Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures

I.  Overview
Mississippi University for Women seeks to foster an atmosphere of respect for all members of the University community.  To this end, the University is committed to maintaining a working and learning environment free of sexual misconduct.  Sexual misconduct encompasses any non-consensual behavior of a sexual nature that is committed by force or intimidation, incapacitation, or that is otherwise unwelcome.  The term sexual misconduct includes, but is not limited to, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual intimidation, and sexual harassment. 

The University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy describes the prohibited conduct and sets forth the resources available to students and employees.  Offenders are subject to appropriate University disciplinary action up to and including termination or expulsion. 

II.  Application of Policy
This policy applies to all students, employees, and to others, as appropriate, with respect to activities occurring on any University property and University-related activities occurring off-campus, including University programs outside the United States.  This policy also applies to the activities of recognized student organizations, including, but not limited to, fraternities, sororities, social clubs and organizations.  It also applies to persons conducting business with or visiting the University, even though such persons are not directly affiliated with the University.  Likewise, reports of sexual misconduct, sexual assault and/or sexual harassment committed by a University student or employee at a location other than University property may be covered under this policy. 

On-Campus Violations:  The campus includes the geographic confines of the University, including its land, institutional roads and buildings, its leased premises, common areas at leased premises, the property, facilities and leased premises of organizations affiliated with the University, such as university housing.  University housing includes all types of university residence housing such as halls and apartments.

Off-Campus Violations:  Students and employees should be aware that off-campus violations that affect a clear and distinct interest of the University are subject to disciplinary sanctions.  As examples, sexual misconduct and harassment are within the University’s interests when the behavior:

  • Involves conduct directed at or by a University student or other member of the University community (e.g. private house party, outside employment);
  • Occurs during University-sponsored events (e.g. field trips, social or educational functions, University-related travel, student recruitment activities, internships and service learning experiences);
  • Occurs during the events of organizations affiliated with the University, including the events of student organizations;
  • Occurs during a Study Abroad program or other international travel; or
  • Poses a disruption or threat to the University community. 

III.  Title IX Coordinator
The Title IX Coordinator oversees the University’s compliance with Title IX including the review, investigation, and resolution of reports of discrimination, harassment, and sexual harassment including sexual misconduct.  Any student who wishes to file a claim related to Title IX or who has questions about the application of Title IX can contact:

Title IX Coordinator
Sirena Cantrell 
Cochran Hall, Rm. 405

Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Office:  (662) 241-6083
Fax:  (662) 241-7497

Office of Civil Rights
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
Health and Human Services
61 Forsyth Street, S.W.
Atlanta, GA 30303-8909
Phone:  (404) 562-7886
Fax: (404) 331-2867

IV.  Title IX Deputy Investigators
Title IX Deputy Investigators consist of administration, faculty and staff employees of the University who represent the four colleges and other segments of University life.  They shall receive specific, specialized training related to their responsibilities of investigating complaints or reports of sexual misconduct.  The Title IX Deputy Investigators may also advise students, who wish to make a complaint under this policy and those who have been accused, of their rights and resources when dealing with sexual misconduct.  For information related to the University’s Title IX Deputy Investigators.

V.  Definition of Consent
Consent between two or more people is defined as an affirmative agreement – through clear actions or words – to engage in sexual activity.  The person giving the consent must act freely, voluntarily, and with an understanding of his or her actions when giving consent. 

ANY FORM OF SEXUAL ACTIVITY REQUIRES CONSENT.

EFFECTIVE CONSENT IS:
Effective consent is the basis of this policy because effective consent maintains the value that all persons have the right to feel respected, acknowledged, and safe during sexual activity.  The use of force to obtain sexual access or to induce consent violates this policy whether the force is physical in nature, violent, or involves threats, intimidation or coercion.

Lack of protest or resistance does not constitute consent, nor does silence mean consent has been given.   Relying solely on non-verbal communication can lead to misunderstanding.  Persons who want to engage in sexual activity are responsible for obtaining consent – it should never be assumed.

A prior relationship or prior sexual activity is not sufficient to demonstrate consent.

EFFECTIVE CONSENT IS NOT:
Consent is not effective if it is obtained from force, threat of force, fraud or intimidation.  Additionally, it is not consent if the initiator has sex with someone he or she knows, or reasonably should know, to be incapacitated by alcohol, drugs, sleep or illness.  A person who is unconscious, unaware, or otherwise physically helpless cannot give consent to sexual activity.

Age of Consent:  According to Mississippi Code Annotated § 97-3-65, effective consent can never be given by persons under the age of 14.  An individual who is at least 17 years old cannot receive effective consent from anyone who is younger than him or her by more than 36 months. 

