Statement of Commitment
As an equal opportunity institution, Georgia Southern University is committed to nondiscriminatory practices consistent with federal and state requirements and objectives. Georgia Southern University affirms its commitment to keeping its programs, activities, and workplace free of discrimination and harassment and maintaining an environment that recognizes the inherent worth and dignity of every person. University policy prohibits any employee, student, or patron from harassing, threatening or physically or verbally abusing another individual with the effect of unreasonably interfering with that person’s work or academic performance or of creating an intimidating or hostile work or academic environment based on that person’s membership in a protected group.
Any member of the University Community who feels he or she has experienced discrimination or harassment is encouraged, but not required, to clearly explain to the alleged offender that the behavior is objectionable and request that it cease.
The University will follow the Board of Regents Sexual Misconduct Policy 6.7. All allegations of discrimination and/or harassment not covered by the Board of Regents Sexual Misconduct Policy that are based on the protected classes named in the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Policy will be handled pursuant to these procedures.
Honoring the Commitment
Any employee, student, or patron who believes he or she has experienced or witnessed discriminatory, harassing, or threatening behavior should report the incident(s) promptly by notifying his/her supervisor, the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX, or any member of the University’s administration, such as a vice president, dean, department chair, supervisor, or director. Students may also notify a faculty member. In the case of violence or the threat of violence, Public Safety (Statesboro: (912) 478.5234; Armstrong/Liberty: (912) 344.3333) or another appropriate local law enforcement agency should be notified immediately.
Complaints should be initiated within 180 calendar days of when the most recent alleged behavior/action occurred or when the complainant first obtained knowledge of the allegation.
Supervisors, administrative staff, and members of the faculty shall respond immediately to complaints of discrimination and harassment by notifying the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX when they receive or otherwise become aware of such complaints. Prompt reporting of complaints is vital to the University’s ability to resolve the matter.
The following is the contact information for the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX:
|Physical Address:||Rosenwald Building, Room 1066|
|Mailing Address:||P. O. Box 8035, Statesboro, GA 30460-8035|
|Telephone:||912-478-5136/ 912-478-0273 (TDD)|
|Online Reporting Form:||Report an Incident|
* These procedures are currently under review for revisions as necessary to comply with Board of Regents Human Resources Administrative Practice Manual procedures on Prohibiting Discrimination & Harassment. To the extent information here conflicts with Board of Regents policy and procedures, Board of Regents policies and procedures control. Please see the Human Resources Administrative Practice Manual for more information.
I. Rights & Responsibilities
A. Prohibition Against Retaliation
Anyone who, in good faith, reports what he or she believes to be discrimination or harassment, or who participates or cooperates in, or is otherwise associated with any investigation may not be subjected to retaliation. Anyone who believes she or he has been the target of retaliation for reporting discrimination or harassment, for participating or cooperating in, or otherwise being associated with, an investigation should immediately contact the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX. Any person found to have engaged in retaliation will be subject to disciplinary action under the university Non-Retaliation/Whistleblower Protection Policy and/or any other applicable policy prohibiting retaliation.
B. Prohibited Consensual Relationships
A University employee, including a graduate teaching assistant, is prohibited from pursuing or having a romantic or sexual relationship with any student or University System of Georgia (USG) employee who the individual supervises, teaches, or evaluates in any way. Additionally, a University employee is prohibited from pursuing or having a romantic or sexual relationship with any student or USG employee whose terms or conditions of education or employment the individual could directly affect.
Individuals who violate the consensual relationship prohibition are subject to disciplinary action under the university Amorous Relationships Policy, up to and including termination.
The University strongly supports an individual’s interest in confidentiality, particularly in instances involving sexual misconduct. When a complainant or alleged victim requests that his or her identity be withheld or the allegation(s) not be investigated, the University will consider, through the Director of Equal Opportunity/Title IX Coordinator (hereinafter Director), whether this request can be honored while still providing a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for the University. Honoring the request may limit the University’s ability to respond fully to the incident and may limit the University’s ability to discipline the respondent. The complainant or alleged victim will be informed of any decision to act contrary to the request for confidentiality or no investigation before any disclosures are made and before an investigation begins.
Any administrator, supervisor, faculty member, responsible employee or other person in a position of authority who is not considered a confidential resource who knows of, or receives a complaint of, potential discrimination or harassment or potential violation of the Amorous Relationships Policy must fully report the information or complaint to the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX promptly. Confidential resources available on campus are the Counseling Center and Health Services. Student employees who serve in a supervisory, advisory, or managerial role are Responsible Employees and in positions of authority for purposes of these procedures (e.g., teaching assistants, residential assistants, student managers, orientation leaders, etc.) and must also promptly report discrimination or harassment to the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX.
