Chapter 7: Sexual Misconduct and Intimate Partner Violence
Vanderbilt University is committed to equal opportunity and to maintaining a safe and healthy environment for all members of the University community, guests, and visitors. The University’s policies, programs, and activities are designed to foster courtesy and respect. The University prohibits and seeks to eliminate all forms of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment and sexual assault, and intimate partner violence, which includes dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. Under federal law, Vanderbilt has a duty to take steps to prevent and redress sexual misconduct and intimate partner violence. Such conduct is contrary to Vanderbilt’s values, represents socially irresponsible behavior, and is not tolerated. This policy addresses Vanderbilt’s obligations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act (“Clery Act”), and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (“VAWA”).
In compliance with federal law, including the provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990,the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, Executive Order 11246, the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 as amended by the Jobs for Veterans Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, as amended, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, Vanderbilt University does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of their race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, military service, covered veterans status, or genetic information in its administration of educational policies, programs, or activities; admissions policies; scholarship and loan programs; athletic or other university-administered programs; or employment. In addition, the university does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of their gender expression consistent with the university’s nondiscrimination policy.
This policy outlines the procedures that apply to allegations of sex discrimination, sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment and sexual assault, and intimate partner violence involving students, as defined in the Jurisdiction section of Chapter 3 of the Student Handbook. It is applicable to all members of the Vanderbilt community, including student organizations, with respect to conduct that occurs on campus and conduct that occurs off campus, including conduct in connection with University programs or activities or that otherwise interferes with or limits the ability of a member of the community to participate in or to receive benefits, services, or opportunities from the University’s programs or activities, regardless of whether the victim is an affiliate of the University. Complaints and reports of sexual misconduct or intimate partner violence will be addressed utilizing the procedures outlined in the version of this policy in effect as of the date of the notice of investigation; however, the “Offenses and Definitions” section of the policy in effect as of the date of the alleged incident will be used. Complaints and reports of conduct spanning more than one year will be addressed using the “Offenses and Definitions” section in the version of the policy in effect at the time of the most recent alleged incident.
The policy sets forth the specific types of conduct that are prohibited, as well as the resources and support services available to those in the Vanderbilt community who have been impacted by such conduct. Vanderbilt encourages everyone affected by sexual misconduct or intimate partner violence, and everyone who suspects or witnesses such conduct, to report it and to seek help and support from available resources. The University will take prompt and effective action to address allegations of sexual misconduct and intimate partner violence, and it will resolve complaints and reports in a timely and fair manner.
Questions about the policy and its applicability to any alleged conduct may be directed to Vanderbilt’s Title IX Coordinator, who oversees compliance with applicable non-discrimination policies, including this policy:
Title IX Coordinator and Director,
Title IX and Student Discrimination Office
110 21st Avenue South, Suite 975, Nashville, TN 37203
For purposes of this policy, the following terms and definitions will be used throughout:
- Sexual Misconduct – all forms of sexual misconduct, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and intimate partner violence, including dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, as outlined in the Offenses and Definitions section of this policy.
- Report – any complaint or information provided to the Title IX and Student Discrimination Office (Title IX Office) or to a mandatory reporter regarding an incident of sexual misconduct, whether provided by the complainant, a third party, or another.
- Complainant – the person who is reported to have been subjected to sexual misconduct.
- Respondent – the person against whom allegations of sexual misconduct have been made; if the respondent is a student organization, a representative from the organization will be designated to participate in the process on behalf of the organization.
The Title IX Office receives, directly or indirectly, all reports of sexual misconduct involving students that are not made to a confidential resource (see below). With the exceptions set forth in this policy, reports of sexual misconduct received by the Title IX Office will be investigated by the Title IX Office. If a faculty or staff member or a postdoctoral fellow/trainee is a party to the investigation, the Title IX Office will notify the Equal Employment Opportunity Office and it will also participate in the investigation.
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Resources and Support
Any member of the Vanderbilt community who has experienced or been impacted by sexual misconduct, including prior to their affiliation with Vanderbilt, may seek immediate and/or ongoing assistance from one or more of the resources outlined below. Some of these resources are confidential; others are subject to mandatory reporting requirements. This policy indicates the level of confidentiality offered by the listed resources.
Some resources are confidential. Confidential resources include licensed professional counselors and mental health providers, such as those at the University Counseling Center and the Work/Life Connections - Employee Assistance Program; pastoral counselors acting in that capacity; and medical professionals acting in a patient-care role, such as those at the Student Health Center, the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Emergency Department, or other clinics or hospitals. These confidential resources do not report any information about an incident to the Title IX Office or anyone else without the permission of the person consulting them. Off-campus counselors and health care providers will also generally maintain confidentiality and not share information with the University unless the person consulting them requests the disclosure and signs a consent or waiver form. However, under state or federal law, all resources may have other reporting obligations. For example, healthcare providers and certain other individuals are required to notify law enforcement when someone seeks treatment for injuries caused by a violent crime, including sexual assault. Similarly, all persons are required to notify law enforcement or the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) when they receive a report of sexual or any abuse of a minor (see Protection of Minors on Campus section below). Anyone who at first utilizes a confidential resource may later decide to make a report to a non-confidential resource, such as the Title IX Office or law enforcement.
Limited Confidential Resource
Individuals who work at the Project Safe Center, including front desk staff and graduate assistants, can generally talk to any person impacted by sexual misconduct without revealing any personally identifying information about an incident to others within the University. A person can seek assistance and support from Project Safe Center staff without triggering a University investigation that could reveal that person’s identity or that the person has disclosed the incident. However, a person who self-discloses to Project Safe Center staff that he/she/they (or other pronoun used by the student) engaged in a possible violation of this policy may not be entitled to limited confidentiality.
Without disclosing personally identifying information about the victim, the Project Safe Center will notify the Title IX Office of the nature, date, time, and general location of an incident. The Project Safe Center will also notify the Title IX Office of the name of the alleged perpetrator, if known, when the alleged perpetrator is affiliated with Vanderbilt University as a faculty member, staff member, postdoctoral fellow/trainee, teaching assistant, independent contractor, adviser, or in any other similar capacity, other than as a student. This notification helps keep the Title IX Office informed of the general extent and nature of sexual violence on and off campus, and allows for tracking patterns, evaluating the scope of the problem, and formulating appropriate campus-wide responses.
Project Safe Center staff can assist in providing additional information, including potentially identifying information, to the Title IX Office, if the victim so wishes. Anyone who at first notifies Project Safe Center staff may later decide to make a report to the Title IX Office or law enforcement.
Project Safe Center staff can assist a victim with interim remedial and protective measures; however, the provision of interim measures that involve a non-confidential University department or impact another person may require the disclosure of identifying information to the relevant department and person as well as the Title IX Office.
While Project Safe Center staff may maintain a victim's confidentiality vis-a-vis the University, they may have reporting obligations under state and federal law, which include:
- Reporting incidents involving victims who are minors;
- Disclosing information regarding a threat of imminent harm to self or others;
- Testifying if subpoenaed in a criminal case; and
- Complying with other federal, state, and local laws.
In addition, if Project Safe Center staff determines that the respondent poses a serious and/or immediate threat to the University community (based on, for example, the nature and severity of the incident or whether there is a pattern of misconduct), they will disclose all relevant information to the appropriate University authorities, including, but not limited to, the Title IX Office.
Project Safe Center staff will provide non-identifying information, similar to that provided to the Title IX Office, to the Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD) for crime statistics reporting under the Clery Act. The information reported may result in the issuance of a timely warning or security notice to the community, but the warning will not include any information that identifies the victim.
For more information about the services provided by the Project Safe Center and for contact information for Project Safe Center staff, please visit https://vanderbilt.edu//projectsafe/.
Responsible Employees Who Are Mandatory Reporters Under Title IX
A responsible employee is a Vanderbilt employee who has a duty to report all alleged violations of this policy because the employee has the authority to address sexual misconduct or because a member of the University community could reasonably believe that the employee has such authority. Responsible employees are mandatory reporters; they are not confidential resources. Generally, with the exception of the confidential resources discussed above, a University employee to whom a community member reports an incident of sexual misconduct is a mandatory reporter. This includes faculty members, teaching assistants, and most staff. A non-exhaustive list of mandatory reporters is contained in the Appendix at the end of this policy.
Mandatory reporters are required to report possible violations of this policy to the Title IX Coordinator or the Title IX Office staff. Mandatory reporters must report names, if known, and all relevant details about the alleged sexual misconduct, so that the University can take steps to address the matter promptly and resolve it fairly. Conversations with mandatory reporters are otherwise kept private to the extent possible and are only disclosed to those with a need or right to know.
Before a mandatory reporter receives any information regarding an instance of sexual misconduct, the mandatory reporter should seek to confirm that the reporting party understands the employee’s reporting obligations and, if the reporting party wants to maintain confidentiality, direct the reporting party to a confidential resource.
If a victim wants to tell a mandatory reporter about an incident but does not want the report investigated or the victim’s name disclosed, the employee will tell the victim that the University will consider the request but cannot guarantee that the University will be able to honor it. In reporting the details of an incident to the Title IX Office, the mandatory reporter will also inform the Title IX Office of the victim’s request for confidentiality.
Mandatory reporters will not pressure a victim or other reporting party either to request confidentiality or make a full report.
Anonymous and Third-Party Reporting
The University encourages victims of sexual misconduct to talk to someone to ensure their health and wellbeing. The University provides several resources for anonymous reporting for victims who do not wish to be identified. Anonymous reports may be made to the Project Safe Center at 615-322-7233. Students may also report anonymously to the Community Standards hotline at 615-343-7867. In addition, Vanderbilt has established a hotline for anonymous reporting through the Vanderbilt University Compliance Reporting Hotline, an independently-operated compliance hotline that may be used to report incidents of apparent wrongdoing on campus. The Compliance Reporting Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year at 844-814-5935 or at http://www.vanderbiltcompliancehotline.ethicspoint.com. NOTE: These resources, aside from the Project Safe Center, should not be used for immediate assistance.
Vanderbilt encourages third parties to report incidents of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Office, VUPD, or the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD). Third parties may also report incidents to any mandatory reporter or through the anonymous reporting resources identified above. The University may not be able to move forward based on a third-party report if the victim does not wish to cooperate with an investigation. After providing a report, third parties are not entitled to information about the University’s investigation and response due to privacy concerns and applicable federal and state laws.
Contact Information for Resources
Any member of the Vanderbilt University community who has experienced sexual misconduct may seek immediate and/or ongoing assistance from one or more of the following resources. The resources listed will provide assistance whether or not the victim chooses to make a report to the Title IX Office or law enforcement, or to participate in an investigation.
Victim Advocacy Services – CONFIDENTIAL (LIMITED)
- Vanderbilt Project Safe Center Support Line (24/7/365): 615-322-SAFE (7233)
Law Enforcement – NOT CONFIDENTIAL; VUPD IS MANDATORY REPORTER
- Vanderbilt University Police Department: 615-322-2745
Emergency: 911 or 615-421-1911
- Metro Nashville Police Department: 615-862-8600
Medical Service Providers – CONFIDENTIAL (but required to notify law enforcement when a person seeks treatment for injuries caused by a violent crime)
- Vanderbilt University Medical Center Emergency Services: 615-322-0160
- For Students: Student Health Center: 615-322-2427
- For Faculty and Staff: Occupational Health Clinic: 615-936-0955
Counseling Services – CONFIDENTIAL
- For Students:
- Vanderbilt University Counseling Center: 615-322-2571
- Vanderbilt Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life: 615-322-2457
- For Faculty and Staff:
- Work/Life Connections - Employee Assistance Program: 615-936-1327
- Faculty and Physician Wellness Program: 615-936-1327
- Nurse Wellness Program: 615-936-1327
Additional Support for Vanderbilt Students – MANDATORY REPORTERS
- Office of the Dean of Students: 615-322-6400
- Office of Housing and Residential Education: 615-322-2591
- Office of Student Care Coordination: 615-343-9355
- Center for Student Wellbeing: 615-322-0480
- Margaret Cuninggim Women's Center: 615-322-4843
- Office of LGBTQI Life: 615-322-3330
- Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center: 615-322-2524
Resources in the Community – NO MANDATORY REPORT TO VANDERBILT
- Sexual Assault Center Hotline: 1-800-879-1999
- YWCA Crisis and Information Line: 615-242-1199
- St. Thomas Midtown Hospital Emergency Department: 615-284-5555
- Nashville General Hospital at Meharry Emergency Department: 615-341-4000
- TriStar Centennial Medical Center Emergency Department: 615-342-1000
VUPD and MNPD are available for emergency response, facilitating medical transport, investigating incidents of a criminal nature, referrals, and advice concerning and/or assistance with preserving evidence. VUPD also provides support for crime victims and is available to accompany them to court.
The medical service providers listed above are available to treat injuries and possible sexually transmitted infections and diseases, as well as for other health services and consultations. If the victim requests a forensic examination, one can be performed at the Student Health Center (Monday through Friday, 6:00 am to 6:00 pm) or the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Emergency Department (ED) (24/7/365) by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) on site. Please note that medical treatment and a forensic examination may aid in the preservation of relevant evidence. Even victims who are unsure as to whether or not they want to make a police report or take action against the respondent may wish to have a forensic examination; having a forensic exam facilitates the identification and preservation of physical evidence associated with the assault.
Tennessee law requires all medical personnel to report to law enforcement when a person seeks treatment for injuries caused by a violent crime, including sexual assault. Medical personnel are also required to report to law enforcement and/or Child Protective Services when a minor presents for treatment for any injury or condition that reasonably indicates it was caused by violence or abuse, including physical or sexual abuse. Medical personnel are also required to report to law enforcement and/or Adult Protective Services when certain vulnerable adults present and there is reasonable belief that they are victims of adult abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
Upon request, a Victim Resource Specialist from the Project Safe Center will meet a student at a medical service provider, law enforcement agency, or other location for assistance or consultation. Project Safe Center Victim Resource Specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The Project Safe Center, Work/Life Connections - Employee Assistance Program, Faculty and Physician Wellness Program, Nurse Wellness Program, and the community resources listed above are also available to assist members of the Vanderbilt community. Students, faculty or staff members, and postdoctoral fellows/trainees seen at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center ED may also obtain victim support through the Nashville Sexual Assault Center.
Immediate Priority—Preserving Evidence: To help preserve evidence, victims are advised not to change clothes or bedding, take a shower, douche, or clean up until evidence has been collected by the police or SANE. Evidence may still be available even if the victim has changed clothes or cleaned up/showered. Therefore, victims should leave any clothes or bedding that may contain evidence unfolded and undisturbed, if possible. If clothing or bedding must be moved, each item should be kept separate to prevent transfer of body fluids or other trace evidence. Victims and witnesses should also not delete or destroy any potentially relevant video or text messages, messages through other social media outlets (e.g., Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tinder, Grindr, etc.), emails, voicemails, written notes, or any other media, including hard-copy documents.
Vanderbilt will implement appropriate interim remedial and protective measures on its own initiative or in response to a request from a complainant or respondent. While interim measures are not punitive and are intended to provide support and relief to the parties involved in or affected by sexual misconduct, they may impact one or more parties. Such measures will remain in effect as long as necessary, depending on the relevant facts and circumstances.
Parties may request interim measures from the Title IX Office (students), the Equal Employment Opportunity Office (faculty/staff/postdoctoral fellows/trainees), the Project Safe Center, the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity (Student Accountability) or the Associate Dean of Students for Community Standards and Student Support. Parties may request interim measures even in cases where an investigation is not undertaken or either party has declined to participate in the University proceeding or the criminal process. In all instances, the University will determine the reasonableness of the request and the Title IX Coordinator or Director of Equal Employment Opportunity will oversee the interim measure(s) provided.
Interim measures for students may include, but are not limited to:
- access to on-campus counseling services and assistance in setting up an initial appointment;
- no contact orders issued by Student Accountability (may refer to persons and/or locations) (see No Contact Orders section below);
- rescheduling of academic exams and assignments;
- providing alternative course completion options;
- changing class schedules, including the ability to transfer course sections or withdraw from a course;
- changing work schedules, job assignments, or job locations for University employment;
- changing residence hall assignments;
- providing an escort for transit between classes and activities;
- providing academic support services, such as tutoring;
- limiting or barring access to certain Vanderbilt-owned facilities or activities;
- interim residential suspension of the respondent (removal from University housing);
- interim suspension of the respondent;
- student-requested leaves of absence.
Interim measures for faculty, staff, and postdoctoral fellows/trainees may include, but are not limited to:
- access to on-campus counseling services and assistance in setting up an initial appointment;
- changing work schedules, job assignments, or job locations;
- limiting or barring access to certain Vanderbilt-owned facilities or activities;
- providing an escort for transit around campus;
- administrative leave;
- Vanderbilt-imposed leave or physical separation from individuals or locations.
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Offenses and Definitions
The following conduct is prohibited:
- Sexual Assault – Intercourse
- Sexual Assault – Contact
- Sexual Harassment
- Sexual Exploitation
- Attempts to commit sexual misconduct
- Facilitating, aiding, encouraging, concealing, and/or otherwise assisting a violation of the policy
- Dating Violence
- Domestic Violence
Definitions of Specific Offenses
- Sexual Assault – Intercourse is any vaginal and/or anal penetration – however slight – by any body part (e.g., penis, tongue, or finger) or object, and/or oral copulation (mouth to genital contact), by any person upon another without effective consent. Sexual Assault – Intercourse also includes an individual causing someone else to penetrate him/her/them vaginally, anally, or orally without effective consent.
- Sexual Assault – Contact is any contact of a sexual nature – however slight – with the breasts, buttocks, groin, genitals, mouth, or other body part of another, by any person upon another without effective consent. Sexual Assault – Contact also includes an individual causing someone else to touch him/her/them with, or on, any of these body parts without effective consent.
- Sexual Harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, whether verbal, non-verbal, graphic, physical, or otherwise, when:
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of a person's employment, academic standing, or participation in any University programs and/or activities or is used as the basis for University decisions affecting the individual (often referred to as quid pro quo harassment); and/or
- Such conduct creates a hostile environment. A hostile environment exists when the conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it unreasonably interferes with, limits, or deprives an individual from participating in or benefiting from the University's education or employment programs and/or activities. The severity, persistence, and pervasiveness of conduct are assessed from both a subjective and objective perspective. A hostile environment can be created by persistent or pervasive conduct or by a single or isolated incident, if sufficiently severe. The more severe the conduct, the less need there is to show a repetitive series of incidents to prove a hostile environment, particularly if the conduct is physical. A single incident of sexual assault, for example, may be sufficiently severe to constitute a hostile environment. In contrast, a single offensive verbal or written expression, standing alone, is often not sufficient to constitute a hostile environment. In evaluating whether a hostile environment exists, the totality of the circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following will be considered:
- The frequency, nature, and severity of the conduct;
- Whether the conduct was physically threatening;
- The effect of the conduct on the complainant's mental or emotional state;
- Whether the conduct was directed at more than one person;
- Whether the conduct arose in the context of other discriminatory conduct;
- Whether the conduct unreasonably interfered with the complainant's educational or work performance and/or participation in University programs or activities; and
- Whether the conduct implicates concerns related to academic freedom or protected speech.
- Sexual Exploitation is non-consensual abuse or exploitation of another person's sexuality for the purpose of sexual gratification, financial gain, personal benefit or advantage, or any other improper purpose. Forms of sexual exploitation include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Invasion of privacy of a sexual nature;
- Non-consensual digital, video, or audio recording of nudity or sexual activity;
- Procuring, offering, or promoting prostitution;
- Knowingly exposing someone to or transmitting a sexually transmitted infection, sexually transmitted disease, or HIV (human immunodeficiency virus);
- Intentionally or recklessly exposing one's genitals in non-consensual circumstances or inducing another to expose their genitals; and
- Intentionally disclosing or threatening to disclose the sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression of another if the person has kept, or sought to keep, their status private from the person(s) to whom it is disclosed.
- Attempting to commit sexual misconduct.
- Facilitating, aiding, encouraging, concealing, and/or otherwise assisting a violation of this policy.
- Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for the person's safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress. Course of conductmeans two or more acts, including, but not limited to, acts in which the stalker directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means, follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates with or about a person, or interferes with a person's property.
- Dating Violence is sexual, psychological, or physical abuse or the threat of such abuse committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the person against whom the violence is perpetrated. The existence of a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature may be determined by the length of the relationship, the type of relationship, the frequency of the interactions between the persons involved in the relationship, and other relevant contextual factors. Whether the alleged conduct constitutes abuse or the threat of abuse will depend on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, the nature, severity, and frequency of the conduct. Whether a party was acting in self-defense may also be considered. Dating violence does not include acts covered under the definition of domestic violence.
- Domestic Violence is sexual, psychological, or physical abuse or the threat of such abuse committed by
- a person who is the current or former spouse or domestic partner of the person against whom the violence is perpetrated;
- a person who shares a child in common with the person against whom the violence is perpetrated;
- a person who is cohabitating or has cohabitated as a spouse or in the context of a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the person against whom the violence is perpetrated; or
- a person who is a party to another type of intimate relationship, including as a parent, guardian, or other status defined by Tennessee law, except platonic roommates, or by University policy, with the person against whom the violence is perpetrated.
Whether the alleged conduct constitutes abuse or the threat of abuse will depend on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, the nature, severity, and frequency of the conduct. Whether a party was acting in self-defense may also be considered.
- Retaliation is any adverse action threatened or taken, whether directly or through a third party, against another person because they have complained about, reported, or participated in the investigation or disposition of alleged sexual misconduct. Retaliation in an effort to discourage a person from reporting sexual misconduct or participating in a sexual misconduct investigation, or to punish a person for doing so, is also prohibited. Individuals involved in investigations or disciplinary proceedings are encouraged to exercise discretion in sharing information in order to safeguard the integrity of the process and to avoid the appearance of retaliation. While discretion regarding the process is important, complainants and respondents are not restricted from discussing and sharing information with others who may support or assist them during the process. The University will take appropriate action to address any reports of retaliation.
These definitions may or may not be the same as those for criminal offenses under Tennessee state law.
Effective Consent is consent that is informed and freely and actively given. Effective consent requires mutually understandable words or actions indicating a willingness to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity.
- The person who wishes to engage in sexual activity with another bears the burden of specifically obtaining effective consent. If effective consent is in question or ambiguous, then the person who wishes to engage in sexual activity must clarify or explicitly ask for permission.
- Effective consent must be maintained by both parties throughout the sexual interaction.
- Effective consent for one form of sexual activity does not constitute effective consent for another form of sexual activity.
- When "no" to a form of sexual activity is communicated by word or action, that sexual activity must cease immediately. Repeated requests to engage in that sexual activity may amount to coercion, as explained below.
- Effective consent to sexual activity may be withdrawn at any time, at which point sexual activity must cease immediately.
- There is no requirement for a person to resist, physically or otherwise, in order to demonstrate a lack of effective consent. Effective consent means communicating "yes" by word or action; the absence of saying or indicating "no" does not equate to effective consent.
- Previous sexual relationships of the complainant and the respondent with others are generally irrelevant to the existence of effective consent, but a previous, current, and/or subsequent sexual relationship between the complainant and the respondent may or may not be relevant to demonstrating or establishing, depending on the facts and circumstances, whether effective consent was sought or obtained.
- Effective consent expires. Effective consent lasts for a reasonable time, depending on the circumstances. Thus, effective consent on one occasion, whether on the same day or another day, may not carry over to another sexual interaction.
- Effective consent is never implied by a person's attire, the person's extension or acceptance of an invitation to dinner, a date (social function), or a person's residence, or the person's consensual participation in kissing or other foreplay.
- Because effective consent must be informed, an individual must not engage in sexual activity with another person if the individual knows or reasonably should know the person is incapacitated.
- Effective consent is deemed withdrawn when an individual knows or reasonably should know that the other person has become incapacitated at any point during sexual activity.
- Agreement or acquiescence obtained through the use of fraud, force (actual or implied), or other forms of coercion, as defined below, is not effective consent.
- Effective consent requires mutual understanding and agreement regarding the use and/or method of prophylaxis and contraception.
- A person's age may be a factor in determining the ability to give effective consent. For example, under Tennessee law, a person who is under the age of 18 cannot effectively consent to sexual intercourse with a person four or more years older than the underage person.
- The existence of a cognitive disability or other condition that significantly limits a person's ability to understand the nature of an action for which effective consent is requested may be a factor in determining the ability to give effective consent.
- The existence of a physical disability or other circumstances may prevent a person from giving effective consent.
- The intoxication of a respondent does not excuse the failure to obtain effective consent.
Force includes physical force (such as pushing, hitting, pinning down), threats (direct or indirect expressions of intent to inflict harm to self or others), intimidation (implied or indirect threats), and/or other forms of coercion.
To coerce is to exert power or control over another person by use of force, pressure, manipulation, threats, or intimidation. Determinations regarding whether actions or statements amount to coercion will be made on a case-by-case basis. For example, repeated advances or requests to engage in sexual activity may or may not amount to coercion depending on all of the relevant facts and circumstances.
Alcohol and drugs
The impact of alcohol and other drugs varies from person to person. A person wishing to engage in sexual activity with another whom the person knows or reasonably should know has consumed alcohol or other drugs must specifically determine the capacity of the other person to provide "effective consent," as explained above. Depending on the level of a person's intoxication, the person may or may not be able to give effective consent. Determinations regarding whether a person's level of intoxication affects the person's ability to give effective consent will be made on a case-by-case basis.
Intoxication refers to a state of stupefaction, exhilaration or euphoria resulting from the ingestion of alcohol or other chemical substances.
Incapacitation means the inability to make or carry out a rational, reasonable decision. One who is incapacitated cannot give effective consent. Incapacitation can result from intoxication from alcohol or other drugs, or from the voluntary or involuntary taking of GHB, Rohypnol, Burundang, Ketamine, or other sedatives or "date-rape" drugs. Evidence of incapacitation may include, but is not limited to, one or more of the following:
- slurred speech
- bloodshot eyes
- dilated pupils
- the smell of alcohol on the breath
- shaky equilibrium
- unsteady gait
- outrageous or unusual behavior
- elevated blood alcohol level
- blacking out
Blacking out is an amnesia-like state that may be brought on by drugs, heavy drinking, or intoxication; blacking out is not necessarily incompatible with the ability to engage in simple or even complex behavior. Afterwards the person has no recollection of all or part of the events that occurred during the blackout. There is a distinction between passing out (falling asleep or becoming unconscious) due to drug or alcohol use and blacking out in that a person in a blackout remains conscious and operative.
Blacking out, incapacitation, and intoxication do not provide a valid explanation or excuse for engaging in any form of sexual misconduct.
Depending on the facts and circumstances, intent may or may not be required to violate this policy. For example, engaging in intercourse without obtaining effective consent constitutes a violation of the policy regardless of intent. On the other hand, intent may be an appropriate consideration in some instances (such as when one person brushes up against another person in a crowded room).
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Reporting an Incident
Vanderbilt takes reports of sexual misconduct seriously. How the University responds depends upon a variety of factors, including the wishes of the complainant, the facts and circumstances of the specific incident, to whom it was reported, and the University’s obligations under applicable federal and state laws.
The University recommends that reports of sexual misconduct be made to the Title IX Office. If a person chooses to make an initial report to any other mandatory reporter, the mandatory reporter will refer the matter to the Title IX Office. The Title IX Office has responsibility for responding to reports of sexual misconduct. Retaliation is prohibited against any person who makes a report, participates in an investigation, encourages reporting an incident, or opposes sexual misconduct.
The University encourages community members to report violations of this policy as soon as possible after an incident, but violations can be reported at any time. If the alleged perpetrator is affiliated with Vanderbilt University as a faculty member, staff member, postdoctoral fellow/trainee, teaching assistant, independent contractor, adviser, or in any other similar capacity, other than as a student, the Title IX Office will notify the Equal Employment Opportunity Office. If the Title IX Office determines that a report should be addressed by another department, the Title IX Office will direct the reporting party and/or the complainant to the appropriate department and refer the matter to that department. In addition, the Title IX Office will assist a student in reporting an incident of sexual misconduct involving a respondent from another institution and will cooperate with the other institution’s investigation, if any.
To report an incident to the Title IX Office, please contact Molly Zlock, the University’s Title IX Coordinator at 615-343-9004, visit the office, or write. The Title IX Office will provide a written notice to all involved parties of their rights, the confidential and other resources available to them, their reporting options, and the procedures that the Title IX Office will follow.
Baker Building, Suite 975
110 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240-1809
Everyone is encouraged to report sexual misconduct even if some or all information is unavailable or cannot be provided. When making a report to the Title IX Office, it would be helpful to provide as much of the following information as possible: what happened, where, and when; names of all parties involved, including witnesses who were present and/or have relevant knowledge (identify them, state what they know, and inform the Title IX Office how they can be contacted); supporting documentation (such as videos, emails, photos, text messages, or messages through social media); any other evidence; and contact information.
As previously explained, there are various reporting and confidential disclosure options available to members of the University community to enable community members to make informed choices about where to turn should they experience or witness sexual misconduct.
Public Awareness Events
Public awareness events, such as “Take Back the Night,” the Clothesline Project, candlelight vigils, protests, “survivor speak-outs,” and other forums in which students disclose incidents of sexual violence, including meetings or other events organized by Rooted in Resilience, a support group led by the Project Safe Center staff, are not considered notice to the University of sexual misconduct for purposes of initiating its obligation to address any particular incident. To ensure that an event meets this definition, the organizing party must obtain clearance through the Office of the Dean of Students. Such events may, however, inform the need for campus-wide education and prevention efforts, and the University may provide information about students’ Title IX rights at these events.
Protection of Minors on Campus
Vanderbilt University is dedicated to the welfare and safety of minors who visit Vanderbilt’s campus and who participate in Vanderbilt’s programs and activities. Minors participating in Vanderbilt programs and activities are expected to be supervised while on campus, and every adult member of the Vanderbilt community is required to follow the Protection of Minors (POM) Policy, including the Code of Conduct When Interacting with Minors. Every member of the University community (not limited to individuals who interact with minors) is required by law to report known or suspected instances of the abuse or neglect of minors. Community members making a report in good faith are protected from criminal and civil liability for making a report. Everyone is required by Tennessee law to report to DCS or law enforcement, any type of suspected abuse, neglect, or inadequate care of a minor, in addition to suspected child sexual abuse.
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Upon receiving a report of sexual misconduct, the Title IX Office will reach out to the complainant and offer to schedule an informational meeting in which a staff member will explain the role of the Title IX Office, the options for reporting an incident, requests for confidentiality, and the available resources for assistance, including interim measures that may be appropriate. Both the complainant and, if necessary, the respondent will have the opportunity to have informational meetings with the Title IX Office and be accompanied by an adviser of their choosing to meetings related to the report of a violation of the policy, including with the Title IX Office.
Requests Not to Pursue an Investigation or for Confidentiality for Purposes of an Investigation
A complainant may request that the Title IX Office not pursue an investigation. The Title IX Coordinator will give substantial weight to a complainant’s request not to pursue an investigation, except when there is a risk to the safety of the University community or the University’s commitment to provide a non-discriminatory environment. To evaluate such a request, the Title IX Coordinator will consider several factors, including, but not limited to, the nature and severity of the incident; whether the respondent has previously been the subject of allegations of misconduct or a demonstrated pattern of behavior that may violate the policy; the respondent has threatened further misconduct or other behavior that may violate the policy; the respondent used a weapon; and/or the community is at an increased risk of future sexual misconduct.
If at any time a complainant requests that the Title IX Office not pursue an investigation, and the Title IX Office determines that it will not investigate at that time, the complainant is not precluded from later requesting that the Title IX Office open or re-open an investigation. If the Title IX Office determines that it will investigate, the complainant is not precluded from later cooperating with the investigation. If a complainant is undecided as to whether he/she/they would like to pursue and/or participate in an investigation, the Title IX Coordinator will consider the factors above in determining whether to conduct an investigation.
A complainant may make a request for confidentiality, including that his/her/their name or other identifying details not be revealed to the respondent. The complainant should be aware that his/her/their request for confidentiality may hinder the Title IX Office’s ability to investigate and/or take remedial actions. This is particularly true for remedial actions involving the respondent.
Even if the Title IX Coordinator determines not to investigate, based in whole or in part on the complainant’s request not to pursue or for confidentiality, the University will take actions, as appropriate, to mitigate the effects of the alleged sexual misconduct and prevent its recurrence. Such actions may include, depending on all of the relevant facts and circumstances, increased monitoring, supervision, or security at locations or activities where the alleged misconduct occurred; providing training and education for students and employees; and revising and publicizing the University’s policies on sexual misconduct.
Determining if an Investigation is Warranted
During or after an informational meeting, a complainant may meet with a Title IX Office investigator to provide an account of the incident(s). The investigator will consult with the Title IX Coordinator in determining whether an investigation is warranted. The investigator may conduct, as needed, preliminary interviews of the complainant, respondent, or witnesses, consult with other University offices (including Student Accountability, Human Resources, the appropriate Dean’s office, and other departments, as appropriate), and conduct an initial review of potentially relevant evidence.
If the Title IX Coordinator determines that an investigation is warranted, the Title IX Office will notify the complainant and either the Title IX Office or Student Accountability will notify the respondent. The Title IX Office will ask complainants who decline to participate whether they wish to receive the preliminary and/or final investigative report. In this situation, if the complainant and/or respondent chooses not to cooperate with an investigation, the Title IX Office may move forward based on the available information and evidence. The Title IX Coordinator has the discretion to administratively close an investigation prior to a determination. In making the determination to administratively close an investigation, the Title IX Coordinator will consider relevant factors, including, but not limited to, whether the allegations lack sufficient detail, whether after initial review the allegations as stated would not constitute a violation of the policy, whether the complainant has requested that no investigation be pursued or has declined to participate in an investigation, as well as the safety of the University community and the University’s commitment to provide a non-discriminatory environment. The Title IX Coordinator may also determine to re-open an investigation based on a consideration of relevant factors, including, but not limited to, the time period that has elapsed since the investigation was closed, the complainant’s stated reasons for requesting that the investigation be reopened, and fairness to both parties.
In no circumstances will mediation be used to resolve cases of sexual assault.
Notice of Investigation
Upon a determination by the Title IX Coordinator that an investigation involving a student respondent will be conducted, the Title IX Office will normally provide an oral and/or written summary of the allegations to the Director of Student Accountability or designee (collectively, Student Accountability). Student Accountability may request any additional information or documents that have been obtained by the Title IX Office. Student Accountability will present a notice of investigation to the respondent that outlines the potential violations of the policy and the range of possible sanctions. A notice of investigation may be modified at any point based on information provided to or developed by the Title IX Office during its investigation. The notice of investigation will be sent to the Title IX Office. The Title IX Office may contact the respondent for the purposes of obtaining or sharing information prior to the presentation of the notice of investigation. For faculty, staff, and postdoctoral fellow/trainee respondents, the notice of investigation will be issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Office.
The Investigative Process
The Title IX Office will attempt to contact the complainant and the respondent separately to schedule informational meetings in which a staff member will explain the role of the Title IX Office in the investigation and disposition of reports, and the resources available for assistance, including interim measures that may be appropriate. Both the complainant and the respondent may be accompanied by an adviser of their choosing to meetings related to the report of a violation of the policy, including with the Title IX Office.
The complainant and respondent will be interviewed by the assigned investigator. The complainant and respondent will have the opportunity to provide information regarding the allegations, ask questions, and offer names of witnesses or other people with relevant information. A Title IX Office investigator will also interview any other individuals who, in the investigator’s judgment, may have pertinent knowledge. Potentially relevant information and documents may be collected from the complainant, respondent, witnesses, and third parties. Student witnesses are strongly encouraged to cooperate with Title IX Office investigations. As the investigation progresses, the investigator may seek to conduct follow-up interviews with any person as the investigator deems necessary and appropriate. If the complainant or the respondent learns of, or remembers, any additional information during the course of the investigation, he/she/they should notify the Title IX Office investigator immediately. Both parties will be given timely and equal access, to the extent possible under the circumstances of each case, to other evidence, such as video.
The Title IX Office will provide and give the complainant and the respondent a reasonable amount of time to review and submit comments on their own statements. If comments are not submitted within the timeframe requested by the Title IX Office, the Title IX Coordinator may authorize the investigator to proceed with the statements as they are.
Prior to making a final determination, the Title IX Office will prepare a preliminary report containing the statements of the parties and witnesses and relevant evidence. The complainant and respondent will receive a copy of the preliminary report simultaneously. The Title IX Office may redact information from the preliminary report and attachments, including, but not limited to, the names and other identifying information of other students and sensitive information. Both the complainant and respondent will have the opportunity to submit written comments on the preliminary report. Any such comments, which shall be no longer than ten (10) double-spaced pages with one (1) inch margins and twelve (12) point font, must be submitted either by hand delivery to the Title IX Office, 110 21st Avenue South, Suite 975, or by email attachment to the Title IX Office investigator by no later than 5pm on the fifth (5th) calendar day following the date the complainant and respondent receive the preliminary report. Requests for extensions must be submitted to the Title IX Office prior to the expiration of the five-day period.
The Title IX Office may investigate and make findings of fact regarding possible violations of other University policies that may have contributed to or arisen from, or that otherwise relate to, alleged violations of this policy (i.e., other violations of University policy outlined in the Student Handbook, HR policies, and Faculty Manual). The relevant information and findings will then be shared with Student Accountability or the appropriate department for further action. If the conduct complained of involves only a possible violation of another University policy that is not alleged or determined by the Title IX Office to have contributed to or arisen from or that does not otherwise relate to a violation of this policy, or if the conduct complained of involves only a possible violation of another policy, the Title IX Office will refer the report to the department responsible for investigating and/or resolving such reports. If the report does not allege conduct that violates any University policy, the matter will be closed.
Retaliation is any adverse action threatened or taken, whether personally or through a third party, against another person because they have complained about, reported, or participated in the investigation or disposition of alleged sexual misconduct. Retaliation in an effort to discourage a person from reporting sexual misconduct or participating in a sexual misconduct investigation, or to punish a person for doing so, is also prohibited. . Individuals involved in investigations or disciplinary proceedings are encouraged to exercise discretion in sharing information in order to safeguard the integrity of the process and to avoid the appearance of retaliation. While discretion regarding the process is important, complainants and respondents are not restricted from discussing and sharing information with others who may support or assist them during the process. The University will take appropriate action to address any reports of retaliation.
Both the complainant and the respondent will be permitted to ask one adviser of their choosing to accompany them to all meetings related to the report of a violation of the policy. The adviser for either party may confer privately with that party, but the adviser may not speak on behalf of the complainant or respondent or otherwise participate in any meeting. An adviser's failure to comply with these guidelines may result in the termination of the meeting or the adviser no longer being permitted to be present.
University personnel employed in the offices responsible for the process described in this policy, along with those in the chain of command above them, personnel employed by the Office of the General Counsel, and others whose participation could create a conflict of interest with their University duties are not eligible to serve as advisers. Other University personnel, including mandatory reporters, as well as people not affiliated with the University, may serve as advisers. Student Accountability maintains a list of trained staff members who can serve in this role. Persons who may be potential witnesses in the matter are not permitted to serve as advisers to the parties. If there is a question or concern about a possible adviser, please consult with the Title IX Office.
Interviews conducted as part of an investigation under this policy may be recorded by the University. Recordings not authorized by the University are prohibited.
Evidence Not Considered
The Title IX Coordinator shall decide in each case whether to receive evidence from experts or other witnesses. Under no circumstances, however, will polygraph evidence be considered. Evidence concerning the character of a party will not be considered.
Standard of Proof
Vanderbilt uses the preponderance of the evidence standard of proof at every stage of the investigative process to determine responsibility for violations of this policy. Proof meets the preponderance standard if the Title IX Office determines it is "more likely than not" that the policy was violated.
The Title IX Office will consider any comments received from the complainant and/or respondent after reviewing the preliminary report, and will conduct any further investigation it considers necessary or appropriate. The parties may receive and have an opportunity to submit a limited response to new information, subject to the discretion of the Title IX Coordinator. Thereafter, the Title IX Office will issue a final report that sets forth (a) the Title IX Office’s determination, based on a preponderance of the evidence, whether the respondent engaged in sexual misconduct in violation of this policy, and (b) if appropriate, any relevant recommendations. The final report will contain a summary of the information and documents on which the final determination and any remedial or other recommendations are based and will address, to the extent the Title IX Office considers appropriate, any comments received from the complainant or respondent concerning the preliminary report. The comments from the complainant and respondent will also be attached as an attachment. The names and other identifying information of other students and sensitive information will be redacted from the final report, but will be made available to the parties to the extent necessary to understand the complaint, investigation, or disposition. When the respondent is found to have violated the policy, the appropriate person will be notified for sanctioning, referral, or follow-up (e.g., Director of Student Accountability for students, Dean of the appropriate School for faculty, appropriate supervisor/manager and Human Resources consultant for staff, etc.). When there is no finding or a finding that the respondent has not violated the policy, the appropriate person (e.g., Director of Student Accountability for students, Dean of the appropriate School for faculty, appropriate supervisor/manager and Human Resources consultant for staff, etc.) will be notified. The Title IX Office will also forward a summary of any evidence it received concerning possible violations of other policies to the office or department responsible for enforcement of such policies, as appropriate. The Title IX Office will provide its final report simultaneously to the complainant and the respondent.
The University endeavors to conduct and complete the investigative process within 60 calendar days from the time the Title IX Coordinator determines that an investigation will go forward. Given the many variables and factors that may arise in such cases, good cause may exist for extending the time needed in some cases, such as those involving multiple witnesses and complicated evidence. The complainant and the respondent will be notified simultaneously, in writing, if the investigation process cannot be completed within 60 days, and they will be provided with a revised timeline.
The Title IX Office's ability to complete the investigative process within 60 days is enhanced when students, witnesses, and other third parties respond promptly to requests for information, interviews, and meetings.
Preservation of Investigative Materials
Materials obtained by the Title IX Office during the investigation will be maintained by the Title IX Office for at least seven (7) years.
Parallel Investigations with Law Enforcement
Criminal complaints may be filed with either VUPD or MNPD. VUPD and MNPD are not confidential resources; VUPD is a mandatory reporter. Victims may also decline to report to these authorities.
Vanderbilt University Police Department
111 28th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37212
Emergency – 911 or 615-42(1-1911)
Metro Nashville Police Department Headquarters
200 James Robertson Parkway
Nashville, TN 37201
Emergency – 911
Civil or criminal proceedings are separate and distinct from the process described in this policy for investigating and resolving sexual misconduct reports, and they may or may not run parallel to one another. The University may be required by law to provide information to civil or criminal authorities or in civil or criminal proceedings. The filing of a police report or the pendency of civil or criminal proceedings does not preclude the Title IX Office or any other department of Vanderbilt University from proceeding with its investigation and determination. The investigation and determination may be delayed until the police have finished gathering evidence but generally will not wait for the conclusion of any criminal proceeding. Vanderbilt encourages its students, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral fellows/trainees to report crimes to law enforcement. Project Safe Center staff are available to accompany victims who choose to report an incident to law enforcement.
When VUPD receives information concerning conduct that may be criminal, including sexual assault, they work in conjunction with MNPD. Typically, VUPD and MNPD detectives work together to assist victims. In most sexual assault cases, VUPD will provide assistance and MNPD will be the primary investigating agency. For other sexual misconduct cases, VUPD may conduct the investigation and keep MNPD updated and informed. Regardless of whether VUPD or MNPD conducts the primary investigation, individuals may contact VUPD about the incident at any time. VUPD is available on request to assist victims in working with MNPD and in court proceedings.
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Additional Information for Students
Limited Disciplinary Immunity
The University understands that individuals with information about sexual misconduct may hesitate to provide that information if they fear that their own violations of other University policies would be revealed. While Vanderbilt does not condone any violations of its policies, the University will generally extend immunity for possession or use of alcohol or drugs and any resulting intoxication to individuals in order to facilitate reporting and investigation of sexual misconduct incidents. