The University’s full policies and procedures regarding reports of sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking can be find at the following links:
The University of Pittsburgh has the authority to take disciplinary action for conduct occurring on or off campus when the conduct, among other things, affects the educational and work environment. University officials will provide a prompt, fair, and impartial investigation and resolution.
Standard of Evidence
All complaints filed with the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX will be judged using the preponderance of the evidence standard, which means, it is more likely than not that University policy has been violated.
When any report alleging discrimination, sexual misconduct, or sexual harassment is received by the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX, the report will be reviewed by the Title IX Coordinator and a determination will be made as to whether the allegations, if true, constitute Sexual Harassment under the University’s Title IX Policy (CS 27) or if the allegations constitute any other form of sexual misconduct or discrimination under one or more separate University policies (including University Policy CS 20, Sexual Misconduct and University Policy CS 07, Nondiscrimination, Equal Opportunity, and Affirmative Action). If it is determined that the report involves a potential violation of University policy, the process of reviewing, investigating, and adjudicating the allegations will proceed in accordance with the appropriate University policy and procedure.
The University may also proceed with an investigation and resolution of any reported acts of sexual harassment, sexual assault, relationship (dating and domestic) violence, or stalking if the University determines that such an investigation and resolution are necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of University community members. In cases in which the Respondent’s conduct may pose a threat to the University community, the University may impose an emergency removal that occurs immediately and that lasts until the matter is resolved.
In addition, the Respondent(s) may face criminal charges through a separate criminal process, if so initiated by the authorities.
Seeking Protective Measures
Depending on the circumstances, you may have the option, among other remedies, to obtain no-contact orders, seek room or course changes, file an applicable University complaint, and pursue criminal complaints. For more information and assistance, you can contact the Pitt Police (412-624-2121); the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX (412-648-7860); the Office of Student Conduct (412-648-7910); and/or Pitt’s Office of Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education (412-648-7930).
Supportive Measures, Accommodations, and Resource Assistance for Complainants and Respondents
Upon receipt of a report of sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, whether or not the Complainant decides to move forward with filing a Formal Complaint, the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX shall offer to the Complainant supportive measures and facilitate the implementation of such supportive measures to protect the safety and well-being of the Complainant. If a formal complaint is filed, supportive measures will also be made available as appropriate to any involved party. The University will maintain as confidential any supportive measures provided to the parties, to the extent that maintaining such confidentiality would not impair the University’s ability to provide the supportive measures. Such measures or accommodations may include:
- Issuing a No Contact Order
- Changes in University-related class or work schedules or job assignments
- Changes in University-owned housing
- Interim University housing suspension
- Interim suspension
- Interim separation
- Restricting a person’s access to certain University facilities or activities pending resolution of a matter
- Assistance with connecting to the University’s SafeRider program
- Academic accommodations
- Assistance with contacting the appropriate police department
- Access to counseling and mental health services
- Access to and assistance with obtaining necessary medical services
- Assistance in contacting community resources such as Pittsburgh Action Against Rape or other support services
- Guidance and support with filing a report through the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX and/or through the criminal justice process
- Any other interim measure or accommodation necessary and appropriate to facilitate the complainant’s or respondent’s access to educational opportunities.
Process for Adjudicating Title IX Policy Complaints (University Policy CS 27)
Sexual Harassment is defined as conduct on the basis of sex occurring in the United States and occurring in or related to a University Education Program or Activity that satisfies one or more of the following: (1) An employee of the University conditioning the provision of an aid, benefit, or service of the University on an individual’s participation in unwelcome sexual conduct; (2) Unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the University’s Education Program or Activity; or (3) Sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking (as these terms are defined in Policy CS 27).
Please Note: Other forms of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct that are not otherwise included in this definition are still considered misconduct in violation of University policy under Policy CS 20 (formerly 06-05-01).
Initial Response to a Formal Complaint
The University intends to resolve Formal Complaints of Sexual Harassment in a reasonably prompt manner, though delays in the process may arise from time to time. When a Formal Complaint is filed, the University will examine, adjudicate, and/or resolve the matter consistent with Policy and Procedure CS 27.
Notice of Formal Complaint
Upon receipt of a Formal Complaint alleging Sexual Misconduct, the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX will provide written notice to any known Complainant(s) and Respondent(s) outlining the following:
- Policy CS 27 and Procedure CS 27
- The allegations potentially constituting a violation of Policy CS 27, including identification of Complainant(s) and Respondent(s), the conduct allegedly constituting Sexual Harassment, and the date and location of the alleged incident, if known.
- The standard of evidence being the preponderance standard, as well as a statement the Respondent is presumed not responsible (but that this presumption does not imply that the allegations did not occur or that a Respondent is truthful or that a Complainant is lying).
- The right of both parties to have an Advisor of choice.
- The right of both parties to review evidence consistent with this Procedure.
- The relevant section of the Code of Conduct and/or University policies and guidelines related to knowingly making false statements or knowingly submitting false information.
The written notice shall be provided to Respondent and Complainant at least five (5) business days prior to any initial interview conducted by an investigator related to the Formal Complaint for parties to have sufficient time to prepare for the initial interview.
In addition to the notice of Formal Complaint, all applicable parties shall receive notices of any additional allegations discovered and/or investigated in the course of the investigation of the Formal Complaint, as well as the date, time, location, participants, and purposes of any live hearing or other proceeding at which the party is expected or permitted to attend.
Under extraordinary circumstances, the University may remove a Respondent prior to adjudication of any Formal Complaint under this Policy if, after undertaking an individualized safety and risk analysis, the University determines that the Respondent poses an immediate threat to the physical health or safety of any individual arising from the allegations of Sexual Harassment. When issuing an emergency removal, the University will provide the Respondent with notice and an opportunity to challenge the decision immediately following the removal.
Upon receipt of a Formal Complaint alleging Sexual Misconduct, the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX will conduct an initial inquiry, as discussed in Policy CS 27. If the Formal Complaint contains allegations that constitute Sexual Harassment, those allegations will be resolved consistent with Policy CS 27 and Procedure CS 27. It should be noted that an investigation may reveal facts or circumstances not otherwise known at the time of the initial report or of filing of the Formal Complaint. If any facts or circumstances relevant to the evaluation of the Formal Complaint are discovered as the matter proceeds, it may be necessary for the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX to reevaluate which University policy is appropriate and applicable to the matter. To the extent a matter is determined to fall under a different policy than that which was originally believed to be applicable, the parties and other additional individuals, as appropriate, will be notified and the matter will proceed under the University procedure corresponding with the appropriate University policy in accordance with that evaluation.
Dismissal of Formal Complaint
If a Formal Complaint contains allegations that do not constitute Sexual Harassment as defined in Policy CS 27 or otherwise does not meet the requirements of Policy CS 27, the Formal Complaint or individual allegations therein will be “dismissed” under this Policy. A Formal Complaint or individual allegations therein may be “dismissed” under this Policy for reasons including, but not necessarily limited to the following:
- if the conduct alleged does not constitute Sexual Harassment;
- if the conduct alleged was not within or otherwise related to a University Education Program or Activity;
- if the conduct alleged did not occur against a person in the United States; or
- if the Complainant notifies the Title IX Coordinator in writing that the Complainant wishes to withdraw the Formal Complaint or allegation(s) therein.
If a Formal Complaint or individual allegations therein are “dismissed,” the allegation will still be examined to determine whether it is appropriate to adjudicate under a separate University policy (including University Policy CS 20 (formerly 06-05-01) Sexual Misconduct and University Policy CS 07 (formerly 07-01-03), Nondiscrimination, Equal Opportunity, and Affirmative Action).
Appealing Dismissal of Formal Complaint
When a Formal Complaint is “dismissed” under this Policy, the University will notify the parties in writing and will provide the reasons for the “dismissal.” Within ten (10) business days upon being provided written notice for the “dismissal”, either the Complainant or the Respondent can appeal the “dismissal” on any of the following bases:
(1) Procedural irregularity that affected the outcome of the matter;
(2) New evidence that was not reasonably available at the time the determination regarding responsibility or dismissal was made, that could affect the outcome of the matter; or
(3) The Title IX Coordinator, investigator, or Decision-Maker had a conflict of interest or bias for or against Complainants or Respondents generally or the individual Complainant or Respondent that affected the outcome of the matter.
The appeal of a dismissal of a Formal Complaint or allegations therein will be reviewed by an individual designated by the Title IX Coordinator who is appropriately trained and who was not involved in the original determination leading to the dismissal of the Formal Complaint or allegations therein. If the appealing party cites to any conflict of interest or bias on the part of the Title IX Coordinator as a basis for the appeal, the Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion (VC-ODI) shall be responsible for designating the individual who shall review the appeal.
At the election and agreement of the Complainant(s) and Respondent(s), the University will facilitate an Informal Resolution of the Formal Complaint unless otherwise prohibited (i.e. when the Complainant is a University Student and the Respondent is a University employee). This process can be pursued at any time prior to a determination of responsibility of the Formal Complaint. Informal Resolutions will be appropriate processes crafted by the parties in consultation with the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX. Once the parties agree upon using the Informal Resolution process, the parties will receive notice of the process agreed upon and both Complainant and Respondent will sign and submit a consent form to proceed through the Informal Resolution process. Once the signed consent forms are submitted, the parties must continue with the Informal Resolution process until the matter is resolved, and the parties will not be able to withdraw or alter the terms of the agreed upon Informal Resolution process (parties can, however, withdraw from the Informal Resolution Process at any time prior to agreeing to the Final Informal Resolution and resume the Formal Grievance Process as outlined herein). Parties will not have any opportunity to appeal any result of an Informal Resolution.
