked to enter a plea of Responsible or Not Responsible.

 

Responsible Pleas

 

If the student in question accepts responsibility in a minor complaint, an appropriate College official will determine an appropriate sanction for the violation. If the student in question accepts responsibility in a major complaint, the student may choose to have his/her meeting with the Sexual Misconduct Hearing Panel or Administrative Hearing Officer to determine an appropriate sanction. By pleading responsible, the student in question is waiving his or her right to appeal the merits of the allegation or any procedural matters. However, students may appeal based on severity of sanctions.

 

Not Responsible Pleas

If the student in question does not accept responsibility, a hearing is scheduled. In minor and major complaints, the Sexual Misconduct Hearing Panel will be convened. From this point on the student in question is assumed not-responsible concerning the charges which have been leveled against him or her. It is the responsibility of the College or complainant to provide convincing evidence.

 

Although in campus hearings legal ideas like guilt and innocence are not applicable, Hendrix College will never assume a student is in violation of college policy. In fact, campus hearings are conducted to take into account the totality of all evidence available, from all relevant sources.

 

The college reserves the right to take whatever measures it deems necessary in response to an allegation of sexual misconduct in order to protect students’ rights and personal safety. Such measures include, but are not limited to, modification of living arrangements, interim suspension from campus pending a hearing, and reporting to the local police.

 

Not all forms of sexual misconduct will be deemed to be equally serious offenses, and the college reserves the right to impose differing sanctions, ranging from oral warning to expulsion, depending on the severity of the offense. The college will consider the concerns and rights of both the complainant and the person accused of sexual misconduct. Under this policy, any complainant has standing, whether the misconduct occurred in a male-on-female context, or the context is female-on-male, male-on-male, female-on-female or involved multiple students of any gender. The following procedures and rights pertain to the college conduct process:

 
  • Attempted Violations. In most circumstances, Hendrix College will treat attempts to commit any of the violations listed in the Student Code of Conduct as if those attempts had been completed.
  • College as Complainant. As necessary, Hendrix College reserves the right to initiate a complaint, to serve as complainant, and to initiate conduct proceedings without a formal complaint by the victim of misconduct.
  • False Reporting. Hendrix College will not tolerate intentional false reporting of incidents. It is a violation of the Student Code of Conduct to make an intentionally false report of any policy violation, and it may also violate state criminal statutes and civil defamation laws.
  • Group Action. When members of groups, individuals acting collusively, or members of an organization act in concert in violation of any policy, they may be held accountable as a group, and a hearing may proceed against the group as joint accused students.
  • Amnesty Policy. The Hendrix College community encourages the reporting of crimes by victims. Sometimes, victims are hesitant to report to college officials because they fear that they themselves may be accused of policy violations, such as underage drinking at the time of the incident. It is in the best interests of this community that as many victims as possible choose to report to college officials.
  • To encourage reporting, Hendrix College pursues a policy of offering victims of crimes immunity from policy violations related to the incident.
  • Notice of When Complaint Delivered to Accused Student. Complainants are notified as to when notice of the complaint is delivered to the accused student, so as to protect themselves from potential retaliation.
  • No-Contact Order.  Students are entitled to seek a no-contact order that imposes reasonable restrictions on student contact. The Dean of Students will issue the no-contact order.
  • Option for a Four Member Panel. Parties to the complaint may request that in lieu of a conduct board hearing, the complaint be heard by a four-member panel composed of at one faculty member and three staff members. The election to use this panel can also be made at the discretion of the Dean of Students.
  • Right to a Prompt Process and Hearing. Sexual misconduct complaints are fast-tracked, to ensure that Hendrix College provides a prompt response.
  • Advisor/Advocate. All parties to sexual misconduct complaints have the right to an advisor/advocate from the Hendrix community (faculty, staff, or student) of the student’s choosing. A College Conduct Hearing is an internal conduct proceeding; therefore, the advisor may not be an attorney or anyone outside of the Hendrix community. The advisor may assist the student in question in preparation of his or her complaint, be present during the hearing, assist the student during the hearing, and may address the hearing body at the pleasure of the chair of the hearing body.
  • List of Witnesses and Copies of Documentary Evidence. Our procedures call for an exchange of information between the parties in advance of the hearing, including an exchange of the complaint and answer, witness lists, and other written statements that may be available.
  • Right to Advance Notice of Board Composition and Right to Challenge. All parties to the complaint will receive advance notice of who will serve on the conduct board or panel and will be given the right to challenge any member on the basis of actual bias prior to the hearing (at least 12 hours prior).
  • Any challenge will be decided by the Dean of Students.
  • Sexual History/Character. All parties to a complaint have a right not to face questions or discussion of their sexual history or character unless the hearing chair or administrative hearing officer determines that such information is highly relevant to determining whether the policy has been violated.
  • Separate Testimony Options. Any complainant can request to give their testimony via alternate means to being in the physical presence of the person they have accused. Screens and closed-circuit broadcasts may be permitted, but not to the disadvantage of the accused student.
  • Right to be Present for Entire Proceeding. Each party has the right to be present for all testimony and questioning. Only deliberation is conducted in closed-session without the parties present. If findings and sanctions are presented orally at the end of the hearing, the complainant is permitted to be present.
  • Right to Present Own Complaint or Use Proxy. The alleged victim has the right to present his/her own complaint if they want to, or to ask the college to stand as complainant in their place.
  • Right to Know Outcome and Sanctions. Whether in writing or informed orally, the complainant has the right to know the outcome and sanctions of the hearing.
  • Right to appeal. Each party has a right to appeal the finding of the hearing.
  • Right to be Informed of Respondent’s Review (Appeal) Status. The parties will be informed by the Dean of Students if any of the parties to the complaint requests an appeal.
 

Procedural Rule for Addressing Information about Past Sexual History

The past sexual history or sexual character of a party will not be admissible by the other party in hearings unless such information is determined to be highly relevant by the Chair. All such information sought to be admitted will be presumed irrelevant, and any request to overcome this presumption by the parties must be included in the complaint/response or a subsequent written request, and must be reviewed in advance of the hearing by Dean of Students. While previous conduct violations by the accused student are not generally admissible as information about the present alleged violation, the Dean of Students may supply previous complaint information to the board, or may consider it if he/she is hearing the complaint, only if:

 
  • The accused was previously found to be responsible;
  • The previous incident was substantially similar to the present allegation; or
  • Information indicates a pattern of behavior and substantial conformity with that pattern by the accused student.