The University encourages any person who feels he or she has been discriminated against or harassed to promptly report the incident to the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX. Any member of the university community who observes discrimination or harassment of another person on campus, in connection with a university program or activity, or in a manner that creates a hostile environment for members of the university community should report the conduct to the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX. No member of the university community should assume that an official of the University already knows about a particular discriminatory or harassing situation.
Complaints and reports of discrimination and harassment should be reported as soon as possible after the incident(s) in order to be most effectively investigated. Complaints may be made in person, in writing by email or using the complaint form (preferred method), or by telephone.
Where the discrimination or harassment alleged is potentially of a criminal nature, university community members are encouraged to also contact the University Police Department (for conduct that occurred on campus) or local law enforcement in the relevant jurisdiction (for conduct that occurred off campus). Except as required by the Clery Act for purposes of crime statistics reporting, police will not be notified of a sexual assault without the complainant/victim’s consent unless there is an imminent threat of harm or the incident involves someone under the age of 16. University community members have the right to simultaneously make a complaint to the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX and to law enforcement.
E. False Accusations
Any person found to have intentionally submitted false complaints, accusations, or statements in violation of University or Board of Regents policy may be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including suspension, expulsion, or termination.
With that stated, a finding that there was insufficient evidence to support that a violation occurred does not constitute proof of a false and/or malicious accusation.
G. Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression
The University is committed to protecting, maintaining and encouraging both freedom of expression and full academic freedom of inquiry, teaching, service, and research. Academic freedom and freedom of expression shall be strongly considered in investigating complaints and reports of discrimination or harassment, but academic freedom and freedom of expression will not excuse behavior that constitutes a violation of the law or policy.
H. Right to be Accompanied by an Advisor or Support Person
Any party to a complaint shall have the opportunity to use an advisor (including an attorney) of his/her choosing for the express purpose of providing advice and counsel at his/her expense. The selected advisor shall not otherwise be a party or witness involved in the investigation. The advisor may be present during any meetings and proceedings involved in the investigatory or resolution process in which the advisee is also eligible to be present. The advisor may advise the advisee, including providing questions, suggestions, advice on the proceedings, and guidance on responses to any questions of the participant, but shall not participate directly. The University shall not prohibit family members of any student party from attending if the party requests such attendance, but may limit the number to two family members.
I. Amnesty for Students
The University encourages members of the university community to come forward and to report violations of policy notwithstanding a student’s choice to consume alcohol or to use other drugs. Information reported during an investigation concerning student use of drugs or alcohol will not be used against any student in a University disciplinary proceeding or voluntarily reported to law enforcement. However, individuals may be provided with resources on drug and alcohol counseling or education. See the Code of Student Conduct for additional information.
II. Investigation and Resolution Process
A. Standard of Review
Investigative findings under this Policy will be made using the preponderance of the evidence standard (i.e., “more likely than not”). This standard requires that the information supporting an alleged violation be more convincing than the information in opposition to it.
B. Interim Protective Measures
The Director or designee may impose interim protective measures before the final resolution of an investigation if failure to take the interim measures would constitute an immediate threat to the safety and well-being of the complainant/victim or other members of the university community or to ensure equal access to the University’s education programs and activities. Before any such measures are instituted, however, the Director should, where practicable, provide the respondent with an initial opportunity to respond to the allegations and to the imposition of any interim protective measures.
Imposing interim protective measures does not indicate that a violation of policy has occurred, and is designed to protect the alleged victim and community, and not to harm the respondent. To the extent interim measures are imposed, they should minimize the burden on both the alleged victim and the respondent, where feasible.
These interim measures may include but are not limited to:
- Change of University housing assignment;
- Issuance of a “mutual no contact” directive;
- Restrictions or bars to entering certain University property;
- Changes to academic or employment arrangements, schedules or supervision;
- Interim suspension; and
- Other measures designed to promote the safety and well-being of the parties and the university community.
If an interim suspension is issued, the terms of the suspension take effect immediately. When requested by the respondent, a hearing with the Director and/or any other appropriate personnel as determined by the Director, to determine whether the intermediate suspension should continue, will be held within three (3) business days of the request.
C. Initiating an Investigation
Upon receipt of a complaint, the Director will review the complaint and any additional information available, and a determination will be made as to whether or not to proceed with an informal or formal process, or redirect the complaint to the appropriate office. A complaint may be redirected or dismissed if it does not fall within the auspices of this office, or if taking the allegation(s) as true the alleged conduct would not be a violation of policy. As necessary and appropriate, the Director will consult with the Chief Legal Affairs Officer in making this determination. In any proceedings, the formal investigation will be under the direction of the Director.
*** Sexual Misconduct complaints involving students will be handled in accordance with the University System of Georgia Board of Regents’ Sexual Misconduct Policy, 6.7***
As part of any investigative process, the Director or designee will determine whether the complaint is properly filed in this office; if not, the Director or designee will dismiss the complaint or refer to the appropriate office or department.
As part of any formal investigation, the Director or designee will:
- Provide a copy of these procedures to the complainant;
- Notify the respondent of the specific nature of the complaint brought against him/her, provide the policy they are alleged to have violated, and provide a copy of these procedures; and
- Inform all parties of the non-retaliation policy.
The University reserves the right to charge the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX with conducting an investigation of a complaint even when no formal complaint has been filed or when a filed complaint is subsequently withdrawn by the complainant.
D. Informal Process
The informal process is an opportunity to bring resolution to a complaint through awareness, education, and/or a facilitated discussion. Informal resolution may be appropriate if the complainant or alleged victim when not the complainant, respondent and the Director or designee all agree.
During an informal process, fact-finding occurs to the extent necessary to resolve the conflict and protect the interests of the parties and the University community, but the Director or designee does not make a determination of whether a policy violation occurred. The complainant, respondent, or University always has the option to end the informal process and proceed to the formal process.
Informal resolutions may include, but are not limited to:
- Changes to work or academic arrangements;
- Housing reassignment;
- Informal discussion with person whose conduct, if not stopped, could rise to the level of discrimination or harassment;
- Advisory discussion with the respondent’s supervisor, professor or advisor; and
- “Mutual No Contact” directives provided to both parties.
E. Formal Process
All complaints that have not been redirected or dismissed and are not resolved through the informal process are resolved through a formal process involving an investigation conducted by the Director or designee.
As part of the formal process, the investigator will:
- Attempt to schedule meetings with the parties and any other appropriate person(s);
- Obtain information and evidence, including the identity of any witnesses, from the complainant or alleged victim, and the respondent;
- Attempt to obtain information from the identified relevant witnesses;
- Ask relevant questions, submitted by the parties, to any witness or party;
- Ask additional questions deemed relevant by the investigator;
- Collect and maintain appropriate documentation of the investigation;
- Disclose appropriate information to others only on a need-to-know basis consistent with state and federal law;
- Keep the appropriate supervisors/administrators/faculty informed of the status of the complaint and investigation as needed; and
- Provide the complainant or alleged victim, and the respondent the opportunity to review the evidence collected and respond to that evidence.
If at any point the investigator determines, in consultation with the Director, that there is insufficient evidence to warrant further consideration, then the complaint should be dismissed and notification will be provided to all parties.
An employee shall cooperate to the fullest extent possible in any internal investigation when directed to do so by persons who have been given the investigative authority by the President of the Institution. Failure to cooperate fully shall be grounds for adverse personnel action, including possible termination of employment. View the Cooperation in Internal Investigation Policy.
The interviews and exchange of information, including the opportunity to respond to evidence, through the investigator constitute the hearing process.
Following the conclusion of a formal investigation, the Director will forward the finalized written report to the appropriate Vice President or designee. The Vice President or designee will make a determination of the action to be taken on the basis of this report. He/She may elect to do one of the following:
- Accept the report as presented;
- Accept the report in part as incomplete and request further fact-finding; or
- With the approval of the President, reject the report as incomplete and/or inaccurate and conduct an independent investigation.
Once the report has been accepted, if not proceeding with independent investigation, the Vice President or designee will make a determination based on a preponderance of the evidence if a policy violation occurred.
In all cases, the Director or designee will serve as a fact finder and will have authority to recommend, but not initiate or implement disciplinary action.
All parties shall have the right to appeal the outcome of the formal process. Written notice of appeal should be received by the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX within five (5) business days of the date of the final written decision. A party shall have the right to appeal the outcome on any of the following grounds:
- To consider new information, sufficient to alter the decision, or other relevant facts not brought out in the original investigation, because such information was not known or knowable to the person appealing during the time of the investigation;
- To allege a procedural error within the process that may have substantially impacted the fairness of the investigation; or
- To allege that the finding was inconsistent with the weight of the information.
The Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX will notify the non-appealing party of the appeal, provide that party a copy of the appeal, and allow for an opportunity to respond in writing. The non-appealing party’s response should be received by the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX within five (5) business days of the date of notification of appeal. The President or designee may receive additional information if he/she believes such information would aid in the appeal.
The appeal shall be a review of the record only, and no new meeting with either party is required.
The President may:
- Affirm the original finding and sanction;
- Affirm the original finding but issue a new sanction of greater or lesser severity;
- Remand the case back to the Office of Equal Opportunity & Title IX to correct a procedural or factual defect; or
- Reverse or dismiss the case if there was a procedural or factual defect that cannot be remedied by remand.
The President shall then issue a decision in writing to the parties within a reasonable time period.
The decision of the President will be the final institutional decision. Further appeals, if available, are governed under the policies and bylaws of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.
Last updated: 4/1/2021