Carnegie Mellon University

VI. How a Complaint is Resolved

A. Filing a Formal Complaint

A Complainant who chooses to pursue an alternative or formal resolution to address any reported Prohibited Conduct must begin by filing a Formal Complaint with the Office of Title IX Initiatives. Filing a Formal Complaint will initiate an investigation pursuant to the university’s process outlined in Section VI.B below. The university will not commence a formal investigation or its resolution process without the Complainant or the Title IX Coordinator filing a Formal Complaint.

Complainant may file a Formal Complaint with the Title IX Coordinator in person, by mail, or by email with submission of a Formal Complaint Form. The Formal Complaint must contain the Complainant's physical or digital signature otherwise indicate that the Complainant is the person filing (if the Complainant is under the age of 18 and not enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program, the University will ordinarily also contact the Complainant's parent or guardian, as permitted by law, to explain the process for filing a Formal Complaint). A Complainant may file a Formal Complaint at any time, but significant delays between the time an incident occurs and conducting an investigation may impede or limit the availability of relevant material and/or availability of witnesses.

In certain circumstances, the Title IX Coordinator may file a Formal Complaint. Whether the university will begin an investigation in response to a report under these circumstances depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to the wishes of the Complainant, the nature and scope of the alleged Prohibited Conduct, the risk posed to any individual or to the campus community by not proceeding, and/or the University’s determination about whether its legal obligations compel it to pursue the resolution of a report.

After a Formal Complaint has been filed, or signed by the Title IX Coordinator, the university will commence its investigation and resolution process. In order for the allegations set forth in a Formal Complaint to constitute Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct, at the time of filing a Formal Complaint, the Complainant must be participating in or attempting to participate in the University’s Programs or Activities. If the Complainant is not participating in or attempting to participate in the University’s Programs or Activities at the time the Formal Complaint is filed, the Title IX Coordinator will review the Formal Complaint and determine whether to initiate an investigation of Other Prohibited Conduct, as specified in Section VI.B below.

B. Investigation Procedures

Upon the filing of a Formal Complaint, the Title IX Coordinator (or designee) will review the Formal Complaint to determine whether the allegations, if true, would constitute Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct. If the Title IX Coordinator determines that the allegations in the Formal Complaint, if true, would constitute Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct, the Title IX Coordinator must commence an investigation as set forth below.

If the Title IX Coordinator determines that the allegations in the Formal Complaint, if true, would not constitute Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct but would constitute Other Prohibited Conduct, the Title IX Coordinator will review the Formal Complaint to determine whether the allegations, if true, significantly impact the University Community, represent a potential threat to members of the University Community, or have some other significant connection to the University Community. Based on this review, the Title IX Coordinator will have discretion to commence an investigation as set forth below.

Throughout the investigation and adjudication of the Formal Complaint, both the Complainant and the Respondent may select an Advisor of their choice. Details concerning the role of the Advisor are set forth in the applicable adjudication procedures under Section VI.C and Section VI.E of this Policy. The role of an Advisor in any hearing may vary based on the applicable adjudication procedures.

After deciding to commence an investigation, the Title IX Coordinator will appoint an investigator to review, assess and investigate the Formal Complaint (the “Investigator”). The Investigator may be a staff member in the Office of Title IX Initiatives, a staff member in Human Resources, a staff member in another department at the university, or an external professional. The Title IX Coordinator is responsible for ensuring that the Investigator has been appropriately trained and is free of conflicts of interest or bias that would impair the investigation.

The Title IX Coordinator will send the ComplainantRespondent and their respective Advisors a written notice of investigation. The Investigator will conduct an investigation and prepare a preliminary investigative report that fairly summarizes the relevant evidence gathered during the investigation. The preliminary investigative report will be made available to the ComplainantRespondent and their respective Advisors in electronic or hard-copy format. Any evidence collected during the investigation will also be made available to the ComplainantRespondent and their respective Advisors for inspection and review in electronic or hard-copy format. The Complainant and Respondent will have at least ten (10) business days to review and respond to the preliminary investigative report. The Investigator will consider any responses submitted by the ComplainantRespondent and their respective Advisors and prepare a final investigative report (“Investigative Report”).

The Title IX Coordinator will review the Investigative Report and all relevant evidence to determine whether the allegations, if true, would constitute Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct and/or Other Prohibited Conduct. Allegations that would constitute Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct will be adjudicated under Section VI.C regarding Adjudication Procedures for Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct. Allegations that would constitute Other Prohibited Conduct will be adjudicated under Section VI.E regarding Adjudication Procedures for Other Prohibited Misconduct. In cases involving multiple allegations which include Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct and Other Prohibited Conduct, the university reserves the right to decide whether to adjudicate all allegations in a single process under the Procedures for Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct or to separately adjudicate the allegations under separate applicable procedures.

