Informal Resolution Policy for Title IX Grievance ProcessEffective August 14, 2020
What is the purpose of this Policy?
On May 19, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education issued a Final Rule governing the Title IX grievance process, effective August 14, 2020. The Final Rule requires that all colleges and universities hold a live hearing before making any determination regarding responsibility for covered reports of Title IX sexual harassment, including sexual violence. This hearing must provide for live cross-examination by the parties’ advisors.
However, under § 106.45(b)(9) of the Final Rule, colleges and universities may offer and facilitate informal resolution processes, as long as each party voluntarily agrees to the process through an informed, written consent. This option is a change from long-standing Departmental guidance discouraging the use of informal procedures to address sexual harassment and prohibiting the use of mediation to address sexual assault. In the Preamble to the Final Rule, the Department states that it views informal resolutions as a way to resolve sexual harassment allegations in a less adversarial manner than the investigation and adjudication procedures that comprise the § 106.45 grievance process.
No college or university is required to adopt an informal procedure for addressing Title IX-covered sexual assault, nor is there any obligation to create or put in place such a policy by the August 14, 2020 implementation date. Institutions should use caution in pursuing an informal resolution process to ensure that facilitators have significant training in the chosen methodology.
This Policy, in turn, provides guidance regarding the contents of a Title IX-compliant process and the types of informal resolution procedures you may consider adopting.
Elements of an Informal Resolution Process
Procedures for Entering and Exiting Informal Resolution Process
Parties who do not wish to proceed with an investigation and live hearing, and instead seek Stony Brook University’s assistance to resolve allegations of Title IX-covered misconduct, may elect to enter the informal resolution process. Generally speaking, these resolution options are less time intensive than an investigation and live hearing, while still affording students an opportunity to actively participate in a process led by the Stony Brook University for resolution of their complaints.
The Parties may elect to enter Stony Brook University’s informal resolution process at any time after the filing of the Formal Complaint through an informed written consent. This informed written consent will include all terms of the elected informal process, including a statement that any agreement reached through the process is binding on the Parties.
No Party may be required to participate in informal resolution, and Stony Brook University may never condition enrollment, employment, or enjoyment of any other right or privilege upon agreeing to informal resolution.
The Parties may elect to leave the informal resolution process at any point until the informal resolution process is concluded. If a Party elects to leave the informal resolution process, the formal resolution process recommences. In participating in the informal resolution process, the Parties understand that the timeframes governing the formal process temporarily cease, and only recommence upon reentry into the formal process.
Determination to Approve Entry into Informal Resolution Process
Even where the Parties agree to submit a matter to informal resolution, the Title IX Coordinator or other designated official must approve the decision to move the matter to the informal resolution process and may determine that informal resolution is not appropriate under the circumstances.
Factors that the Title IX Coordinator or other designated official may weigh in considering the appropriateness of the informal resolution process include, but are not limited to, the gravity of the allegations, whether there is an ongoing threat of harm or safety to the campus, whether the respondent is a repeat offender, and whether the Parties are participating in good faith. This determination is not subject to appeal.
Informal resolution is only permitted to address allegations of student-on-student sexual harassment, and is never allowed as an option to resolve allegations that an employee sexually harassed a student.
At any time after the commencement of the informal resolution process, the Title IX Coordinator or other designated official may determine that the informal resolution process is not an appropriate method for resolving the matter, and may require that the matter be resolved through the formal process. This determination is not subject to appeal.
Role of the Facilitator
Informal resolution processes are managed by facilitators, who may not have a conflict of interest or bias in favor of or against complainants or respondents generally or regarding the specific Parties in the matter. The Title IX Coordinator may serve as the facilitator, subject to these restrictions.
All facilitators must have training in the definition of sexual harassment under 34 C.F.R. § 106.30(a), the scope of the institution’s education program or activity, how to conduct informal resolution processes, and how to serve impartially, including by avoiding prejudgment of the facts at issue, conflicts of interest, or bias.
In entering the informal resolution process, the Parties agree that any testimony and evidence (including admissions of responsibility) they share or receive during the informal resolution process concerning the allegations of the Formal Complaint is confidential while the parties are participating in the informal resolution process. No evidence concerning the allegations obtained within the informal resolution process may be disseminated to any person, provided that any Party to the informal resolution process may generally discuss the allegations under investigation with a parent, friend, advisor, or other source of emotional support, or with an advocacy organization. Should the Parties withdraw from the informal resolution process, information disclosed or obtained for purposes of the informal resolution process may be incorporated into the formal investigation and live hearing, provided that this information is disclosed and reviewed by the Parties under the investigatory and hearing procedures described in the Title IX Grievance Process.
Informal Resolution Options
Stony Brook University offers the following informal resolution procedures for addressing Formal Complaints of sexual harassment covered under this Policy.
Should the Parties mutually determine to enter the informal resolution process, and the respondent elects to accept responsibility for the allegations of the Formal Complaint at any point during the informal resolution process, the institution may administratively resolve the Formal Complaint.
Where the respondent admits responsibility, the Parties will receive simultaneous written notification of the acceptance of responsibility, and a Hearing Officer will convene to determine the respondent’s sanction and other remedies, as appropriate and consistent with institutional policy. The Parties will be given an opportunity to be heard at the sanctions hearing, including but not limited to the submission of impact statements, and the Parties may be accompanied by their Advisor, but questioning of Parties or witnesses will not be permitted. The Parties will receive simultaneous written notification of the decision regarding sanctions and remedies, which may be appealed according to the process described below. More information on the appeals process could be found.