Formal Grievance Process
An assigned investigator shall gather evidence and witness statements related to the allegations in the Formal Complaint. The assigned investigator shall not be the Title IX Coordinator, the Decision-Maker, or the Appellate Decision-Maker.
The investigation will involve the collection and review of relevant evidence, including documents, electronic data, tangible objects, and/or any other material pertinent to the allegations. All available evidence shall be identified and documented. Where possible, all available evidence shall be collected and maintained in electronic format. Both Complainant and Respondent will have an equal opportunity to present evidence to the investigator.
The investigation will involve the identification and interviewing of witnesses with relevant information. Both Complainant and Respondent will have an equal opportunity to suggest witnesses to be interviewed. Neither the investigator nor the Decision-Maker may access, consider, disclose, or otherwise use a party’s records that are made or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional acting in the professional’s or paraprofessional’s capacity, or assisting in that capacity, and which are made and maintained in connection with the provision of treatment to the party, unless the applicable party provides voluntary, written consent to do so for the purposes of a grievance process.
The Complainant and Respondent are permitted to bring one Advisor of their choice and one Support Person of their choice to any/all meetings with the investigator. Neither Advisors nor Support Persons are permitted to participate in any meetings with the investigator, but they can be present for the counsel and support of the party.
ii. Review of Evidence
Prior to the completion of the investigative report, the investigator shall provide both Complainant and Respondent with an equal opportunity to inspect and review any evidence that is directly related to the allegations in the Formal Complaint that is obtained as part of the investigations (including witness summaries), regardless of whether that evidence is deemed relevant by the investigator. Parties will be permitted to submit to the investigator a written response to the evidence for the investigator to consider. This written response is due ten (10) business days from the date upon which the parties were provided access to the evidence referenced above.
iii. Investigative Report
At the conclusion of the investigation and, after reviewing the written submission of the parties (if any), the investigator shall prepare an investigative report. The report shall fairly summarize the allegations and all relevant evidence. The report shall also include a description of the procedural steps taken during the investigation, including notifications sent to parties, interviews, site visits, and methods used to gather evidence. Once complete, the investigative summary will be provided to the Decision-Maker as well as both the Complainant and the Respondent (and their Advisors of choice). Parties will be permitted to submit to the Decision-Maker a written response to the investigative summary. This written response is due ten (10) business days after the date upon which the parties were provided the investigative summary. The hearing shall take place no sooner than one (1) business day after the written responses to the investigative summary are due to the Decision-Maker.
A live hearing will take place related to the allegations of Sexual Harassment. The live hearing shall follow procedures and rules of decorum outlined by the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX and provided to the parties and their Advisors prior to the hearing.
The hearing may be conducted in-person or, at the election of either party or the discretion of the University, virtually, so long as both parties and the Decision-Maker can, at all times, see the witness and/or individual speaking. The only individuals permitted to attend the live hearing are the Complaint(s), Respondent(s), the parties’ respective Advisors, witnesses, the Decision-Maker, any other person required by the University to conduct the hearing, and any other person required by law. A recording (either audio or audio-video) or a transcript of any live hearing will be made available to the parties for review.
The hearing is overseen by the Decision-Maker, who will make a determination as to whether the Respondent is responsible for violating Policy CS 27. The Decision-Maker shall not be the Title IX Coordinator, the investigator or the Appellate Decision-Maker.
For purposes of the hearing, parties can bring an Advisor of their choosing. If a party declines to select an Advisor, the University will assign one for the hearing. At the hearing, parties, through their Advisors, will have the opportunity to cross-examine all witnesses and the other party. Note: direct cross-examination conducted by a party is not permitted; all cross-examination must be conducted by Advisors. If a party or witness fails to participate in the hearing or otherwise does not make themselves available for cross-examination, the Decision-Maker is not permitted to consider any statement made by that party or witness (whether at the hearing or during the prior investigation) in reaching a determination. The Decision-Maker cannot draw any inference regarding the responsibility of the Respondent based solely on a party’s or witness’s absence from the hearing or refusal to answer cross-examination or other questions.
