Procedures for Assessing Complaints Against Employees of Violations of the Policy

Against Sexual Harassment, Assault, Domestic or Dating Violence, and Stalking

 

If a member of the community makes a complaint against an employee of the College (faculty or staff), or against a third-party serving under contract, asserting a violation or activity of the College's Sexual Harassment, Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking Policy (“the Policy”), in connection with a College educational program or activity, the procedures below will generally apply. If the respondent is a student employee of the College, the complaint process found in the Student Handbook instead generally will govern; however, in all instances the College in its sole discretion retains the right to designate the applicable process in particular cases, and will inform the parties accordingly.

 

Prohibited Conduct:  In general, these Procedures apply only to alleged violations of the Policy.  The Policy prohibits three types of misconduct on the basis of sex—(a) so-called quid pro quo harassment, where a party demands sexual favors in exchange for benefits such as advancement, hiring, beneficial considerations or avoidance of punishment or discipline; (b) unwelcome conduct that a reasonable person would find so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies a person equal access to a College educational program or activity; and (c) any instance of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking as defined in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  Certain of these terms are defined in more detail in the Student Handbook, at pages 97-101, 174-86, 189-90 and 194-96.

 

Under the Policy, quid pro quo harassment and VAWA offenses are not evaluated for severity, pervasiveness, offensiveness, or denial of equal programmatic access, because such misconduct is deemed sufficiently serious, in and of itself, to deprive a person of equal access and thus violate applicable legal standards.

 

Making a Report: Persons wishing to report an act or omission of a College employee (including faculty employees) or a College contractor, which allegedly violates the Policy, may first meet with an appropriate administrator, as follows:

 

  • For Reports from Students: Dean of Studies and Student Life, Office of the Dean of Studies, Westlands 2nd Floor, (914) 395-2252
  • For Complaints Faculty:   Provost of the College, Office of the Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Westlands 2nd Floor, (914) 395-2303.
  • For Complaints from Staff or Third Party Contractors:    Vice President of Human   Resources, Human Resources Office, Andrews Annex, (914) 395-2365.

 

An additional reporting option, for students, faculty, staff or any other party, is the College’s Title IX Investigator, Title IX Office, Andrews Annex, (914) 323-6138.  Meetings with the above individuals, while available and encouraged, are not required prior to filing of a formal complaint of a Policy violation under these procedures.

 

Note: if a report involves an alleged Policy violation by the VP HR or Provost, the President or the President’s designee will take on the roles normally played by the VP HR or Provost, and the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees or their delegate will serve as the point of appeal. If a complaint is made against the President, the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees will be in charge of the process.

 

Nothing in these Procedures shall restrict the ability of any student or employee to voice concerns about an act or omission of another member of the College community to persons other than those specified above, nor shall any provision of these Procedures preclude the College from taking steps it may deem appropriate to address such concerns, but such communications will not constitute a formal complaint under the Policy, nor will they constitute notice to the College of an alleged Policy violation.

 

 

Mandatory Reporting: Other than members of the College’s Health and Wellness Center and such others who may be designated as confidential resources, no College employee observing, or receiving direct reports of, a potential incident of sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence or stalking will be expected or authorized to maintain such information in confidence.  Instead, such “non-confidential resources” are required and expected to notify the College’s Title IX Investigator, or as appropriate the Dean of Studies, the Provost or the Vice President for Human Resources, of such potential Policy violations. 

 

Reporting to Law Enforcement: Certain acts that violate the Policy also may violate applicable criminal laws.  Parties believing that there have been potential Policy violations therefore may make reports (either in lieu of or in addition to reports to other College officials specified above) directly to the College’s Office of Campus Safety.  In such events, Campus Safety can and will assist the party, upon request, in making a complaint to the Yonkers Police Department, or other appropriate law enforcement officials.  Campus Safety also will be required and expected to notify the College’s Title IX Investigator, or as appropriate the Dean of Studies, the Provost or the Vice President for Human Resources, of reports received related to such alleged Policy violations.