When the university receives a report of alleged conduct that could constitute Prohibited Conduct other than Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct (i.e. Other Prohibited Conduct) under this Policy and could violate other university policies, the university, in its discretion, will determine which policy/ies and procedures apply and whether action will be taken under multiple policies.

With regard to Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct and Other Prohibited Conduct, in the event that at the time of a report or the conclusion of an investigation it becomes apparent that the alleged conduct, if true, would not constitute Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct or Other Prohibited Conduct as defined in this Policy, the matter may be adjudicated under another applicable policy or procedure at the university’s discretion.

For any investigation that is pending as of the effective date of this Policy, the university will use the sexual harassment and/or sexual assault policy that was in effect at the time the violation(s) allegedly occurred for the purpose of defining conduct that constitutes a violation of policy. However the matter will be investigated and adjudicated using the current procedures as set forth in Section VI of this Policy.

C. Adjudication Procedures for Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct

Appointment of Hearing Officer

After reviewing the Investigative Report prepared under Section VI.B above, if the Title IX Coordinator determines that the allegations, if true, would constitute Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct, the university will conduct a formal hearing. The Title IX Coordinator will appoint a hearing officer (“Hearing Officer”) who will be responsible for presiding over a live hearing and making findings of fact and a determination of responsibility with respect to each allegation in the Formal Complaint. The Title IX Coordinator and/or Investigator are not eligible to serve as the Hearing Officer.

Conduct of the Hearing & Written Determination

The Hearing Officer will conduct a live hearing in accordance with the Hearing Procedures for the Adjudication of Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct [pdf]. The hearing will take place no sooner than ten days after the parties are provided with the Investigative Report.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Hearing Officer will make findings of fact and a determination of responsibility with respect to each allegation. The determination of responsibility will be made using the preponderance of evidence standard.

If the Hearing Officer determines that the Respondent is responsible for any allegation, the Hearing Officer will contact the appropriate sanctioning officer, as specified below, to review the findings of findings of fact and determination(s) regarding responsibility (“Sanctioning Officer”). The Sanctioning Officer will have sole responsibility for determining the appropriate sanctions and remedies related to any finding of responsibility made by the Hearing Officer. The Sanctioning Officer will provide a written determination regarding sanctions to the Hearing Officer. If the Hearing Officer determines that the Respondent is not responsible for any of the allegations, the Sanctioning Officer will not be contacted.

The applicable Sanctioning Officer is based on the nature of the Respondent's relationship to the university:

  • Sanctioning Officer for Students: Associate Vice President of Student Affairs for Community Life or designee
  • Sanctioning Officer for Staff: Associate Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer or designee
  • Sanctioning Officer for Faculty: Provost or designee

The Hearing Officer will prepare a written determination regarding the findings of fact and the determination regarding responsibility for each allegation. Where applicable, the written decision of the Sanctioning Officer regarding sanctions and remedies will be attached to or incorporated into the written determination prepared by the Hearing Officer. The required content of the written determination of the Hearing Officer is set forth in the Hearing Procedures for the Adjudication of Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct [pdf].

Notice of Written Determination

The written determination will be provided to the Title IX Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator or designee is responsible for providing the Complainant and Respondent with a copy of the written determination. Both parties must be provided the written determination simultaneously.

Additional Procedures for Sanctions Against Faculty Respondents

In the case of sanctions against a Faculty Respondent, the sanctions determined by the Sanctioning Officer for Faculty will be provided to the President as recommended sanctions. The President will take no action on the recommended sanctions until either (i) the completion of any appeal filed by any party under Section VI.D of this Policy or (ii) the deadline to file an appeal under Section VI.D of this Policy passes without any appeal being filed. If an appeal is filed, the President or the President’s designee will render a decision on the appeal consistent with the procedures in Section VI.D of this Policy. If any sanctions remain after the completion of the appeal or where no appeal is filed by the appeal deadline, the President will thereafter render a decision based on both the recommendation of the Sanctioning Officer for Faculty as well as the underlying findings of fact and determination(s) of responsibility by the Hearing Officer (or Appeal Officer, if applicable). If the President decides to initiate the procedure for dismissal for cause or for the imposition of another sanction against a Faculty Respondent, the matter will then follow the process set forth in the subsection "Procedure" of the section of the Appointment and Tenure Policy of Carnegie Mellon University titled, "Dismissal for Cause and Other Sanctions", but will be subject to the "Exceptions" provision of that subsection such that no Ad-Hoc Committee will be required.