Only relevant questions may be asked of a party or witness. Questions and evidence about the Complainant’s sexual predisposition or prior sexual behavior are not relevant unless such questions and evidence are offered to prove someone other than the Respondent committed the conduct alleged in the Formal Complaint, or if the questions and evidence concern specific incidents of the Complainant’s prior sexual behavior with respect to the Respondent and are offered to prove consent. Questions or evidence that constitute, or seek disclosure of, information protected under a legally recognized privilege are prohibited unless the person holding such privilege has waived the privilege. To the extent the Decision-Maker prohibits any questions as being irrelevant, the Decision-Maker must explain their rationale.
v. Determination of Responsibility
After the hearing is complete, the Decision-Maker will decide, after fairly considering all relevant evidence they are permitted to consider in accordance with this Procedure, by a preponderance of the evidence, the outcome of each allegation in the Formal Complaint concerning whether the Respondent has violated Policy CS 27. The Decision-Maker shall issue a decision on the allegations contained in the Formal Complaint in the form of a written determination of responsibility. The written determination shall include:
(1) Identification of the allegations potentially constituting Sexual Harassment
(2) A description of the procedural steps taken from the receipt of the Formal Complaint through the determination, including any notifications to the parties, interviews with parties and witnesses, site visits, methods used to gather other evidence, and hearings held;
(3) Findings of fact supporting the determination;
(4) Conclusions regarding the application of Policy CS 27 to the facts;
(5) A statement of, and rationale for, the result as to each allegation, including a determination regarding responsibility, any disciplinary sanctions the recipient imposes on the Respondent, and whether remedies designed to restore or preserve the Complainant’s equal access to University’s Education Program or Activity will be provided; and
(6) The appeal process.
The written determination of responsibility shall be provided to both the Complainant and Respondent on the same day. The determination of responsibility becomes final either on the date that the written determination regarding the appeal, if any, is provided to the parties, or if an appeal is not filed, the date on which an appeal would no longer be considered timely.
If the Decision-Maker determines, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Policy CS 27 was violated, the written determination of responsibility containing all information listed in section III(E)(v) above other than the sanction(s) shall be submitted to the appropriate chair, dean, director, supervisor, responsibility center head, or designee to make a determination regarding the appropriate sanction(s). The appropriate chair, dean, director, supervisor, responsibility center head, or designee will then provide the sanctions determination to the Decision-Maker, who will incorporate the sanctions into the written determination of responsibility before distributing the same to the parties. Sanctions will not be imposed until the grievance process is complete, including, as applicable, until the time for an appeal of the outcome runs out or until a determination is made regarding any such appeal.
Student sanctions for violating the University’s Title IX Policy may include the following: disciplinary reprimand, disciplinary probation, disciplinary suspension, disciplinary dismissal, housing probation, housing suspension, housing dismissal, a permanent no-contact-order, permanent restrictions from all or part of campus (Persona Non Grata status) for a portion of or all campus locations, counseling assessment, mandatory trainings or online educational modules, and meeting with Office of Civil Rights and Title IX personnel.
Employees sanctions for violating the University’s Title IX Policy may include the following: permanent no-contact orders, mandatory training, suspension of employment, employment reassignment, restrictions from all or part of campus (Persona Non Grata), termination from the University.
After the written determination of responsibility is provided to the parties, either the Complainant or Respondent can appeal the determination. Appeals will not involve a full rehearing or a redetermination of the facts of the matter, but will review only whether the decision erred in one of four (4) limited grounds on which an appeal may be filed (collectively referred to as the “Scope of Review”), which are as follows:
(1) Procedural irregularity that affected the outcome of the matter;
(2) New evidence that was not reasonably available at the time the determination regarding responsibility or dismissal was made, that could affect the outcome of the matter;
(3) The Title IX Coordinator, investigator, or Decision-Maker had a conflict of interest or bias for or against Complainants or Respondents generally or the individual Complainant or Respondent that affected the outcome of the matter; or
(4) The sanction(s) are substantially disproportionate to the severity of the violation.
The Complainant and Respondent shall have ten (10) business days from the receipt of the written determination of responsibility to file a petition for appeal, including a written statement in support of or challenging the outcome by citing to one or more of the specific bases for appeal as the Scope of Review. The appeal petition must include a thorough statement and all facts or evidence which support the appeal. To the extent either party bases all or part of any appeal on an alleged error or conflict of interest on the part of the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX or any other individual involved with the grievance process, the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX shall have the opportunity to respond to the writing within ten (10) business days of being provided with the appeal petition(s).
A panel of three (3) members of the University Review Board (“URB”) shall act as the Appellate Decision-Makers. One of the members of the URB shall be deemed the URB Moderator. None of the Appellate Decision-Makers shall be University students, the Title IX Coordinator, the investigator, or the Decision-Maker from the original hearing.
Upon receipt of an appeal petition, the URB shall first determine whether the appeal properly falls within the Scope of Review. If the URB has determined the appeal does not fall within the Scope of Review, the URB shall notify the party that submitted the petition for appeal of that outcome in writing. Where it has been determined that an appeal petition falls within the Scope of Review, the URB Moderator will notify the applicable parties that an appeal has been initiated and will provide all parties with the submitted appeal petition(s) and applicable procedures. The URB may elect to resolve the appeal based solely on the written submissions. To the extent the URB decides that a hearing is necessary or would aide in the resolution of the appeal, the URB shall schedule a hearing and notify all applicable parties.
Once the URB reaches a decision as to the outcome of an appeal (whether based solely on the written submission or after a hearing is held), the URB shall issue a written decision describing the result of the appeal and the rationale for the result. The outcome of the appeal shall be provided to all applicable parties on the same day.
Generally, if the URB finds that an appeal is valid and overturns the outcome of the original Decision-Maker based on appeal basis #1 (procedural irregularity), #2 (new evidence), or #3 (conflict of interest or bias), the Appeals Board will refer the appeal back to the appropriate stage of the grievance process to effectively permit the correction of the error.
Generally, the Appeals Board should complete its work within thirty (30) business days.
The University strictly prohibits retaliation against anyone involved as a party or witness in the process of adjudicating a Formal Complaint under this Policy. Retaliation includes, but is not limited to, acts on behalf of the University or any person designed to intimidate, threaten, coerce, or discriminate against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by Title IX or this Policy, or because the individual has made a report or complaint, testified, assisted, or participated or refused to participate in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this Policy. The University will investigate all acts of reported retaliation. Complaints alleging retaliation may be filed according to the University grievance procedures as found in Procedure CS 27.
All reports supported by evidence, regardless of the outcome of the underlying Formal Complaint of Sexual Harassment, will be referred for disciplinary action and resolution under Policy CS 20, Sexual Misconduct.
The exercise of rights protected under the First Amendment do not constitute retaliation prohibited under this section.
Process for Adjudicating Sexual Misconduct Policy Complaints (University Policy CS 20)
Advisor or Support Person
Both a Complainant and a Respondent are entitled to one advisor or support person of their choice, and the advisor or support person may accompany the party to any meeting or proceeding under these processes. However, the advisor or support person shall not be permitted to participate directly in the Informal or the Formal resolution process. This includes advisors who are also attorneys. An advisor or support person may not stand in place of either the Complainant or the Respondent, and information regarding the progress of the inquiry or investigation will only be shared with the Complainant or Respondent, and not the advisor of choice. If the advisor or support person has any questions, they should contact the Associate Vice Chancellor for Civil Rights and Title IX, not the individual investigator from the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX (“Investigator”).
In keeping with the University’s desire to resolve sexual misconduct complaints in a timely manner, the University reserves the right to proceed with any meeting regardless of the availability of the party’s advisor or support person.
Once the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX receives notice of sexual misconduct, an Investigator will conduct an initial inquiry. Where the respondent (i.e., the accused) is an employee, the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX will coordinate the initial inquiry with a chair, dean, director, supervisor, responsibility center head, or designee. For all other cases, the Investigator will continue to conduct an initial inquiry which generally includes interviews with the complainant, the respondent, a chair, dean, director, supervisor, responsibility center head, or designee, and sometimes a review of relevant documents.
The Investigator will then determine whether the information gathered indicates that the complaint falls within the Policy. If it is determined that the complaint falls within the Policy, the Investigator will determine whether the process should proceed to the Informal Process, the Formal Process, or another University process. The Investigator will make this determination by reviewing several factors including:
- The wishes of the complainant and the respondent;
- Consideration of a pattern of behavior; and
- The nature and severity of the behavior or action.
A decision will then be made as to the appropriate next steps to bring resolution to the complaint, which will include one of the following:
- Formal Process;
- Informal Process;
- Another University process; or
- End the process.
The complainant and the respondent will be informed promptly upon an initial inquiry determination by the Investigator. If it is found that the complaint does not fall within the Policy, the reported matter, and other possible policy violations discovered during the inquiry (including any relevant information), may be referred to other University processes.
The informal process is an opportunity to bring resolution to a complaint through awareness, education, and/or a facilitated discussion. The Office of Civil Rights and Title IX, in conjunction with the Director of Student Conduct, a chair, dean, director, supervisor, responsibility center head or designee, or the Office of Human Resources, coordinates the informal process. During an informal process, no formal investigation is conducted to determine whether the Policy has been violated.
The informal process may only be used for alleged misconduct which does not involve sexual assault or violence.
The complainant has the right to end the informal process and begin the formal process, if the complainant wishes to do so.
1. Facilitate Resolution
The Investigator, in conjunction with the Director of Student Conduct, a chair, dean, director, supervisor, responsibility center head or designee, or the Office of Human Resources, uses the information gathered during the initial inquiry to facilitate an appropriate resolution to the complaint. The Investigator may determine that the informal process may be facilitated by an appropriate designee (e.g. for students, a Resident Director or other designee; for staff, a Human Resource representative; for faculty, a chair, dean, director, supervisor, responsibility center head, or designee; or for Trustees, the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX or designee). The following are examples of possible options, one or more of which may be used to bring resolution to an informal complaint.
a. Distribute a copy of the Policy to the respondent and/or the complainant and/or to the department or area whose behavior is being questioned;
b. Educate the respondent or all parties regarding the Policy;
c. Conduct a sexual misconduct educational workshop for the designated department/school/University organization;
d. Meet with the respondent to raise awareness about alleged inappropriate behavior and provide notice about possible University consequences;
e. Facilitated discussion with the agreement of the complainant, respondent, and the Investigator;
f. Institute alternative work arrangements, living arrangements, class schedule, dining facilities, or advisor/supervisor arrangements as feasible;
g. Provide access to appropriate academic supports, such as tutoring, or permission to withdraw from or retake a class or classes; and/or
h. Limit contact or impose a no contact order between respondent and complainant.