VI.  Definitions and Examples of Prohibited Conduct
Sexual misconduct is a broad term encompassing sexual behavior that is committed without effective consent and may vary in its severity.  It can occur between strangers or acquaintances, including people involved in an intimate or sexual relationship.  Sexual misconduct can occur between members of the same sex, and this policy applies regardless of the sexual orientation, gender status or sexual preference of the individuals engaging in sexual activity. 

Dating violence         
The use of physical, sexual or emotional abuse or threats to control another person who is, or has been involved in, a sexual, dating, or other intimate relationship with the victim.  Whether there was such a relationship will be gauged by its length, type, and frequency of the interaction. 

Domestic violence
The same as domestic violence committed by the victim’s current or former spouse, current or former husband, current or former cohabitant, person similarly situated under domestic or family violence law, or anyone else protected under domestic or family violence law. 

Non-consensual intentional sexual contact (or attempt to commit)
Any intentional sexual touching with any object, by any person upon another, without consent and/or by force.

Non-consensual sexual intercourse (or attempt to commit)
Any sexual intercourse, however slight, by any person upon another without consent and/or by force.

Sexual Assault
Any form of sexual contact without the consent of all parties involved.  Sexual contact is the intentional touching, whether with one’s own body part, or an instrument or object, of another person, no matter how slight, in or on, an area of the body generally recognized as being a private part of the body; or the intentional touching of another person, no matter how slight, with one’s own private body part anywhere on the other person’s body. The amount, or lack thereof, of clothing being worn by either person is of no consequence in determining whether a “sexual physical contact” has occurred, and the body part touched, or used to touch with, may be covered or clothed.

Types of sexual assault may include, but are not limited to:

  • rape or attempted rape
  • non-consensual, intentional contact with intimate body parts
  • non-consensual oral sex
  • lewd exposure of one's sexual organs, either in person, in print, or electronically, to another without his or her consent
  • any sexual contact between two individuals that, because of the age of the parties, is prohibited under State law.

Sexual exploitation
Behavior which occurs when an individual takes non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another for his/her own advantage or benefit or to benefit or advantage anyone other than the one being exploited, and that behavior does not otherwise constitute one of the other sexual misconduct offenses.  Examples include, but are not limited to:  non-consensual video or audio taping of sexual activity even if the sexual act is consensual; engaging in any form of voyeurism; any disrobing or exposing oneself to another without effective consent.

Sexual harassment
A form of sex discrimination prohibited by federal law under Title IX and Title VII.  It is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature and can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, such as sexual assault or acts of sexual violence.

Sexual harassment becomes unlawful when it creates a hostile environment where the harassing conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive so that it unreasonably interferes with, denies or limits an individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s work environment, educational programs and/or activities based on sex.  A single instance of sexual assault may be sufficiently severe to constitute a hostile environment.  Sexual harassment is also unlawful when there are:  a) unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature; and b) submission to or rejection of such conduct results in an adverse educational or employment action.  This is known as quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Sexual misconduct
Any non-consensual behavior of a sexual nature that is committed by force or intimidation, or that is otherwise unwelcome.  This descriptive term includes, but is not limited to, sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual exploitation and sexual intimidation.

Stalking
A course of conduct directed at a specific person, or the act of making a credible threat, that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his, her, or others’ safety, or to fear damage or destruction of his or her own property. 

VII.  Confidentiality
The University will work to safeguard the identities and privacy of those who seek help or who report sexual misconduct and is committed to creating an environment that encourages reporting.  It is important to understand, however, that there are limits on confidentiality.  Different people, depending on their positions, have different obligations with regard to confidentiality.

Communications with some individuals are confidential.  Individuals should always confirm whether confidentiality applies to the communication.  Generally, confidentiality applies when one seeks services from the following persons:

  • Local rape crisis center
  • Psychological counselor (including counselors at MUW’s Counseling Center)
  • Health care provider (including medical professionals at MUW Student Health Center)
  • Personal attorney
  • Religious/spiritual counselor

 

Generally, most University employees, other than those who work in the Health Center or Counseling Center, are not confidential resources and are considered “responsible employees.” Responsible employees have a duty to report incidents of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator.  Examples of a responsible employee are a faculty member, staff member, or a resident advisor.

Information shared with a responsible employee will be disclosed only to those individuals who have an essential need to know in order to carry out their University responsibilities.  As is the case with any educational institution, the University must balance the needs of the individual reporting an alleged offense with its obligation to protect the safety and well-being of the community at large.

