Carnegie Mellon University

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 for Institutional Equity and Title IX. Filing a Formal Complaint will initiate an investigation. The university will not commence a formal investigation or its resolution process without the Complainant filing a Formal Complaint.

A 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 [PDF]. 

What Does a Formal Investigation Look Like?

What are my options for resolution?

  • No Resolution: You can simply share a concern and access support and resources. The University will not take any further action.
  •  Formal Resolution at the University: If you choose, you may file a Formal Complaint to initiate an investigation of the concerns and there will be a formal process to determine whether any University policies have been violated, and if so, what the appropriate outcomes would be. This is the only way that punitive or disciplinary outcomes can be imposed against a University community member.
  • Informal/Alternative Resolution at the University: This can be a resolution that is agreed upon by the parties and does not include the formal resolution process.   Examples may include: providing an educational intervention or experience for the responding party; implementing a No Contact Agreement and agreeing upon measures to reduce possible interactions; and/or programming or training for a group (department, student organization, residence hall, et cetera).
  • External Options: In addition to (or instead of) University resolution, individuals may also seek resolution in the world outside of Carnegie Mellon. Examples include:
    • Criminal Justice System: Some conduct that violates University policy may also violate the criminal law. You may file a police report and go through the criminal justice process. 
    • Civil Courts: You may always seek relief by filing a complaint in a civil court. In some circumstances, you may be able to seek a Protection from Abuse or Restraining Order.
    • National Science Foundation's Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI): The office is charged with enforcing Title IX among NSF grantees. To file a complaint, or for more information on Title IX, contact (703) 292-8020,  e-mail or complete and submit this form 
    • Office for Civil Rights at U.S. Department of Education (“OCR”): If you believe that the school has violated your Title IX rights, you may file a complaint with the OCR.
    • Other University’s Title IX Processes: if the responding party is a student or employee at another school, we can work with you to report your concerns to the Title IX Coordinator at another school.

What happens in a formal investigation?

First, a trained investigator will sit down with the complainant and try to get a full picture of the concerns.  The investigator’s purpose is to create an objective report of the alleged misconduct.  Although there are often not witnesses or evidence available, the investigator will ask whether anyone may have additional information (witnesses) or if there may be additional types of evidence (for example, phone logs, messages, video recordings, et cetera).  The complainant may have a support person or advisor of their choosing at all meetings and contacts with the Title IX Office. 

Then, the Office for Institutional Equity and Title IX will notify the respondent about the reported concerns, and will provide an opportunity for the respondent to sit down with the investigator and respond to the concerns and share their perspective.  The respondent can also identify if there are any individuals with additional information.  The respondent may have a support person or advisor of their choosing at all meetings and contacts with the Institutional Equity and Title IX Office.  Additionally, the respondent is not required to respond to the concerns if they do not wish to do so; however, the investigation and resolution will continue based upon the other evidence the investigator collects, including what has been shared by the complainant.

The investigator will reach out to appropriate witnesses and will attempt to interview them.  The investigator will also collect and review all available evidence and information.  The investigator may have follow up questions for any of the parties or witnesses. 

The investigator will then draft a report summarizing the investigative process and the relevant information that has been collected.  Each party will have ten (10) business days to review the report and provide any supplements or corrections.  The investigator will review any additional information or documentation provided by the parties, and will update the report accordingly.

The investigator does not decide whether there has been a policy violation.  Instead, the investigator turns over the report to a decision-maker to determine whether any University policy has been violated.   If the decision-maker determines that the policy has been violated, appropriate outcomes and remedies will be imposed.

Each party has the right to appeal the finding (responsible or not responsible) based upon specific grounds within seven (7) calendar days of the official notification of the determination.

How do the new regulations impact the University’s efforts to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct?