 

Protection from Retaliation: The College does not tolerate retaliation or discrimination against any person, or affiliates of such person (i.e., family, friends), who brings forward a report, who cooperates in the investigation of a report, or who participates in the discipline process for an alleged violation of the Policy. Anyone who believes they have been retaliated against as a result of their involvement with an investigation and/or disciplinary process related to their report of a violation of the Policy, or cooperation in the a subsequent investigatory or adjudicatory process, should report the alleged act of retaliation to the Title IX Coordinator or the Vice President for Human Resources immediately. Where appropriate, an independent investigation will be conducted promptly and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken if the report of retaliation is substantiated.

 

The Form of the Complaint: In cases of faculty or staff reporting an act or omission constituting potential sexual harassment or other Policy violation in connection with a College educational program or activity, should the reporting party decide to file a formal complaint, they should complete (or be prepared to complete) a Complaint Form for Reporting Sexual Harassment, which will contain a written statement, verified by the reporting party as true, describing the circumstances of the alleged Policy violation or misbehavior, and the particular educational program or activity in which the alleged Policy violation occurred (for instance, a class, a College organization or activity, or other educational offering). For purposes of these Procedures, the College’s educational programs or activities are limited to those within the United States, and include locations, events, or circumstances over which the College is deemed to have exercised substantial control over both the respondent and the context in which the alleged Policy violation occurred.  This includes any building owned or controlled by a student organization officially recognized by the College, and all of the College’s educational programs or activities, whether such programs or activities occur on- or off-campus.  The College in its sole discretion will assess whether an alleged Policy violation occurred in connection with an educational program or activity, and reserves the right to assess and, where appropriate, sanction misconduct under other applicable College policies and procedures.

 

If the reporting party declines to pursue a formal complaint, the College in its sole discretion may nonetheless choose to prepare and pursue such a complaint on its own, based upon the information reported and otherwise available to it.  The decision whether to pursue a formal complaint where the reporting party declines to do so will consider, but not be bound by, a reporting party’s wishes, which generally will be respected unless the College determines that its filing of a formal complaint to initiate an investigation over the wishes of the reporting party is not clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances.

 

Except in the case of anonymous reporting (discussed below), parties seeking to pursue a formal complaint against any College employee or contractor will be expected to meet with the Vice President for Human Resources (“VP HR”), or the VP HR’s designee, to review that formal complaint and discuss the procedure that will be applied.  The party electing to pursue a formal complaint shall be deemed the “complainant.”  If the complainant so desires, an adviser of choice may accompany the complainant to this initial meeting, and at any subsequent stage of the proceedings.

 

Once prepared, the formal complaint will constitute the grounds for investigation and, where warranted, further proceedings pursuant to these Procedures. The VP HR or the VP HR’s designee, upon preparation of or receipt and review of that formal complaint (which may include supplemental any initial investigation by the VP HR or designees if deemed necessary), will meet with the individual who has been alleged to have violated the Policy (known as the “respondent”). This initial meeting with the respondent generally will occur within five (5) business days of the VP HR’s preparation of or receipt of the formal complaint, although that timeline (and all other timelines identified in these Procedures) may be extended by the College, in its sole discretion. Where practicable, parties will be notified of such extensions. 

 

A copy of the formal complaint will be provided to the respondent at this initial meeting with the VP HR or the VP HR’s designee, and the respondent will be given an opportunity to prepare and submit a written response to the complaint.  This written response, verified by the respondent as true, generally will be due within one week of the meeting, unless the time is extended upon respondent’s request by the VP HR. Requests for extension shall be decided in the sole discretion of the VP HR.  The respondent may have an adviser of choice present at this initial meeting, and at any subsequent stage of the proceedings. 

 

An anonymous complaint may be brought to the College's attention through the Whistleblower Hotline (833-340-0007), and will be treated as a formal complaint under this policy.  The required complaint form will be completed by the College based upon the information provided, and the matter will be investigated and determined, insofar as reasonably possible given the nature and extent of information provided. Parties making anonymous reports should be aware that, while permissible, the anonymity may preclude thorough investigation into the complaint. 