Under the Clery Act, the University must issue timely warnings with respect to crimes that pose a serious or continuing threat of bodily harm or danger to members of the campus community.  The reporting party (individual filing a report of misconduct) or responding party's (individual accused of misconduct) name will never be disclosed and the University will make every effort to ensure that any other identifying information is not disclosed, while still providing enough information for community members to make safety decisions in light of the danger. 

VIII.  Informal Resolution of Sexual Misconduct or Sexual Harassment
Employees or students who believe they are victims of sexual harassment or misconduct have the option of proceeding informally or formally.  Informal resolution may be appropriate if the conduct is isolated or non-threatening.  Informal resolution is not an option for cases of sexual assault, including sexual or inappropriate touching of any kind. 

If one chooses to proceed informally, the employee or student should contact the Title IX Coordinator to report the sexual harassment or misconduct and specify they wish to proceed informally.  Resolution at the informal complaint process will be mediated by the Title IX Coordinator, or his/her designee, and may include an agreement in which one or more of the parties involved agree to accept discipline in the form of a warning, censure, probation, or other such disciplinary action as may be warranted by the circumstances of each case.

To the extent the parties are able to achieve a satisfactory resolution of the complaint through the informal resolution process, the complaint will be considered resolved.  The reporting party and responding party will receive written notification of the outcome and disposition of the complaint.  The fact that a complaint of sexual harassment or misconduct may be concluded at the request of the accusing party does not preclude the filing of a formal complaint by others, including appropriate University officials. 

In cases in which a mutually satisfactory informal resolution cannot be achieved, either the reporting party and responding party may request in writing to advance the complaint to the formal complaint process.  This request should be submitted in writing to the Title IX Coordinator within five (5) business days when either party is aware that a mutually satisfactory informal resolution cannot be achieved. 

IX.  Reporting Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Assault or Sexual Harassment

  1.  Formal Complaint Process
    Every University employee, except those who are maintain confidentiality through their employment at the Health Center or Counseling Center, is responsible for immediately reporting incidents of sexual misconduct which come to his/her attention to the Title IX Coordinator.  Students or third parties who witness, or are aware of suspected incidents of sexual misconduct are strongly encouraged to report the incident.

    All individual complaints of sexual misconduct should be reported immediately to the University’s Title IX Coordinator.  Complaints may be made directly in person to the Title IX Coordinator or in writing by completing the Sexual Misconduct Complaint Form.  Online reporting may be made anonymously.  Complaints may also be made or reported in person to the Faculty, Chairs, Deans, or any University employee who, then, shall report the incident to the Title IX Coordinator.
  2. Amnesty/Immunity for Alcohol or Drug Violations
    The University recognizes that individuals with information about sexual misconduct may hesitate to come forward out of fear that their own actions are violations of University’s policy related to the use of drugs and alcohol.  While the University does not condone violations of its policy, it considers reporting incidents of sexual misconduct to be of paramount importance. 

    The University will generally extend immunity for alcohol or substance abuse violations to victims and potential witnesses in order to facilitate reporting and resolution of sexual misconduct. 
  3. Immediate Actions by University

    The Title IX Coordinator and University Police Department working in coordination with necessary University Administrators may take immediate interim actions to protect the safety of the University community, http://www.muw.edu/to enable students or employees with complaints to continue studies or duties of employment, and to insure the integrity of the investigation.  These actions may include:
    • Interim suspension of an accused student or employee
    • No-contact notices
    • Modifying class or work schedules as necessary
    • Making alternate housing or workplace arrangements
    • Addressing other academic or workplace concerns (e.g. assignments, grades, leaves of absence, and withdrawal)
    • Involving law enforcement to assist in maintaining order or safety
    • Providing additional and/or targeted educational programming and training
    • Any other appropriate action warranted by the circumstances

    Violations of these protected actions will constitute related offenses which may lead to additional disciplinary action.

    Regardless of the final outcome of the investigation, the University may adopt or maintain any of the above-listed immediate action on a continuing basis.
  4.  Timeline for Process
    The University will make every effort to investigate a complaint or report promptly through the process so long as such speed does not interfere with the quality of the investigation.  Reports of sexual misconduct will be adjudicated within 60 calendar days of the date that the Title IX Coordinator is notified of the complaint, unless there are extenuating circumstances (i.e. uncooperative witness, break periods and periods when the University is closed). 

    The Title IX Coordinator will comply with law enforcement requests for cooperation and such cooperation may require the Title IX Coordinator to temporarily suspend the fact-finding aspect of the investigation while law enforcement is in the process of gathering evidence.  The University promptly will resume its investigation as soon as it is notified by the law enforcement agency that it has completed the evidence gathering process. 
  5. Preliminary Investigation
    Upon receiving a complaint or report of sexual misconduct, the Title IX Coordinator has the initial responsibility of determining whether there is sufficient evidence of a violation of the University’s sexual misconduct policy which would justify proceeding with a formal investigation.  The Title IX Coordinator shall make this initial preliminary investigation within ten (10) business days of receiving a complaint. 

    If the Title IX Coordinator finds (a) that the facts in the complaint or the report, even if taken as true, do not constitute a violation of the University’s sexual misconduct policy; or (b) the complaint fails to assert facts that suggest sexual misconduct; or (c) the appropriate resolution or remedy has already been achieved, the Coordinator shall close the investigation and notify the reporting party of the findings and that the matter is closed. 

    If the Title IX Coordinator finds sufficient evidence of a violation of the University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, a formal investigation will be initiated. 
  6.  Formal investigation
    The Title IX Coordinator shall notify the reporting party (individual filing report of misconduct) when the formal investigation commences and provide a tentative time frame for the completion of the investigation and the decision.  The Title IX Coordinator shall also prepare and send notice of the complaint to the responding party (individual accused of the misconduct), which will include the tentative time frame for the completion of the investigation and the decision.

    The reporting party and responding party may have one adviser of their own choosing present for support and consultation during the investigation at any time the respective party is meeting with the Title IX Coordinator or the Deputy Investigators. 

    During the investigation, the Title IX Coordinator shall by himself/herself and/or with the aid of one or more of the Title IX Deputy Investigators collect all evidence relating to the complaint or report of sexual misconduct from all available sources.  Interviews of the parties and any witnesses, if applicable, will be conducted.  Each person interviewed will be asked to write his or her statement or sign a summary drafted by the investigator based upon the information given during the interview.  Upon completion of the formal investigation, the Title IX Coordinator shall make a factual finding, based upon a preponderance of the evidence, as to whether or not a violation occurred and will prepare a written report in conformity with those findings.

    If there is a finding of no violation of the University Sexual Misconduct Policy, the process is concluded.  The Title IX Coordinator will give written notice of the findings and termination of the proceedings to the reporting party, responding party, and appropriate university administrators.

    If there is a finding of a violation of the University Sexual Misconduct Policy, the Title IX Coordinator will convene with the Sanctioning Official to determine the appropriate sanction(s) to be imposed.  The Sanctioning Official shall be the Chief Student Affairs Officer, if a student is the Respondent; the Chief Academic Officer, if a faculty member is the Respondent; or the Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration, if a staff member or anyone else is the Respondent.    

X.  Sanctions 
The following matrix shall guide the Title IX Coordinator and the Sanctioning Official in determining sanctions and provide notice to the University community of the possible sanctions for an individual who is found responsible under this policy.  This matrix only provides guidance and is not meant to be exclusive as to other sanctions that can be imposed. 

Additionally, prior disciplinary actions of a same or similar nature against an individual may be taken into consideration when imposing sanctions.  The sanctions of dismissal, suspension, and probation may apply to academic enrollment, participation in campus activities and organizations, and residence life. 

Prohibited Behavior/Conduct

Range of Sanctions

Sexual Misconduct Constituting of Sexual Assault

Dismissal/Termination

Sexual Misconduct Not Constituting Sexual Assault

Dismissal/Termination
Suspension
Probation

Unwanted Sexual Touching

Dismissal/Termination
Suspension
Probation
Community Service
Educational/Counseling Consultation

Non-physical Sexual Harassment

Dismissal/Termination
Suspension
Probation
Community Service
Educational/Counseling Consultation

Discrimination

Dismissal/Termination
Suspension
Probation
Community Service
Educational/Counseling Consultation

Retaliation
False Allegations

Dismissal/Termination
Suspension
Probation
Community Service
Educational/Counseling Consultation

 

XI.  Notification of the Outcome
Once the Title IX Coordinator and Sanctioning Official decide upon an appropriate sanction, the Title IX Coordinator shall notify the reporting party and responding party in writing of the outcome of the investigation by email to the parties’ University email account or by U.S. Mail.   The notification shall include a summary of the investigative findings, the sanction(s) to be imposed, if applicable, and each party’s right to appeal.  The form of notice shall be at the discretion of the Title IX Coordinator and shall be that which is determined to be the most expedient and reliable method of informing the parties. 

Any disclosure to persons other than the parties deemed necessary shall be in accordance with all applicable federal and state laws, including FERPA with regard to students. 

Any sanction imposed may be suspended pending appeal.

XII.  Appeals
A party aggrieved by a decision of the Title IX Coordinator or by the sanctions imposed may file a Petition for Appeal within five (5) business days of notification of the final outcome.