The biggest change is that we have created an Interim Sexual Misconduct Policy, which replaces our previous Policy Against Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault.  The new regulations will not have much of an impact on our day-to-day work of educating and supporting community members.  The new regulations primarily impact how complaints are resolved and how our work is documented.  Please note: we will continue to support community members who have been impacted by sexual misconduct, no matter when or where it occurred, or by whom it was committed.

The new regulations narrow the scope of cases involving sexual harassment and sexual misconduct that rise to the level of violating Title IX.  In our new policy, we call these areas “Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct.”  There are special procedures and heightened requirements in place for how Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct cases must be handled. 

However, schools are still permitted to prohibit and respond to other kinds of sexual misconduct that do not meet the new narrower definitions and jurisdiction requirements of Title IX.  We chose to utilize this option and continue to prohibit all forms of sexual misconduct that impact community members or are otherwise tied to the University.  Thus, the Policy has two different procedures: one for sexual misconduct, and the other for Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct.  We believe this will be the least confusing and most accessible path for community members to report and address their concerns.

Does the University still prohibit sexual misconduct that occurs off-campus?


What is the difference between sexual misconduct and Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct?

The University’s Interim Sexual Misconduct Policy identifies six (6) types of sexual misconduct as listed in the chart below. The University’s Interim Sexual Misconduct Policy applies (i.e. the University has jurisdiction over the conduct) when the conduct is reasonably connected to the University, for example, if the conduct occurs:

  • In a University Program or Activity, including but not limited to:
    • On campus or in property owned or controlled by the University;
    • In the context of University employment; &/or
    • In the context of University-sponsored
      • Study abroad,
      • Field work,
      • Practica, &/or
      • Internship programs, or
    • Outside of a University Program or Activity
      • Poses a serious threat of harm,
      • Has continuing negative effects, or
      • Creates a hostile environment for students, faculty or staff.

Cases that meet any of the definitions and jurisdictional requirements can be investigated and handled through University procedures for determining whether the policy has been violated.

What is the difference between sexual misconduct and Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct?

There is a subset of sexual misconduct, called Federal Rule Misconduct.  The subset includes more limited categories of behavior and very strict jurisdictional requirements.  There are specific procedural requirements for handling a Federal Rule Misconduct complaint, including:

  • each party must have an advisor of their choosing (or an advisor appointed by the University);
  • each party will have the opportunity to cross-examine (ask questions of) the other party, through their advisor; and
  • statements and/or relevant materials cannot be considered when the person submitting the information does not agree to be cross-examined at the hearing, even if the information was previously provided as part of the investigation.

What standard of evidence does the University use in formal resolutions?

The University uses the preponderance of the evidence standard, which means “more likely than not.”  This is the most commonly used standard of evidence in the US, and applies in most civil court cases and most agency matters.  You may have heard of the standard called “beyond a reasonable doubt” which is only used in criminal court cases in the US.  A third standard is “clear and convincing evidence” which is used in court in very limited cases in the US, including some types of fraud and child custody matters.  A helpful visual of the standards of evidence, demonstrated on scales, is included below:

 scales of justice

Images Source:

What is the difference between an NCA, NCO, PFA and restraining order?

 A No Contact Agreement (“NCA”) is a document that reflects that two people have mutually and voluntarily agreed not to contact one another, directly or indirectly.

  • An NCA is not a punishment or a finding of responsibility for violating a University policy.
  • Violating an NCA can result in disciplinary action being taken by the University.
  • An NCA does not restrict individuals from being in the same place, organization, class or otherwise restrict their physical distance.

 A No Contact Order (“NCO”) is a University directive issued by a University Official that prohibits one person from contacting another.  It can only be issued for good cause where:

  • An NCA is reasonably necessary to prevent further unwanted contact, and one of the parties is not willing to agree to an NCA;
  • One or both parties have violated an existing NCA; or
  • As a disciplinary outcome where one of the parties has been found responsible for violating University Policy.
  • An NCO can be – but is not necessarily – imposed as a punitive measure after a finding of responsibility for violation of University policy.
  • Violating an NCO can result in disciplinary action being taken by the University.
  • An NCO can be accompanied by directives restricting an individual’s access to University property or events. 

