The Title IX Investigation Office is responsible for investigating complaints that a University student engaged in conduct that violates any of the sexual misconduct provisions of the Student Conduct Code. The conduct process is designed to provide a prompt, fair, and impartial investigation process, and to equitably protect the rights of individuals participating in the investigation. More information about the Student Conduct Code can be found in WAC 478-120.
Under the code, "sexual misconduct" includes committing, or aiding, soliciting, or attempting the commission of, the following prohibited conduct:
Sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, indecent exposure, relationship violence, stalking, and domestic violence. The following disciplinary sanctions may be imposed for violations of the student conduct code: disciplinary warnings and reprimands, restitution, disciplinary probation, suspension, or dismissal.
At the first meeting, investigators who have been designated as the “conduct officer” meet with complainants to gather information about what happened and to provide information about the conduct process, including complainants’ rights and options in the process. Complainants may bring an advisor and/or attorney of their choice to this meeting.
Investigators will ask complainants to share what happened and may need to ask some additional questions. Complainants also have the opportunity to identify witnesses and provide any other information that they believe is important. This may include text messages, Facebook posts, email communications, medical records, photographs, etc. Investigators also evaluate whether a no contact order should be issued or whether other immediate protective measures should be put in place.
Once this initial information is gathered, complainants are informed of the action the University will take, including whether a conduct matter will be opened.
Notice to Respondent
When a conduct matter is opened, respondents receive a letter notifying them that a conduct matter has been opened which includes a brief description of the allegations, the conduct code provisions allegedly violated, and information about the process. This notice clearly states that these are allegations and that the Title IX Investigation Office will conduct a neutral and objective investigation of the allegations.
Respondents are then offered the opportunity to participate in a meeting with the investigator. This meeting is referred to as an “informal hearing,” which is designed as an opportunity for respondents to learn about their rights in the process, provide information relating to the allegations, identify witnesses, and provide any evidence they believe is important, such as text messages, Facebook posts, email communications, and photographs. Respondents may bring an advisor and/or attorney of their choice to this meeting.
During the investigation phase, investigators gather additional evidence, interviews witnesses, and equitably share information with respondents and complainants, as needed to fully investigate the matter.
After thoroughly evaluating all the information provided, investigators must reach a conclusion as to whether, by a preponderance of the evidence, a violation of the student conduct code occurred and if so, the appropriate sanction. Preponderance means that based on all the relevant evidence, the facts demonstrate that it is “more likely than not” that the respondent violated the Student Conduct Code.
Once investigators complete the investigation, both parties will receive a written report detailing the investigators’ conclusions, the basis for those conclusions, and recommended disciplinary sanctions. This is called an “initial order.” The initial order also contains information about options to seek an appeal of the initial order, which includes requesting a hearing before the Title IX Panel.
If neither party seeks an appeal of an initial order within 21 days, the initial order becomes a final order, except in cases where the recommended sanction is suspension or dismissal. In those cases, the Title IX Panel conducts an Administrative Review. If the order becomes final at this stage, any recommended sanctions become final.
Hearings Before the Title IX Panel
Under the Student Conduct Code, either party may request that a formal hearing be convened before the Title IX Panel. The Title IX Panel is made up of at least three faculty members from a pool of faculty who have been specially recruited and trained to adjudicate matters relating to sexual misconduct. The Title IX Panel acts as a neutral panel and reaches an independent conclusion as to whether the facts demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that a violation of the Student Conduct Code occurred.
Prior to the hearing, the investigators’ record is provided to complainants and respondents. The University also provides Hearing Examiners for all hearings before the Title IX Panel, who have been specially trained in sexual misconduct matters. Hearing Examiners are responsible for arranging the hearing and communicating with the parties about pre-hearing matters, such as evidence they wish to present at the hearing that is not contained in the record.
In hearings, Hearing Examiners act as moderators to ensure the parties have an equitable opportunity to provide information. Generally, investigators will provide information relating to their investigation and findings. The complainant and respondent are not permitted to question each other directly; however, the complainant and respondent may submit questions to the Hearing Examiner that they wish to ask of the other party. The Hearing Examiner will decide on the relevance of the questions and, if relevant, has the discretion to ask the question a different way. Regardless of whether complainants or respondents wish to actively participate in hearings, both have the right to attend. Also, the parties may have an advisor and/or attorney accompany them to the hearing.
After the hearing, the Title IX Panel deliberates to determine whether, by a preponderance of the evidence, the evidence presented at the hearing demonstrates that a violation of the Student Conduct Code occurred. The Title IX Panel then issues an “initial order” to investigators, complainants, and respondents detailing the Panel’s conclusions, the basis for those conclusions, and recommended disciplinary sanctions. The initial order also contains information about options to seek an appeal of the order, which includes seeking an appeal by the President’s office.
If neither party seeks an appeal of an initial order within 21 days, the initial order becomes a final order. Once the order becomes final, any recommended sanctions become final.
Generally, following a hearing by the Title IX Panel, the parties have the right to appeal the initial order of the Title IX Panel to the President’s Office. The appeal must state the reason for the appeal and the points of disagreement with the initial order. The President may delegate a University official to conduct the appeal. The parties are notified when an appeal has been received and whether they have the opportunity to present additional information.
If there is no appeal of an initial order within 21 days, the initial order becomes a final order. Because the University is a public institution, actions by the University may also be subject to judicial review under Chapter 34.05 RCW Part V.
If neither party has requested a formal hearing by the Title IX Panel and the recommended sanction by investigators is suspension or dismissal, the Title IX Panel conducts an administrative review. This is to ensure that the conduct process was appropriately followed, particularly given the seriousness of the potential sanctions.
The parties are notified when an administrative review is being conducted and whether they will have the opportunity to present additional information. In an administrative review, the Title IX Panel may sustain, reduce, or vacate the sanction imposed by the initial order. The Panel may also request that the investigator re-open the investigation, particularly if new evidence should be considered, or may convene a hearing of a Title IX Panel by members who did not participate in the administrative review.