 

If deemed appropriate in the discretion of the VP HR, the College also may place an employee respondent on administrative leave pending completion of the investigation and/or hearing process.  However, respondents will not be sanctioned or subject to disciplinary measures under these Procedures for alleged Policy violations unless responsibility is admitted by the respondent, or determined in accordance with these Procedures.

 

Timeliness of ComplaintsDelays in reporting alleged Policy violations can negatively impact the College’s ability to investigate, and in certain cases can foreclose the ability of the matter to proceed to a hearing, and/ or limit the available options in the event of a finding of responsibility. To trigger an investigation and the potential for a hearing under these Procedures, the proposed respondent must be employed at the College at the time that the formal complaint is made. If the proposed respondent has left the College’s employ, a restriction or limitation on that person’s access to campus, to College events, or to future campus employment may nonetheless be considered.  Such consideration shall remain in the sole discretion of the VP HR.

 

Supportive Measures: The College has available certain supportive measures that can assist complainants and/or respondents during the pendency of proceedings under these Procedures.  These are measures intended not to be disciplinary in nature, and will not represent either a determination of responsibility for any Policy violation alleged, or as disposition of any issue raised in a report or a formal complaint.  Rather, supportive measures are aimed to assist persons in need of support, such as employee assistance programs (EAP), no-contact directives, schedule changes, or security escorts.

  

 

Investigation: Upon receipt of the formal complaint or an anonymous Hotline report, an investigation if deemed necessary will be conducted, either directly by the VP HR or with the assistance of others, such as the Title IX Coordinator, the Provost, Public Safety and/or an external investigator, if the situation warrants. The purpose of the investigation is to compile relevant evidence bearing upon potential Policy violations alleged in the formal complaint or the Hotline report.  Both the complainant and the respondent may be accompanied by an adviser at any interview conducted as part of the investigation.  The College will strive to complete the investigation process in a prompt manner, consistent with fairness to the participants.  In most instances, any investigation will be completed within thirty (30) days of the date of the formal complaint, although that timeline may be extended by the VP HR as a matter of discretion.  Where extended, the parties will be notified when practicable.

 

The written report of the investigation will be furnished to each party, with the parties being offered ten (10) calendar days to submit written responses and objections.  These written responses and objections will be appended to the investigative report.

 

Post-investigation Proceedings:  If, as a result of the investigation into the formal complaint or the Hotline report, there is insufficient evidence to reasonably conclude that a Policy violation has occurred, or that the reported violation did not arise in the context of a College educational program or activity, the VP HR or the Provost, as appropriate, may issue a discretionary dismissal of the complaint, or may refer the matter for further action pursuant to other College policies and procedures. 

 

If there is sufficient evidence to believe that a Policy violation may have occurred in the context of a College educational program or activity, the VP HR or the Provost, as appropriate, may either: (a) make a determination of responsibility based upon admitted misconduct that is violative of the Policy, or based upon uncontroverted and unchallenged evidence that a Policy violation has occurred, and that such admitted or uncontroverted violation warrants imposition of a sanction as described herein; or (b) convene a hearing as described below.  In the event a hearing is convened, the respondent shall be presumed not responsible for the Policy violation alleged unless, at the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing panel determines that responsibility for the Policy violations alleged has been established by a preponderance of the credible evidence.

 

Informal ResolutionThe College in its sole discretion may choose to offer and facilitate informal resolution options, such as mediation or restorative justice, if both the complainant and the respondent give voluntary, informed, written consent to such informal resolution. An election to proceed with informal resolution will not constitute the waiver of any party’s right to a formal investigation and adjudication of formal complaints of Policy violations.  Informal resolution will be available only after a formal complaint has been filed, and at any time prior to agreeing to a resolution through the informal resolution process, any party has the right to withdraw from that process and resume the investigative/hearing process with respect to the formal complaint.  No informal resolution is available to resolve or address allegations that a College employee (faculty or staff) violated the Policy with respect to a student.

