Sexual Misconduct: Learn More

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Last updated Oct. 22, 2019. This tab will be updated as new questions are submitted. Scroll to the bottom of the page to submit your question.

Questions and Answers on UWL’s Title IX Processes

The Title IX Team receives many questions about our reporting process, investigations, the steps we take to ensure the safety of our students and the campus community, and measures to hold those who engage in sexual misconduct accountable.  

Below you will find our answers to these questions, and a form where you can submit your questions and feedback. While we cannot answer certain inquiries without compromising the safety of students or the integrity of investigations, we will update this page with new questions and answers as appropriate.  

 

How does the university investigate and respond to reports of sexual misconduct? 

When the university receives a report, we conduct an initial inquiry to determine where there is a basis to proceed with a formal investigation.  

If a formal investigation is initiated, a notice of investigation is sent to the reporting party and the responding party, and investigators gather all available evidence. “Evidence” includes statements of the parties and witnesses, documents, emails, photographs, and anything else that is relevant to the question of whether the responding party violated a university policy. Investigators exercise due diligence in reaching out to any and all individuals who we are able to identify as potential witnesses.  

(In some cases, such as if the report is based on hearsay, or if the behaviors alleged do not constitute a violation of university policy, a formal investigation may not be initiated.) 

If there are multiple reporting parties who have complaints about the same responding party, the complaints may be investigated together.  

At the conclusion of an investigation, the university determines whether the “preponderance of the evidence” supports a finding that the responding party violated university policy. “Preponderance of the evidence” essentially means that, based on all of the known information, it is “more likely than not” that a policy violation occurred. (This is different from the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that must be met to convict a defendant in criminal court.) 

If, after an investigation is completed, new information is reported to the university that was not known at the time of the original investigation, it is possible for the investigation to be re-opened or for a new investigation to be opened regarding the new information.  

We encourage any and all individuals who have concerns about sexual misconduct or inappropriate behavior to report these concerns immediately, and not to wait until they become aware that other reports have been filed or that investigation is under way. The university is unable to take action to hold individuals accountable for sexual misconduct if victims/survivors/witnesses don’t report their experiences to us. 

 

What are the rights of students in the investigation and hearing process? 

In student-student cases, students are informed per UWS Ch. 17.11 that they are allowed an advisor of their choosing, which can be an attorney.  (UWS Ch. 17) . Information regarding rights of both the complainant and the respondent can be found on the UWL Student Life Conduct website.  

The university provides confidential resources who are available for private consultations with students, including Ingrid Peterson, the Violence Prevention Coordinator. These individuals are there to provide support and advocacy, but do not act as attorneys for anyone.  

When there is one party in an investigation or hearing who has an attorney, and another who does not, the university recognizes the inherent imbalance, but the university cannot and does not provide legal representation or advice to individual students in the context of student conduct investigations or hearings. The university conduct process is not a criminal court and the same rights do not apply. Nevertheless, the university strives to provide a fair and equitable process regardless of whether or not a party has an attorney, and this includes conducting fair and constructive hearings in which all parties’ rights are respected.  

  

What measures are taken to protect students and employees while an investigation is under way? 

When a report of sexual misconduct is received by the university, an immediate evaluation is conducted to determine what immediate steps, if any, should be taken while the report is reviewed and investigated. The safety of the parties and the rights of students and employees to have a safe and conducive learning, working, and living environment are all taken into account, as well as concerns about retaliation and disruptive behaviors, and any other concerns expressed by the parties.  

Some examples of interim measures that may be taken include: directing individuals to not contact each other for a specified period of time; moving a student to a different residence hall or a different section of a class; removing an instructor from a specific class; placing an employee on temporary leave; directing a person to remain off campus; or de-activating a person’s access to the university’s electronic communication services. In some cases, such as administrative leave for employees, the process is specified by UW System policy or state law and/or requires the approval of the Chancellor or other administrators. In such cases, the necessary information is shared with university officials in order to enable the appropriate measures to be taken. 

When no-contact directives are put in place, it is customary for the directive to go in both directions; this helps to ensure that no party is engaging in behavior that could disrupt another person’s rights or the campus community in general.  

