47. Investigation and Resolution of Complaints Against Texas A&M Students for Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, Stalking and Related Retaliation (SSDDSR)
The decision as to which procedure to utilize for a grievance filed by a student shall be made solely by the university and shall be based on the fact pattern of each particular case. Each grievance shall be directed to a specific procedure and shall be accorded only one opportunity to be adjudicated unless the appeal body remands for further review.
Texas A&M University strives to maintain a work and educational environment free from discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking and related retaliation in accordance with applicable Federal and State laws. Individuals are encouraged to report all unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature and should not wait to report conduct of concern until it becomes severe, pervasive, or persistent harassment. University officials can take proactive steps to address conduct, perhaps prevent conduct from continuing or escalating, and/or to assist the recipient of the conduct.
This grievance procedure is intended to describe the process for investigating and resolving complaints pertaining to Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, Stalking and Related Retaliation (SSDDSR) filed against a Texas A&M student.
Personnel are available to serve as a resource to any individual who has a SSDDSR inquiry or complaint. These resource persons have information about applicable laws, university rules and procedures, reporting options to local law enforcement, confidentiality and privacy, resources e.g., counseling, health services, and options available for resolution of complaints. The table below identifies personnel to contact for information and consultation.
Individuals have the option of notifying law enforcement authorities including university police and local police. Law enforcement is able to assist individuals understand the process of obtaining protective orders, bond conditions and any other safety precautions to take. A report can be filed with the local police department in the jurisdiction of where the crime occurred. For certain offenses, including sexual assault, individuals have the right to participate in the pseudonym program to have their identifying information confidential from all public files and records concerning the offense. A criminal investigation may occur independent from a conduct proceeding on campus.
47.3 Confidential Reporting Options
Students have the option to report confidentially. For purposes of reporting and maintaining public safety, university officials listed as confidential reporting options may share information about an incident in a way that does not identify the student(s) concerned.
Students enrolled on a Brazos County campus may report confidentially through the Student Counseling Service or Student Health Services.
Referrals to confidential resources can be made for a student enrolled at other locations as follows:
Referrals at TAMU Law School can be made through the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Referrals at campuses outside of Brazos County (TAMU Baylor College of Dentistry, College of Medicine, College of Pharmacy, College of Nursing, and School of Public Health) can be made through the Associate Dean for Student Affairs in each respective college/school
Referrals at Mays Business School at City Centre - Houston can be made by contacting the Facilities Coordinator.
Referrals at Galveston - can be made by contacting the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs
Referrals at the Qatar campus - can be made by contacting the Director of Student Affairs
An anonymous “Jane/John Doe” report can be filed with the police while deciding whether to pursue criminal charges.
As defined in System Regulation 08.01.01, “Confidential” is a form of privileged communication which need not be disclosed in court as part of evidence, answered by a witness either in depositions or trial, or provided to the parties to a lawsuit or their attorneys. This is based on the inherent private relationship between the person communicating and the confidante’s occupation or relationship to that person.
47.4 Procedures for Filing a Complaint
SSDDSR complaint procedures are initiated by filing a complaint with an Official Contact of the university. Students have the option to file a criminal complaint with law enforcement and a complaint with the university simultaneously.
As outlined in System Regulation 08.01.01, all employees are responsible for ensuring their work and educational environments are free from illegal discrimination, sexual harassment and/or related retaliation. When alleged or suspected discrimination, sexual harassment and/or retaliation is experienced or observed by or made known to an employee, the employee is responsible for promptly reporting that information Students should also promptly report an incident.
Reports are filed with the Official Contacts below:
If the Alleged Offender is a student (graduate, undergraduate, or professional) on a:
While the university wishes to create an environment in which individuals feel free to discuss concerns and make complaints, the university may be obligated to take action when its officials are informed that SSDDSR may be occurring.
Information shared with university personnel and officials who are not listed as confidential reporting options is considered private but not confidential. Although the confidentiality of information received, the privacy of the individuals involved, and the wishes of reporting party, complainant, and/or alleged offender cannot be guaranteed, they will be protected to as great a degree as is legally possible.
The University is committed to protecting the privacy of reporting parties, complainants, and alleged offenders. Given the sensitive nature of reports, information will be maintained in a secure manner and will only be disclosed to school officials who are responsible for handling the university’s response and/or have a legitimate educational interest. The expressed wishes of the reporting party, complainant, and/or alleged offender regarding privacy will be considered in the context of the university’s obligation to act upon the charge and the right of the charged party to be informed about charges against him/her.
188.8.131.52 The Official Contact or designee is responsible for evaluating requests for privacy. If the individual does not disclose any identifying information about him/herself or any other party involved (e.g., names, department or unit) during the inquiry, response on the part of the University may be limited.
47.5 Investigations of Complaints
47.5.1 Once an individual discloses information to an Official Contact of the university, he/she will promptly notify the University’s Title IX Coordinator.