 

Hearing PanelsIn the event that a hearing is determined to be appropriate under these Procedures, the process for forming hearing panels shall be governed by the following principles:

 

  • If the respondent is a staff member, or a third-party contractor, a panel of 3 members shall be chosen from a pool of non-faculty employees who are assembled from persons recommended by the Dean of Studies and Student Life.
  • If the respondent is a faculty member, a panel of 3 members shall be chosen from a pool of faculty members assembled upon the recommendations of the Provost.
  • All members of the pools will be full time regular employees in the case of the staff/contractor pool, and tenured faculty members in the case of the faculty pool.
  • All pool members will be trained for service on the hearing panels.
  • The College in forming the panels shall seek to anticipate and eliminate potential conflicts and potential bias.

 

The panel for a specific case will be chosen in the following manner:

 

  • In the case of a staff member or a third-party contactor respondent:

 

    • The VP HR of the VP HR’s designee will designate pool members to serve on the hearing panel for the particular case.
    • These members will be identified to both the complainant and to the respondent.
    • Objections by either party may be submitted, in writing, within two (2) business days of receipt of the panel names from the VP HR; in all instances the objections must be in writing, and must specify the basis for objection (i.e., bias, prior course of dealings with a party).
    • Potential panel members may be excused in the event of objection by either party; these objections are entrusted to the sole discretion of the VP HR or the VP HR’s designee.
    • In the event one or more members of the initial hearing panel are excused, the VP HR, considering all remaining and eligible pool members, will fill the hearing panel for that particular case, paying particular attention to the grounds upon which an objection to a prior panel member was made and sustained.
    • In the event that a panel member resigns or is otherwise unable to serve at any point, the VP HR will appoint a replacement from the pool, or if necessary from other trained staff members of the College community.

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  • In the case of a faculty member respondent the process identified immediately above will apply, except that the role of the VP HR will be served by the Provost.  In cases where the faculty member is a respondent, whether that faculty respondent is tenured or untenured, the hearing panel will be comprised of tenured faculty members, or members of the College administration who previously have been awarded tenure by the College.

 

 

Hearing procedures: The VP HR or the Provost, as appropriate (or their designees) will gather the entirety of the investigative file (including the investigative report and any party responses or objections) and make that file available to the hearing panel. This will include (but not necessarily be limited to) materials such as statements of the complainant, the respondent, and any witnesses, along with documents, photographs, medical reports, e-mails, text messages and other written or electronic communications.  The materials furnished to the hearing panel members also will be provided to both the complainant and the respondent, either contemporaneously with their provision to the hearing panel or within two (2) business days thereafter.   

 

The hearing panel will review the relevant investigative materials and statements provided. The hearing panel may then identify a list of witnesses to meet with the panel, if the panel members believe that additional or supplemental witness accounts would be of potential assistance to them. The hearing panel may also seek witness accounts from persons who were not suggested by either the complainant or respondent, and/or were not interviewed as part of the investigation, but who the panel believes may nonetheless have relevant information. If a witness is not available to attend the hearing or meeting, the panel may, but is not obligated to, accept a written and verified statement in lieu of the personal appearance.

 

The order of proceedings at the hearing may (but need not) follow the form identified in the Student Handbook for student hearings formed to assess alleged Policy violations (Page 134)

 

Both the complainant and the respondent shall have the right to address the hearing panel, if they so request. Both the complainant and respondent may have a personal adviser present during the hearing process. The College will provide an adviser upon request, or in the event that a party declines to designate one.

 

The complainant and the respondent shall have the right (through their respective advisers) to cross-examine the adverse party in real time at the hearing, and to call witnesses.  The VP HR or the Provost, as appropriate, or if they so designate the hearing panel, will determine whether questions proposed or propounded by the adviser for a party are irrelevant or otherwise inappropriate; these decisions will be final.  All advisers are expected to preserve in confidence all information they acquire in connection with their matter.

