Letter to the editor | Perspectives on Title IX investigations

Title IX

Panther Archives

Guest column by DeAnn Yocum Gaffney, lead Title IX coordinator, and Misha Martinez, equal opportunity and diversity officer

Thank you for contacting Misha Martinez, Chapman’s equal opportunity and diversity officer, and me to allow us an opportunity to respond to the recent guest column published, “#MeToo: unmasking Chapman’s spurious Title IX facade.” The university takes all complaints very seriously, investigates them thoroughly from a position of neutrality and imposes disciplinary sanctions, when appropriate, in ways that are commensurate with the particular policy violation.

The university may not comment on any specific Title IX-related cases or investigations. However, it would be helpful to discuss the investigation and discipline process for student sexual misconduct cases in general.

As a part of an investigation, investigators interview the complainant, respondent and relevant witnesses. We assess the credibility of information provided and university policy and procedure (explained in the Student Conduct Code, Student Sexual Misconduct Policy and the Harassment, Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Policy) in making determinations about whether a policy violation has occurred.

In addition to the investigative process, the university conducts a separate hearing, during which the complainant and respondent receive redacted copies of reports, interview notes, texts and anything else the university relies on during the investigation. They each have a chance to share their perspectives about that information and provide any new details that they believe should be considered. Following these processes, the complainant and respondent have the opportunity to appeal. When the matter has been finalized after all of this, an outcome is reached as to whether university policy was violated and, when appropriate, sanctions are imposed. This is communicated to both the complainant and respondent.

Often, one or even both parties disagrees with the outcome. As a result, that party may conclude that they were treated unfairly or that the process failed them. The university welcomes any feedback on the process and is always open to making improvements.

Complainants and respondents most certainly have the right to voice their opinion and concerns and they may look for other platforms to share their account, perspectives and criticism  – such as posting on social media or writing a guest column for The Panther. We support efforts and spaces for them to do so.

However, we believe that when only one person’s perspective is publicly available, then the full, objective picture of the matter is not known. We would caution readers not to reach summary conclusions about an investigation or the overall process based on one person’s perspective.

Thank you for this opportunity to shed light on the process that the university uses for Title IX investigations, as well as a chance to reinforce the seriousness with which each investigation is addressed and handled.

Take care,

DeAnn and Misha

P.S. While we dislike the self-congratulatory tone of this Chronicle of Higher Education article, it does delineate very well the complexity and challenges of investigating and responding to Title IX-related matters in college communities.