When an instructor is removed from a class, placed on leave, or instructed to refrain from contacting students, these measures are based on a thorough evaluation of the alleged behavior, the ongoing risks, and all other relevant information. The university acknowledges that these measures can have unintended and unavoidable repercussions for other students — their classes, research, mentorship, advising, etc., are at times disrupted when these measures are enacted. The university strives to put alternative resources in place to minimize these disruptions and we encourage any student who feels their academic needs are not being met to contact their advisor or the appropriate Dean’s office. 

Interim measures are not intended to be punitive, or to be an indication that the university has reached a premature decision, before the investigation has concluded, that a person has violated university policy. The interim measures are designed to protect all affected individuals from disruption to their educational and employment rights, and to enable the investigative process to proceed in a fair manner with due process for all parties. 

 

How will the university ensure timely and consistent communications with students and employees about an investigation? 

The university recognizes that all parties have the right to be aware of key steps in the progress of an investigation and at the conclusion. Timely communication is one of the key ways we demonstrate our care and respect for the parties, and is a reflection of the effective collaboration among the various offices that handle Title IX processes.  

This is one of the reasons why the university recently implemented the Maxient case management system for the handling of all student conduct matters, effective summer 2019. Starting in October 2019, we are also using Maxient for all Title IX matters that involve employees, and we are exploring its use for employee case management in matters outside of Title IX as well.  

 

What is retaliation and how does the university protect individuals from retaliation?  

Retaliation is any adverse action taken against any person on the basis of that person having engaged in a protected activity. Examples of protected activity include filing a report of sexual harassment, sexual violence, or other discriminatory conduct, or participating in an investigation. Retaliation is a serious issue in part because the fear of retaliation can inhibit people from filing complaints or participating in the investigative process. 

The university investigates any and all reports of retaliatory conduct, and imposes appropriately severe sanctions on those found to have engaged in retaliatory conduct. In addition, the university often puts measures in place to protect individuals from significant and foreseeable retaliation risks: for example, arranging for a student to have alternatives to taking a certain class with a certain professor.  

 

What are the outcomes or consequences for a person found to have committed sexual harassment or sexual violence?  

The outcomes are determined on a case-by-case basis and are designed to ensure accountability for the individual and ongoing safety for the campus. In those cases where it is warranted, a finding of sexual misconduct can result in a student being suspended or expelled, or an employee being terminated.  

Chapter UWS 17 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code provides the framework for our student conduct process. When a student is found responsible for sexual misconduct, they are entitled to a hearing and either party can appeal the outcome to the Chancellor.  

The specific provisions for disciplining or terminating an employee depend on their employee classification. In many cases, an employee is entitled to a hearing if they are being dismissed for cause, but tenure does not protect any person from being held accountable for sexual misconduct. For employees who do not have tenure, the process may be different if their contract is simply allowed to expire without renewal. 

Even in cases where there is not a finding that the person committed sexual misconduct, corrective measures can be put in place to ensure that situations that result in disruption or discomfort for students are not repeated. 

 

How is information shared publicly about investigations? 

Wisconsin Public Records Law states that records related to pending investigations are not public records. After an investigation is closed, records are subject to a “balancing test” which may result in records being disclosed; however, identifying information about students is still protected by FERPA from unauthorized disclosure.  

In many cases, public disclosure of a sexual misconduct investigation or finding is not desired by the victim/reporting party. Even if the reporting party’s identity is not publicly revealed, their identity may often be deduced from that information which is publicly revealed, which can result in a safety or retaliation concern.  

When an employee is found to have violated our sexual misconduct policies, that finding is a part of their permanent employee record, and is made available upon request to any employer who contacts the university for a reference regarding that individual. This policy helps to ensure that individuals are not able to escape accountability by going to another institution. 

If interim measures are put in place during an investigation that affect certain other students or employees, such as a change in instructors for a course, certain information may be shared with those individuals.  

 

What are the university’s obligations under the Clery Act regarding timely warnings about sexual harassment or sexual violence?  