 

Whether a particular party elects to testify, or to call a particular witness, the hearing panel may also question the complainant and/or the respondent, or to hear from any witness. If the complainant or the respondent is requested to meet with the hearing panel and to answer questions but refuses to do so, or has declined to provide a written statement upon request during the investigative phase of the matter, the panel in its discretion may (but is not obliged to) infer that the refusing party would have provided testimony or information unhelpful to that party’s position or interests, provided that such inference may not be based solely on that party’s absence from the live hearing, or refusal to provide a statement or answer cross-examination or other questions.  If such an inference is deemed appropriate, the hearing panel in its decision must state that the inference was made, state the grounds therefore, and identify the additional facts or circumstances (beyond the party’s refusal) justifying the inference.

 

The panel hearing shall be closed to all but the hearing panel, the complainant, the respondent and invited participants such as witnesses (whose presence shall be limited to the time of their respective testimony).  Hearings will not be tape recorded by any participant, although members of the hearing panel may take written notes, which notes may be discarded after the panel issues its determination.

 

Hearing DeterminationsAt the conclusion of the hearing, the panel will meet together to complete its review of information and its consideration of the complaint. The panel will use a preponderance of the evidence standard to determine responsibility (i.e. it is more likely than not that the respondent was responsible for the Policy violation alleged).  The hearing panel will report its findings of fact as to responsibility in writing, with a detailed explanation of its rationale.  Absent good cause, the hearing panel is expected to report its findings within three (3) business days after the hearing concludes.

 

PenaltiesThe VP HR or the Provost, as appropriate, will determine upon any finding of responsibility the penalties to be imposed under these Procedures, which can include but not necessarily be limited to:

 

  • Written warnings (only available for a finding of harassment)
  • Formal reprimands (only available for a finding of harassment)
  • Suspension without pay. (In the case of a tenured faculty member, the Provost may make this recommendation to the Advisory Committee on Appointments, along with any other recommendations for further action to be considered by the Advisory Committee.)
  • Termination of employment:  VP HR or the Provost, as appropriate, will make this recommendation to the President for staff members or to the Advisory Committee on Appointments for tenured faculty members (along with any other recommendations for further action, such as revocation of tenure, to be considered by the Advisory Committee in accordance with its processes.)

 

Nothing herein shall limit the College’s ability to refer the hearing panel’s findings of responsibility to other College officers or bodies, including but not limited to the Advisory Committee on Appointments, the President or the Board of Trustees, to assess whether such findings constitute grounds for additional disciplinary action.

 

Report of Outcome: The VP HR or the Provost, as appropriate, will report the hearing panel determination and the penalties (if any) to both the complainant and respondent.

 

Appeals: The complainant and the respondent each have the right to appeal any action taken or penalty imposed after a hearing.  Appeals will be directed to the President. The appeal must be in writing, and delivered to the Office of the President within ten (10) business days of the date that the hearing panel’s decision is transmitted to the appealing party.

 

An appeal does not constitute a rehearing of the case. An appeal may be made on one of these grounds only:

 

  • Newly discovered evidence that was not available at the time of the hearing and that reasonably could have impacted the outcome of the proceedings.
  • An error in procedure or an inappropriate application of College rules, regulations or policies to the facts, which reasonably could have impacted the outcome of the proceedings.
  • There was a conflict of interest or bias on the part of any College official involved in the process, which reasonably could have impacted the outcome of the proceedings.

 

The President’s response to an appeal may include without limitation one or more of the following: sending the case back to the original hearing panel for further review; ordering additional investigation; ordering a new hearing before a different hearing panel; revising the penalty (increasing or decreasing its severity); and vacating and setting aside the decision of the panel. The decision of the President with respect to any appeal (excepting one which remands the matter) is final.

 

Confidentiality Considerations: The facts about individual cases and their disposition are confidential. This means that such information is shared by the College only on a bona fide need to know basis. The College reserves the right to correct misinformation that becomes public.

 

Recordkeeping: A permanent written record of the formal complaint process and its outcome will be retained by the VP HR. This record will include the charge, all statements by complainant, respondent and witnesses, other documentation or evidence discovered by the investigation. Notes taken by the individual panel members during the hearing will not be maintained in the permanent record.

 

 

Please note: This information concerns the procedures involved in filing and addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault complaints against faculty, staff, or student employees. For information on filing a complaint against a student, please visit the Student Conduct Process section of the Student Handbook (PDF), (p. 174).