47.5.2 The University will respond to complaints in a prompt and equitable manner. Reasonable extensions can be made for extenuating circumstances. These extensions are granted by the Title IX Coordinator or designee.
47.5.3 Upon receipt of a complaint, the University will exercise due diligence in determining what occurred and further action that may be warranted based on the information provided. The Official Contact or designee, will make an immediate assessment of any risk of harm to individuals or to the campus community and will take steps necessary to address those risks. The Official Contact may consult with the University/local police department, the Title IX Coordinator or designee, and/or other campus officials to assist in this assessment. These steps may include interim protective measures to provide for the safety of the individual and the campus community.
Thereafter, the assessment may continue considering a variety of factors, such as the complainant’s wish to pursue formal (47.6) or informal (47.7) procedures, the risk posed to any individual or the campus community by not proceeding, and the nature of the allegation.
47.5.4 The complaint will be reviewed to determine if there is sufficient information to proceed with an investigation or if additional information is needed. If the information is insufficient, the Official Contact or designee may, in consultation with the Office of General Counsel, conduct an inquiry into the circumstances of the complaint. If the information is sufficient, the Official Contact or designee will appoint an Investigating Authority.
47.5.5 The Investigating Authority, composed of one or more people, is responsible for all administrative activities required to conduct the investigation. The investigation is the follow through on a complaint to ascertain details and circumstances associated with the complaint. Investigations may result in charges, a form of alternative dispute resolution, or dismissal of complaint. This determination is made at the sole discretion of the Official Contact and/or designee. (See Student Rule 24.1.11)
47.6 Formal Resolution Procedures
47.6.1 If further investigation or a conduct conference is warranted, the alleged offender will be informed of the allegations, the identity of the complainant and the information surrounding the allegations.
47.6.2 Student Conduct Proceedings. Refer to Student Rule 26 for information about the student conduct process. A preponderance of the information standard is used in all student conduct proceedings. Conduct proceedings will be conducted by university faculty/staff who are trained annually.
47.6.3 The Official Contact or designee shall notify, in writing, the alleged offender and the complainant regarding the resolution of the complaint, including any sanctions.
47.6.4 Sanctions. Refer to Student Rule 27 for information about possible sanctions.
184.108.40.206 An appeal may be filed by the complainant and/or the student who has been assessed any conduct sanction(s) in cases of alleged or determined SSDDSR.
220.127.116.11 Students appealing sanctions shall be directed to the University Disciplinary Appeals Panel. Refer to Student Rules 51 and 58 for information about the Student Conduct Separation and Appeals Process.
47.7 Informal Resolution Procedures
47.7.1 Informal procedures, including mediation, will not be used to resolve sexual assault complaints.
47.7.2 Adopting informal procedures for resolving complaints does not mean that the institution does not take sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking and related retaliation seriously. Informal procedures simply provide an alternative method for stopping these behaviors. Generally, under informal procedures, the complainant may, at any time, elect to file a formal complaint. Staff is available to assist individuals with the informal complaint process.
Mediation may be utilized as a method for resolving the complaint informally. Mediation requires the good faith effort of all involved parties to arrive at a mutual agreement that resolves the complaint to everyone’s satisfaction. Examples of outcomes resulting from informal procedures include, but are not limited to, no contact orders, a commitment to refrain from similar behaviors in the future, etc.
47.8 Protection of Complainant, Alleged Offender, and Others
47.8.1 Interim Measures. The university will take prompt steps to protect the complainant, the alleged offender, and other affected individuals as necessary, including taking interim protections or remedies before the completion of the investigation (such as avoiding contact by allowing a change in class schedule, on-campus living arrangements as appropriate, etc.), or other actions as appropriate.
47.8.2 Retaliation. The university will take reasonable action to assure that the complainant, the alleged offender, and those providing witness statements on behalf of either party or supporting either party in other ways, are protected from retaliation. This action may come at any time during or following an investigation of a SSDDSR complaint. Instances of retaliation will be investigated and may result in further conduct charges.
47.8.3 In the event the allegations are not substantiated, reasonable steps will be taken to restore the reputation of the alleged offender if damaged by the proceedings. Instances where a complainant intentionally makes dishonest or malicious allegations will be investigated and may result in conduct charges.
47.8.4 To the extent possible, university proceedings will be conducted in a manner that protects the privacy of all parties involved.
Counseling, health, mental health, advocacy, legal and other services are available to TAMU students both on-campus and in the community. Staff can assist with referring students to appropriate resources (see Section 47.1).
47.10 Complainant Follow Up
In order to verify that the harassing behavior by a student or student employee has ceased, the Official Contact or designee will follow up with the complainant.