A Restraining Order is an order from a Court of Law designed to protect one person from another.  While some States have restraining orders, Pennsylvania has Protection from Abuse Orders (PFAs).  A PFA is only available when:

  • another person (must be a family member or past or current intimate partner)
  • has caused or threatened physical or sexual violence against you, and/or stalked you, and
  • you are in reasonable fear of further harm if the order is not granted.

 A PFA may provide several different types of relief, including but not limited to:

  • prohibiting the other party from contacting you;
  • prohibiting the other party from coming within a certain distance from you;
  • prohibiting the other party from coming to certain places, such as your place of work;
  • prohibiting the other party from engaging in any further abusive contact;
  • evicting the other party from the home; and/or
  • requiring the other party to turn over weapons to law enforcement.

 There are also Protection from Sexual Violence and Protection from Intimidation Orders available in limited circumstances.  You can learn more about PFAs and other Protection Orders available in Pennsylvania from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (

What are the possible outcomes if someone is found responsible for a policy violation?

There are three types of outcomes that can be imposed if a person is found responsible for a policy violation.   The outcomes are not mutually exclusive and in fact are often combined.  There may also be a referral for action under other policies.

1.     Educational/Intervention

  • Educational outcomes including conversation with staff and/or reflective paper or project
  • Mandatory training
  • Written apology
  • Written or verbal warning
  • Mental health and/or substance use assessment and recommended follow up
  • Community service 

2.     Restrictions

  • Restrictions/limitations on access to campus programs or activities
  • Restrictions/limitations on access to campus property
  • Removal/ban from university housing
  • Mandated removal from class or change to academic schedule
  • Relocation of office
  • Restriction or ban on attending Carnegie Mellon programs and events
  • Removal/ban from campus 

3.     Status

  • Probation
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion
  • Suspension from employment
  • Termination of employment
  • Suspension of a conferred degree
  • Revocation of a degree

Who can be my support person or advisor?

Your support person or advisor can be any person of your choosing (who is willing and able to serve in this role) including but not limited to: a friend; a parent or guardian; a partner or spouse; a student, faculty or staff member at the University; and a lawyer or a legal advocate.

Do I need to hire a lawyer if I am involved in a Title IX process?

You do not need to hire a lawyer if you are involved in the Title IX process; however, you are welcome to do so if you choose.  You can have any person of your choosing serve as your support person or advisor including but not limited to: a friend; a parent or guardian; a partner or spouse; a student, faculty or staff member at the University; and a lawyer or a legal advocate.

In a case involving Federal Rule Sexual Misconduct, if you do not have an Advisor present at the hearing, the University will provide an advisor for you, at no cost to you, for the purpose of conducting cross examination.

If you wish to hire an attorney, we cannot make recommendations.  However, we would encourage you to contact the Allegheny County Bar Association Lawyer referral service at or 412-261-5555 or

Will Title IX call the police to file a criminal report?

In general, the Institutional Equity andTitle IX Office will not call the police (University, Pittsburgh or otherwise) without your express request or agreement.  However, Institutional Equity and Title IX staff are available to assist you in contacting the police, if you wish.

The Institutional Equity andTitle IX Office does provide de-identified statistics about crimes that are reported on or near campus for purposes of compiling data for the University’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, as required by the Clery Act.

In very limited circumstances, where a crime or crimes have occurred and pose an ongoing threat to University students and employees, the Title IX Office may be required to provide information to University Police so a “timely warning” can be issued, as required by the Clery Act.  In such instances, the Title IX Office will protect their privacy—to the extent possible—while also providing the community with information regarding potential risks.  The warning will not include identifying information about the impacted party.

If you are currently under age 18 and are reporting something that could be child abuse, the Title IX Office is required to make a report to the state child protective services agency under the Child Protective Services Law.

sexual misconduct table federal rule table