2. Document Informal Resolution
At the conclusion of the informal process, a letter summarizing the outcome(s) of the process will be sent by the Investigator to the complainant and respondent and other appropriate University officials.
If the matter is not resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant or the respondent utilizing the informal process, and/or the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX determines the matter should be resolved through the formal process, the complainant, the respondent and/or the University may pursue the formal process. In such an instance, the complainant, the respondent and/or the University may request to utilize the formal process by submitting a written request to the Investigator within five (5) business days of the date of the receipt of the informal outcome letter.
Formal Complaint Process
The Formal Complaint process is initiated when the complainant provides a signed statement that includes a brief description of the alleged incident and, to the extent known, the respondent’s name(s) and the date, time and location of the incident (hereinafter “Complaint”). The Formal Complaint process may also be initiated by the University under appropriate circumstances. The Formal Complaint process involves a prompt, and equitable investigation conducted by an Investigator. The investigation is a fact-finding process, giving all parties notice and the opportunity to be heard, to identify witnesses and offer evidence, and to pose questions to parties and witnesses. Interim measures may be applied at any time throughout the Formal Complaint process.
The Formal Complaint process will generally progress as follows:
1. Once the complaint is received or the University otherwise initiates the Formal Complaint process, an Investigator will interview the complainant.
2. Following the completion of their interview with the complainant, the Investigator will notify the Associate Vice Chancellor for Civil Rights and Title IX as to whether or not the allegations set forth in the Complaint, if substantiated, would constitute a violation of the University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, and accordingly, a violation of the Code.
a. If the University Investigator’s notification indicates that such allegations, if substantiated, would not constitute a violation of University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Civil Rights and Title IX, may dismiss the complaint, and that decision shall be final, barring new information. The Associate Vice Chancellor for Civil Rights and Title IX shall provide the complainant and respondent(s) with written notice of such dismissal.
b. In the event that the Investigator’s notification indicates that the allegations set forth in the complaint, if substantiated, would constitute a violation of University policy, or if the Associate Vice Chancellor for Civil Rights and Title IX determines that the matter should be investigated, the Investigator will conduct a fact-finding investigation. Steps in this investigation will include, as appropriate:
- The respondent will be provided with written notification of investigation and be made aware that a Formal Complaint has been submitted to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The respondent will be provided with an opportunity to review the complaint at the University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
- The Investigator will meet separately with the complainant and the respondent(s).
- The Investigator will interview relevant witnesses and review relevant physical, documentary or other evidence.
- As described below, each party will be given an opportunity to identify relevant witnesses. In order to have a prompt and equitable process, the investigator may provide deadlines for providing information. Delays in providing witness contact information and/or evidence may impact the Investigator’s ability to consider these elements.
3. The Investigator may consider the credibility of the parties and witnesses and relevant information, including evidence of pattern. Both parties may provide information and names of witnesses to the Investigator. The Investigator will not apply rules of evidence followed in court proceedings and will not entertain legal motions. Legal rules pertaining to the wording of questions, hearsay, and opinions will not be applied. Reasonable rules of relevancy will guide the Investigator in deciding on the admissibility of evidence and witness statements. Reasonable limits may be imposed on the number of factual witnesses and the amount of cumulative evidence that may be introduced.
4. After the complainant(s) and/or respondent(s) have been interviewed by the Investigator, each will be provided with an opportunity to review a written summary of their own interview. The complainant and respondent will then have five (5) business days from the date the summary is made available to review their own interview summary and provide any comments or new evidence to the Investigator. Comments will be reviewed and retained in the investigative file but may not necessarily result in a change to the summary.
5. After the Investigator concludes gathering and evaluating evidence, including witness interviews, an investigation summary will be prepared. At this time, the complainant and respondent will have an opportunity to review, in the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX, the investigative summary. The investigative summary will include the relevant information provided by the complainant, respondent, and any witnesses, as well as other evidence gathered during the investigation which will be considered in making a determination regarding the alleged University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy and/or Code Violation. Within five (5) business days of the date that the investigative summary was first made available for review, the complainant and respondent must submit verbally or in writing to the Investigator any comments (including additional statements, proposed witness questions and additional evidence) concerning the summary. This portion of the investigation may be an iterative process.
6. Following the receipt of any comments on the investigative summary, or after the five (5) day period has lapsed without comment, the Investigator will prepare a final written report that includes the investigative summary and a determination of whether a violation has occurred and a recommendation of the sanction(s) to be imposed, if any. The final written report will include the basis upon which the Investigator reached their determination of responsibility. This determination will be made using the preponderance of the evidence standard, asking whether it is more likely than not that the University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy has been violated.
7. The report will be provided first to the Associate Vice Chancellor for Civil Rights and Title IX for review and input.
7a. For students: After the Associate Vice Chancellor for Civil Rights and Title IX’s review and input, the final report will be forwarded to the Dean of Students for approval of any recommended sanctions. The Dean of Students will have discretion to accept or alter the recommended sanction(s), if they believe that the totality of circumstances, including but not limited to University precedent, justifies such a change. Once the Dean of Students has made a determination on sanctions, either the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX or the Dean of Students will provide the decision letter to both the complainant and respondent. At this time, a copy of the final investigation report will be available in the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX for review.
7b. For employees: If the investigation establishes that the Policy was violated by a preponderance of the evidence, the Investigator and the appropriate administrator will determine recommended sanctions to be submitted for approval to the chair, dean, director, supervisor, responsibility center head, or designee. Sanctions will be based on the nature and severity of the offense and/or on prior violations of University policy. The Investigator will distribute, at the same time or as near the same time as feasible, an outcome letter to the complainant and to the respondent, and a full report will go to the chair, dean, director, supervisor, responsibility center head, or designee. A copy of the report will be kept on file in the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX or other appropriate office.
8. Both the complainant and the respondent may submit an appeal within ten (10) business days from the date of the decision letter (see appeal process below).
In general, the University attempts to complete investigations within 60 days, although for good cause, that period may be longer.
Student Sexual Misconduct Appeal Process
Appeal petitions related to Sexual Misconduct Violations may be filed by either the Complainant or the Respondent. Persons filing an appeal will have ten (10) business days from the date of the decision letter to file their petition with the University Review Board(URB), at URBModerator@pitt.edu.
The appeal petition must include a thorough statement and all facts or evidence which support one or more of the following (Scope of Review):
1. Whether Rights affirmed by the Board of Trustees have been denied;
2. Whether established procedures were not followed in a manner that would have significantly affected the decision;
3. Whether there was an absence of a rational connection between the facts found and the findings;
4. Whether the issued sanctions are substantially disproportionate to the severity of the Violation; or,
5. Whether new evidence is presented which was not available or discoverable during the process that if available at the time would have significantly altered the findings or sanctions.
As discussed under University Review Board procedures, the URB Moderator and applicable URB members will make their determination of whether to proceed with an appeal based on submitted documentation only.
In addition, persons filing an appeal may also request postponement of sanctions pending appeal. Such requests must explain why the imposition of sanctions must be postponed. The question to be answered in determining whether to postpone Sanction(s) is, whether the immediate imposition or postponement of the Sanction(s) will unfairly prejudice either party (the complainant or respondent), pending a final determination of the appeal.
All decisions regarding the postponement of Sanctions will be made within five (5) business days of the receipt of such a request and will be communicated to appropriate parties in writing through the URB Moderator.
URB Procedures for Reviewing Petition to Appeal
In cases involving Sexual Misconduct, the URB Moderator will consult with two faculty members of the URB. The URB Moderator and applicable URB members will make their determination of whether to proceed with an appeal based on submitted documentation only.
Where the URB has determined that an appeal’s petition does not fall within the Scope of Review, the URB Moderator and two URB members will render and submit a written opinion and recommended dismissal of appeal, accompanied by the record, to the Provost for review and consideration. Upon completion of this review and consideration, notice of the outcome will be given to the Respondent. In cases involving Sexual Misconduct, both the Complainant and Respondent will receive notice of the outcome of the review of the petition to appeal.
URB Procedures for Proceeding with an Appeal
Where it has been determined that a petition falls within the Scope of Review, the URB Moderator will notify the applicable parties that an appeal has been initiated.
The URB Moderator will then schedule an appeal proceeding. Applicable parties to the appeal proceedings will receive a copy of the appeal petition and procedures and written notification of the time, date, and place of the proceeding.
The appeal will be conducted under the procedural guidance of the URB Moderator, who also shall determine the composition of the URB panel.
The URB panel, in its discretion, may elect to decide an appeal based solely on the submission of documents from the applicable parties, without oral argument. The URB appeal process does not include testimony from witnesses.
If the URB, in its discretion, decides to allow oral argument, applicable parties will be given reasonable time to present their position. A party may refer to any records, documents, or recordings from a prior proceeding and may present written argument. A party may question the other about their argument, except in cases involving Sexual Misconduct. Members of the URB panel and the URB Moderator may question the parties.
The URB panel may remand a matter to the Office of Student Conduct or the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX for further proceedings when the URB panel determines that there are insufficient written findings or prejudicial procedural error.
In other cases, the URB panel, by a majority, shall forward a written opinion, recommend action, and complete record to the Provost, or their designee. There may be an accompanying minority opinion.
Once a decision is made by the Provost or their designee, applicable parties will be notified.
Employee Sexual Misconduct Appeal Process
Where the responding party is a faculty or staff member, any appeal should be made to the Provost or Senior Vice Chancellor for Business and Operations.
In cases where the recommended discipline involves early termination of appointment for cause, the procedure under the University Bylaws, and not this appeals process, applies. However, the substantive and procedural requirements under any applicable law, remain applicable.
In other cases, the Provost or Senior Vice Chancellor will appoint an Appeals Board of three (3) individuals. Two members of the Appeals Board will be faculty who are members of the University Review Board (“URB”); the third member will be appointed by the Provost or Senior Vice Chancellor from the pool of individuals who have received appropriate training from the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX, and consistent with the employment status of the parties involved. Consistent with guidance from the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX, students will not be members of hearing or appeal boards.
Appeals must be submitted to the Office of the Provost or Senior Vice Chancellor within ten (10) business days of receipt of the written decision and must specify the grounds for the appeal. The Appeals Board shall not rehear or make a redetermination of the facts of the matter, but will review only whether the decision erred in one of three limited grounds on which an appeal may be filed, which are as follows:
1. New information not available to the Investigator which, if available at the time of the investigation, would have significantly affected the decision;
2. Evidence that established procedures were not followed in a manner that would have significantly affected the decision, and/or;
3. The sanction(s) are substantially disproportionate to the severity of the violation.
The Appeals Board determines whether the appeal submitted falls within one of the three grounds for appeal of a decision, reviews the report and sanctions to be imposed, and other relevant documents or statements.
Generally, if an Appeals Board finds that an appeal is valid in that either appeal basis #1 (substantial new evidence was not available that would have affected the decision) or #2 (evidence that established procedures were not allowed in a manner that would have affected the decision), the Appeals Board will refer the appeal back to the Investigator and appropriate administrator to remedy the issue.
As for appeal basis #3 (the sanction was substantially disproportionate to the severity of the violation), the Appeals Board will make a recommendation to the Provost or Senior Vice Chancellor regarding the finding and the sanction based on a review of the existing written record. The sanction recommended by the Appeals Board may be different than the sanction recommended after the investigation, including a sanction that is greater than or lesser than the sanction initially recommended.
Generally, the Appeals Board should complete its work within thirty (30) days.
The Provost or Senior Vice Chancellor shall review the recommendation of the Appeals Board and make a final determination. That determination will be communicated in writing to the respondent, the complainant, the Investigator and to the appropriate administrators (e.g., respondent’s appropriate Responsibility Center Head).
The Provost or Senior Vice Chancellor will generally respond within thirty (30) days of receiving the recommendation from the Appeals Board. The decision of the Provost or Senior Vice Chancellor shall be final.
Sanctions for Student Sexual Misconduct Violations
Student Sanctions for violating the University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy may include the following: disciplinary reprimand, disciplinary probation, disciplinary suspension, disciplinary dismissal, housing probation, housing suspension, housing dismissal, a permanent no-contact-order, permanent restriction for a portion of or all campus locations (Persona Non Grata status), counseling assessment, mandatory trainings or online educational modules, and meeting with Title IX personnel.
Sanctions for Employee Sexual Misconduct Violations
Possible sanctions the University may impose on an employee for violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy may include: permanent no-contact orders, mandatory training, suspension of employment, employment reassignment, restrictions from all or part of campus (Persona Non Grata), termination from the University.
Retaliation against anyone involved in the investigation of alleged incidents of sexual misconduct, whether they are the complainant, a witness, an investigator or anyone else, is prohibited. Retaliation is the act of taking adverse action against a complainant, a respondent, or any other person involved in the process based on the person’s reporting or participation in the process. Retaliation includes behavior on the part of the respondent or the complainant and other related persons, including, but not limited to, acquaintances, friends, and family members. Although independent action will be taken against anyone engaging in retaliation, the complainant and the respondent are responsible for discouraging such actions and will also be held responsible to the extent of their involvement in the retaliation.
Retaliation will constitute separate grounds for disciplinary action. An individual who believes that they have experienced retaliation should contact the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX, and the University will investigate the complaint. If the University determines that evidence exists to support that retaliation occurred, appropriate action will be taken regardless of the outcome of the underlying sexual misconduct complaint. This may involve referral of the retaliation concerns to another University process for resolution.
To review the University’s Statement on Confidentiality and Nonretaliation, please follow this link: diversity.pitt.edu/civil-rights-title-ix-compliance/make-report/confidentiality-and-retaliation. In addition to outlining the University’s stance against retaliation, this statement also clarifies that all individuals involved in the investigation process are expected to honor the confidentiality of the process and the information involved.