Sexual Harassment A form of sex discrimination. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes actionable sexual harassment when this conduct is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work or educational performance, or creates an intimidating or hostile work or educational environment. Unwelcome means that an individual did not request or invite it and considers the conduct to be undesirable or offensive. Submission to the conduct or failure to complain does not always mean that the conduct was welcome. Sexual harassment may be quid pro quo (“this for that”) or may constitute a hostile environment. Sexual harassment includes non-consensual sexual contact, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, stalking, dating violence, and domestic violence when based on sex. The University will use a reasonable person standard to determine these elements.
Sexual harassment occurs when a person is the recipient of conduct of a sexual nature where:
Submission to or toleration of such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s education (including co-curricular activities) or employment;
Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for academic, co-curricular, or employment decisions affecting the individual’s welfare; or
Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s welfare, academic or work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, offensive or demeaning education (including co-curricular activities) or work environment. Sexual harassment also includes sexual misconduct (non-consensual sexual intercourse and non-consensual sexual contact) and sexual exploitation.
Sexual Abuse(See Student Rule 18.104.22.168) The oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by a sexual organ of another, use of another’s sexual organ for oral, anal, or vaginal penetration, or anal/vaginal penetration by any means against the victim’s will or without his/her consent (see “consent” in definitions). An individual who is mentally incapacitated, unconscious, or unaware that the sexual abuse is occurring is considered unable to give consent. The type of force employed may involve physical force, coercion, intentional impairment of an individual’s ability to appraise the situation through the administering of any substance, or threat of harm to the victim.
Sexual Contact(See Student Rule 22.214.171.124) Attempting or making sexual contact, including but not limited to inappropriate touching or fondling, without the person’s consent (see “consent” in definitions), or in circumstances where the person is physically, mentally or legally unable to give consent.
Sexual exploitation(See Student Rule 126.96.36.199) Taking non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another for one’s own advantage or benefit, or to the benefit or advantage of anyone other than the one being exploited. For example, sexual exploitation could include such actions as secretly videotaping sexual activity, voyeurism, sexually-based stalking, invasion of sexual privacy, and knowingly transmitting a sexually transmitted infection to another person.
Stalking(See Student Rule 188.8.131.52) Any repeated conduct directed specifically at another person that would cause a reasonable person similarly situated (or a member of that person’s family or household) to fear his/her safety. Such conduct includes, but is not limited to, following another person and acts that threaten or intimidate another person through fear of bodily injury or death of self or members of that person’s family or household or an offense being committed against that person’s property.
Dating violence(See Student Rule 24.1.7) Any physical abuse or sexual misconduct, other than a defensive measure to protect oneself, committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the complainant.
Domestic violence(See Student Rule 24.1.8) Any physical abuse or sexual misconduct, other than a defensive measure to protect oneself, committed by a person who is or has been a current or former spouse of the complainant, person with whom the complainant shares a child in common, person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the complainant as a spouse, a person similarly situated to a spouse of the complainant, or any other person against an adult or youth complainant who is a part of that person’s household.
Consent(See Student Rule 24.1.6) The term “consent,” solely for the purposes of the Sexual Misconduct policy (see rule 24.4.20), means clear, voluntary, and positive verbal or non-verbal communication that all participants have agreed to the sexual activity.
Consent must occur prior to or at the same time as the sexual activity.
Consent must remain clear, voluntary, and positive throughout the sexual activity.
Consent must be given for the current sexual contact. The existence of a prior relationship or prior sexual activity does not automatically ensure consent for current or future sexual contact. There must be consent for each specific type of sexual contact throughout the sexual activity. Consent must be given by each participant involved.
A person must be 17 years of age or older to be able to consent to sexual activity if the other participant(s) involved are more than three (3) years of age older than that person.
A person who is incapacitated clearly and visibly is not able to give consent to sexual activity.
47.12 Free Speech
Texas A&M University respects the right of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution and the principles of academic freedom. Constitutionally protected expression cannot be considered harassment under this policy. Each faculty member is entitled to full freedom in the classroom in discussing the subject which he or she teaches (see Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure in the Report on Freedom in the Classroom as stated in the AAUP Policy Documents and Reports). However, the right to free speech and principles of academic freedom are not absolute.
The offensive conduct underlying some incidents might be protected speech, but may still be in contradiction to Texas A&M University’s commitment to civility, diversity, academic freedom, equality of opportunity and the valuing of human dignity. In these instances, constitutional rights will continue to be protected, but University staff will also exercise their right to speak and engage in educational dialogue with those engaged in these types of behaviors.
47.13 Incidents not rising to the level of harassment
In some instances offensive conduct might not be severe, persistent or pervasive to rise to the level of reasonably interfering or limiting an individual’s participation in services, activities or privileges provided by Texas A&M University. Nevertheless, the offensive conduct could still be a violation of the Student Conduct Code or other published rules of the university. As stated in the Student Conduct Code, violations of the Student Conduct Code that are motivated by prejudice toward a person or group because of factors such as race, religion, ethnicity, disability, national origin, age, gender or sexual orientation may be assessed an enhanced sanction (see rule 24.5)