The appeal must be sent to the Title IX Coordinator in writing and state clearly what the grounds are that would justify consideration.  General dissatisfaction with the outcome of the proceeding is not a basis for appeal.  The written appeal must address one of the following criteria:

  • An error in procedure, which prejudiced the process to the extent the participant was denied a fundamentally fair investigation as a result of the error.  Only significant procedural errors that may have affected the decision or which relate to the sanction imposed will be considered.
  • New evidence that was previously unknown and became available during the appeal process that could substantially impact the original finding or sanction.  A summary of this new evidence and its potential impact must be included with the notice of appeal.
  • Sanctions imposed are not appropriate for the violation the individual(s) committed.
  • Clearly demonstrated investigator bias. 

 

An appeal which does not clearly raise one of these four criteria will be dismissed without further consideration.

After receiving a Petition for Appeal, the Title IX Coordinator shall inform the other party of the appeal and give the non-appealing party an opportunity to respond within five (5) business days.  The Title IX Coordinator shall also inform the Sanctioning Official of the appeal.

After receipt of the Petition for Appeal and any response, the Title IX Coordinator shall notify the President of the University who shall act as the final Appeals Officer.

The Appeals Officer shall review the appeal and any response to determine if the appeal meets any of the limited grounds and is timely.  Appeals decisions are to be deferential to the original investigation, making changes to the findings only if there is clear error and to the sanction only if there is a compelling justification to do so.  The original finding and sanction will stand if the appeal is not timely or does not meet one of the stated grounds.  The Appeals Officer will render a written decision on appeal to all parties within seven (7) business days from receipt of the appeal.  The Appeal Officer’s decision to deny appeal requests is final.

If the Appeals Officer determines that new evidence should be considered, he/she will return the complaint to the Title IX Coordinator and/or Title IX Deputies who conducted the original investigation to reconsider in light of the new evidence only, and the parties will be notified in writing accordingly.  The Title IX Coordinator and/or Title IX Deputies shall conduct any supplemental investigation in accordance with the procedures set out above with proper notice and opportunity to be heard conveyed to the parties. 

If the Appeals Officer determines that a material procedural error occurred, he/she may return the complaint to the Title IX Coordinator and/or Title IX Deputies who conducted the original investigation with instructions to cure the error.  In rare cases, where the procedural error cannot be cured by the original investigators (as in a case of bias), the Appeals Officer may order a new hearing on the complaint with new investigators.  The results of a new investigation may be appealed. 

If the Appeals Officer determines that the sanctions imposed are beyond the articulated sanctioning matrix, the Appeals Officer will return the complaint to the original Sanctioning Official, who may then increase, decrease or otherwise modify the sanctions.  This decision will be final.  The Sanctioning Official will provide notification to all parties and any appropriate University officials. 

XIII.  False Allegations
The University prohibits an individual from knowingly filing a false complaint or making misrepresentations of sexual misconduct.  A complaint made in good faith is not considered false merely because the evidence does not ultimately support the allegation of sexual misconduct.  If an investigation results in a finding that a person who has accused another of sexual misconduct has acted maliciously or has recklessly made false accusations, the reporting party will be subject to appropriate sanctions.

XIV.  Protection Against Retaliation
The University prohibits retaliation against an individual for making a complaint of sexual misconduct, for resisting such behavior, or for otherwise using or participating in the complaint resolution process.  Prohibited behavior includes any form of intimidation, threats, or harassment by the individual accused of misconduct or friends, family or other person acting in support or on behalf of that individual.  Acts of retaliation are, by themselves, cause for disciplinary action.  Concerns of retaliation should be communicated immediately to the Title IX Coordinator. 

XV.  Resources, Services and Educational Programs
Individuals who have been victims of either sexual assault or sexual violence are encouraged to immediately contact the University Police Department at 601-241-7777 or by dialing 911 and seeking immediate medical attention.  Keep in mind that medical examinations are time-sensitive and are critical in preserving evidence of sexual assault. 

Campus and community services are available, even if University or criminal reports are not made.  The University strongly encourages anyone who feels he or she is, or has been, the victim of sexual misconduct to seek assistance to care for himself or herself emotionally and physically through confidential crisis intervention, healthcare, and counseling.   For a list of available services

The University is also committed to providing preventive, informative and supportive programming for all members of the University community throughout the year. Campus wide programs are designed to increase safety awareness, develop self-defense techniques, improve communication skills between men and women, help prevent acquaintance and stranger rape, build self-esteem, and provide information related to bystander intervention and steps to take in the event of a sexual assault.