D. Appeal Procedures for Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct

Both the Complainant and Respondent have the right to file an appeal regarding (i) the determination under Section VI.C of this Policy or (ii) the dismissal of a Formal Complaint and/or determination that a Formal Complaint does not constitute Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct. An appeal must be submitted in writing to the Office of the President (with a copy to the Title IX Coordinator) within seven (7) calendar days of the official notification of the determination under Section VI.C. The written appeal request must state the basis for the appeal. The basis for an appeal will be limited to one or more of the following:

  • Procedural irregularity that affected the outcome of the matter;
  • 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;
  • The Title IX Coordinator, Investigator(s), or Hearing Officer, or Sanctioning Officer 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; and
  • The sanctions imposed are disproportionate to the finding of responsibility.

The President or the President’s designee will serve as the Appeal Officer. The Appeal Officer will inform the other party or parties that an appeal has been filed and provide such party or parties with a copy of the written appeal. The non-appealing party will have a reasonable, equal opportunity to submit a responsive written statement for consideration by the Appeal Officer.

The Appeal Officer will review the written appeal and any response and determine whether, in the judgment of the Appeal Officer, sufficient grounds exist for at least one basis of appeal. An appeal that does not meet at least one of the acceptable bases for appeal may be dismissed without further review.

Appeals will be decided by the Appeal Officer in a timely manner as circumstances warrant. While an appeal is under review, the appeal officer will update the Respondent(s) and Complainant(s) as necessary about the anticipated timeline.

The Appeal Officer has the authority to modify the decision as they deem appropriate for resolution of the matter being appealed, which could entail (i) sending the matter back to an Investigator, the Hearing Officer, or a new Hearing Officer, as necessary to remedy the error or (ii) a decrease or change to the nature of the sanction(s). The Appeal Officer may also remand the matter for a new live hearing under Section VI.C of this Policy.

The Appeal Officer will issue a written decision describing the result of the appeal and the rationale for the result. The Appeal Office will provide the written decision simultaneously to both the Complainant and Respondent. The Title IX Coordinator will also receive a copy of the decision.

E. Adjudication Procedures for Other Prohibited Conduct

The specific procedures for adjudicating allegations of Prohibited Conduct that, if true, would not constitute Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct (i.e. Other Prohibited Conduct) are based upon the nature of the Respondent's relationship to the university.

  • Where the Respondent is a Student — the matter will be handled in accordance with the university’s Student Community Standards Process, which is set forth in the Community Standards section of The Word. Appeals will also be handled in accordance with the Student Community Standards Process.
  • Where the Respondent is a Staff member— the Title IX Coordinator will send the Investigative Report to the Assistant Vice President, People and Organization Effectiveness, in Human Resources and the matter will be handled in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Staff Handbook, Volume VI, Section 5.
  • Where the Respondent is a Faculty member — the Title IX Coordinator will send the Investigative Report to the Provost who will appoint a Hearing Officer to adjudicate the matter. The Hearing Officer will conduct a live hearing using the Procedures for Other Prohibited Conduct [pdf]. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Hearing Officer will prepare a written report regarding findings of fact and a determination of responsibility with respect to each allegation. The determination of responsibility will be made using the preponderance of evidence standard.

    The written report of the Hearing Officer will be provided to the Provost. If the report of the Hearing Officer includes a determination that the Respondent is responsible for any of the allegations, the Provost will make a recommendation to the President regarding applicable sanctions and remedies. The report of the Hearing Officer and, if applicable, the recommendation of the Provost regarding sanctions will be provided to the Complainant, the Respondent, and the Title IX Coordinator.

    The Complainant and Respondent may appeal the decision of the Hearing Officer and/or the sanctions recommended by the Provost to the President. An appeal must be submitted in writing to the Office of the President within seven (7) calendar days of the notification of the decision of the Hearing Officer to the Complainant and Respondent. The basis for an appeal will be limited to one or more of the following:
    • Procedural irregularity that affected the outcome of the matter;
    • 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;
    • The Title IX Coordinator, Investigator(s), or Hearing Officer, or Provost 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; and
    • The sanctions recommended by the Provost are disproportionate to the finding of responsibility.

      Appeals will be adjudicated by the President or the President’s designee. The President or the President’s designee will issue a written decision describing the result of the appeal and the rationale for the result. The appeal decision will be provided to the Complainant, the Respondent, and the Title IX Coordinator.

      Where the Provost recommends sanctions against a Faculty member, the President will take no action on the recommended sanctions until either (i) the completion of any appeal filed by any party (ii) the deadline to file an appeal passes without any appeal being filed. If an appeal is filed, the President or the President’s designee will render a decision on the appeal and will issue a written decision describing the result of the appeal and the rationale for the result. The appeal decision will be provided to the Complainant, the Respondent, and the Title IX Coordinator.

      If any sanctions remain after the completion of the appeal or where no appeal is filed by the appeal deadline, the President will thereafter render a decision based on both the recommendation of the Provost as well as the underlying findings of fact and determination(s) of responsibility. If the President decides to initiate the procedure for dismissal for cause or for the imposition of another sanction against a Faculty Respondent, the matter will then follow the process set forth in the subsection "Procedure" of the section of the Appointment and Tenure Policy of Carnegie Mellon University titled, "Dismissal for Cause and Other Sanctions", but will be subject to the "Exceptions" provision of that subsection such that no Ad-Hoc Committee will be required.
  • Where the Respondent has dual-status (e.g. more than one status as Faculty, Staff or Student) — the university has discretion to determine which process to use under Section VI.E depending on the circumstances of the case.
  • Where the Respondent is a third party — The university’s ability to take appropriate corrective action against a third party will be determined by the nature of the third party’s relationship to the university. The Title IX Coordinator will determine the appropriate manner of resolution in accordance with the university’s commitment to a prompt and equitable process and consistent with state and federal law, regulations, guidance, and this Policy.

F. Possible Outcomes & Sanctions from Adjudication

Possible outcomes from a violation of this Policy range from educational outcomes to separation from the university. A detailed list of the possible remedies and sanctions is available in Appendix A to this Policy.

G. Alternative Resolutions

This Policy describes two procedures for the formal resolution of Prohibited Misconduct – a procedure for the adjudication of Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct in Section VII.C and a procedure for Other Prohibited Conduct in Section VII.E. Separate from these formal resolution procedures, the university offers several forms of alternative resolution (“Alternative Resolution”) procedures that may be available on a voluntary basis to resolve a Formal Complaint under this Policy.

Individuals interested in an Alternative Resolution should contact the Office of Title IX Initiatives to discuss options. For information regarding the types of Alternate Resolution procedures that may be available please see the Office of Title IX Initiatives website.

Either party may request to pursue an Alternative Resolution at any time after the filing of the Formal Complaint and before a finding of responsibility under Section VI.C or Section VI.E. The Title IX Coordinator has discretion to determine whether the parties will be permitted to pursue an Alternative Resolution. Alternative Resolutions are not available in cases involving a Student Complainant and a Faculty or Staff Respondent. In general, mediation and other Alternative Resolution procedures that are similar to mediation will not be used to resolve matters involving an allegation of sexual violence (i.e. Sexual Assault, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence or any other form of Prohibited Conduct that involves the use of violence).

After receiving a request to pursue an Alternative Resolution, the Title IX Coordinator will contact both parties to assess mutual interest in the Alternative Resolution. If both parties wish to purse Alternative Resolution, and the Title IX Coordinator agrees that Alternative Resolution is appropriate under the specific facts and circumstances of the case, the Title IX Coordinator will provide the Complainant and Respondent with a written notice providing (i) the allegations in the Formal Complaint; (ii) the specific Alternative Resolution method desired by the parties; (iii) details of the procedures for the Alternative Resolution; (iv) a summary of the possible consequences and outcomes of the Alternative Resolution, and (v) information regarding the confidentiality and/or accessibility of the records of the Alternative Resolution. After receiving this notice, both the Complainant and Respondent must provide written consent to the Title IX Coordinator in order to proceed with the Alternative Resolution.

During any Alternative Resolution process, either party has the right to withdraw from the process at any time prior to the conclusion of the process. If either party withdraws from the Alternative Resolution process or if the parties are unable to successfully resolve the matter at the conclusion of the Alternative Resolution process, the matter will proceed to investigation under Section VI.B or to adjudication under Section VI.C or Section VI.E, as appropriate.

H. Student Emergency Removal

Where there is an immediate threat to the physical health or safety of any Students or other individuals arising from alleged Prohibited Conduct, the university may remove an individual from the University’s Program or Activity and issue any necessary related no-trespass and no-contact orders during the pendency of the investigation. The university will make the decision to remove an individual from the University’s Program or Activity based on an individualized assessment and risk analysis.

For Students, an emergency removal decision will be made in accordance with the Safety Intervention Protocol set forth in The Word. In the event the university removes any person on this basis, the university will provide an opportunity for the affected individual to challenge the removal promptly thereafter, as specified in the Safety Intervention Protocol.