The Clery Act requires universities to alert the campus community to certain crimes in a manner that is timely and will aid in the prevention of similar crimes. The intent of the Clery Act is to enable people to protect themselves from substantial and/or continuing threats. 

As noted in the 2019 UWL Annual Security Report, “The University of Wisconsin La Crosse Chief of Police, or designee, will consider the type of offense, location, nature of any threat, and whether there is a continuing threat to the community or a continuing crime pattern in determining the appropriateness of a warning” (page 11). 

There are circumstances in which a notification may not be sent to the campus community, such as: if the behavior reported is not a crime within the categories defined by the Clery Act; if the behavior reported does not occur within the university’s Clery Act geography; if there is no continuing pattern or threat identified; if the alleged perpetrator has been identified and removed from campus; if the available information does not demonstrate an active and ongoing threat; or if the incident was not reported to the university promptly enough to make it possible to issue a timely warning to others. 

There is no circumstance in which the university has known of an active and ongoing threat to others’ physical safety and has failed to take appropriate action to remedy that threat and/or provide adequate warning to others.  

 

What training do employees receive?  

All employees are required to complete an online sexual harassment training, and all incoming students are provided a parallel training program when they enter the university. These trainings contain information about basic concepts and definitions of prohibited conduct, prevention and response strategies, bystander behaviors, and references to university policies and procedures.  

 

How do the statistics reported by the university reflect the realities of sexual misconduct on campus?  

The university publishes statistics in the annual Clery report related to certain categories of crimes which take place within a geographically-bounded area. The majority of reported sexual assaults reported to the university occur off campus.   

UWL reported 126 sexual assaults last year. This includes incidents reported to the university that resulted in an investigation, as well as many other incidents where the alleged perpetrator could not be identified, or where the reporting party spoke only to a confidential resource and did not wish to pursue an investigation. Our reporting numbers are in line with those at other institutions, as well as in the community. 

Overall, sexual and domestic violence are highly underreported crimes.  While we can always be doing more to improve our response, many of the reasons for this underreporting have more to do with the traumatic nature of the crimes, victims' fear of retaliation by the offender, and/or knowledge of an assault becoming public. The number of people coming forward for help at UWL has increased from approximately 6-9 per year to 126 per year in the 13 years since the Violence Prevention Specialist position was created.  

 

What avenues can students pursue if they have concerns about Title IX or Clery Compliance at UWL? 

Individuals who wish to file a Title IX complaint can do so by contacting the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.    

Individuals who wish to file a Clery Act complaint can do so by contacting Department of Education’s Clery Act Compliance Division.  

 

What is the audit/oversight process for assessing and managing the investigation process?

The UW System Office of Internal Audit conducts audits of various programs, policies, and practices to ensure compliance with applicable laws and policies. An audit of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policies and procedures, with a focus on Title IX compliance, has been conducted across all UW campuses in 2019, and the report of that audit is pending.

 

Questions or Feedback?

Please click here to submit your question or comment to the Title IX Team.

Anonymous submissions are welcome, but you have the option to provide your name and contact information if you want us to follow up with you.

The following policies apply to various forms of sexual misconduct in the context of UWL programs and activities:

Sexual Harassment (UW Board of Regents policy 14-2) is a form of discriminatory harassment. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other physical conduct and expressive behavior of a sexual nature where:

(a)            submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or education;

(b)            submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for academic or employment decisions affecting that individual; or

(c)             such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's academic or professional performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive employment or educational environment.

Sexual Assault (Wis. Stat. § 940.225(4)) is sexual intercourse or sexual contact with a person without the consent of that person. Consent (Wis. Stat. § 940.224(4)) consists of words or overt actions by a person who is competent to give informed consent indicating a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or sexual contact. Individuals incapacitated due to an intoxicant are generally incapable of providing consent.

Dating Violence (Wis. Stat. § 813.12(1)(ag)) is violence committed in a “dating relationship,” which is defined as a romantic or intimate social relationship between two adult individuals but “dating relationship” does not include a casual relationship or an ordinary fraternization between two individuals in a business or social context.

Domestic Violence (Wis. Stat. §§ 813.12(1)(am); 968.075(1)(a)) is any of the following engaged in by an adult family member or adult household member against another adult family member or adult household member, by an adult caregiver against an adult who is under the caregiver’s care, by an adult against his or her adult former spouse, by an adult against an adult with who the individual has or had a dating relationship, or by an adult against an adult with whom the person has a child in common:

1. Intentional infliction of physical pain, physical injury or illness.

2. Intentional impairment of physical condition.

3. A violation of the state statute regarding sexual assault (Wis. Stat. § 940.225(1), (2) or (3).

4. A violation of the state statute regarding stalking (Wis. Stat. § 940.32).

5. A violation of the state statute regarding damage to property (Wis. Stat. § 943.01), involving property that belongs to the individual.

6. A threat to engage in the conduct under 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 listed above.

Stalking (Wis. Stat. § 940.32(2)) is intentionally engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person under the same circumstances to suffer serious emotional distress or to fear bodily injury to or the death of himself or herself or a member of his or her family or household.

Retaliation (UW Board of Regents policy 14-6) is adverse action taken against an individual in response to, motivated by or in connection with an individual’s having engaged in a protected activity, which includes, but is not limited to, filing a complaint of discrimination or discriminatory harassment, participation in an investigation of such complaint, and/or opposition to discrimination or discriminatory harassment in the educational or workplace setting. An “adverse action” is one that negatively affects significant terms or conditions of employment, or substantially impedes one’s educational progress. A valid complaint of retaliation will specify (1) the protected conduct, (2) the alleged adverse action taken, and (3) the reasons why the complainant believes the adverse action was taken because of the protected conduct.

Reporting obligations

All employees (except confidential resources) are mandated reporters of sexual assault or other sexual misconduct. Please forward any reports you receive to the Title IX Team using our online form

Know your rights

As an employee of UWL, you have the right to a workplace free of discrimination, discriminatory harassment, sexual misconduct and retaliation. For the full Discrimination Policy, click here: DiscriminationPolicy.pdf

If you experience, observe, or learn about discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, please contact Nizam Arain, Director of Affirmative Action (narain@uwlax.edu, 608.785.8541)

You may also contact Human Resources Partners with any concerns about workplace conduct: Alyssa Balboa (abalboa@uwlax.edu, 608.785.8013) or Ann McKelvey (amckelvey@uwlax.edu, 608.785.8015).

How to support students

If a student shares information about a sexual assult or other sexual misconduct, or seems like they might do so, do not promise confidentiality.

  • Remind the person as soon as possible that you have an obligation to report sexual misconduct to the university, so that they can choose whether or not they want to share more details. If they want to speak to someone confidentially, refer them to our Confidential Resources
  • If they do choose to share more, listen actively, and respectfully without questioning, judgment or victim-blaming.
  • Acknowledge and respect their disclosure; it is not easy for someone to share personally traumatic experiences.
  • Be aware of common responses to trauma. Depending many personal factors, people experience many different reactions: fear, anxiety, depression, sleep loss, emotional numbness, difficulty remembering details.
  • Don't assume the role of deciding what the person should do next. Let them make their own decisions. For many survivors of trauma, there is a need to re-assert control, personal agency, and empowerment.

Syllabus Statement

The following paragraph can be included in your syllabus to ensure that students are aware of your reporting obligations. (Full syllabus templates with all required and recommended components are provided by CATL.)

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT: As an employee of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, I am a mandated reporter of sexual harassment and sexual violence that takes place on campus or otherwise affects the campus community. This means that if I receive detailed or specific information about an incident such as the date, time, location, or identity of the people involved, I am obligated to share this with UWL’s Title IX Coordinator (https://www.uwlax.edu/equity/) in order to enable the university to take appropriate action to ensure the safety and rights of all involved. For students not wishing to make an official report, there are confidential resources available to provide support and discuss the available options. The contact in Student Life is Ingrid Peterson, Violence Prevention Specialist, (608) 785-8062, ipeterson@uwlax.edu. Please see http://www.uwlax.edu/sexual-misconduct for more resources or to file a report.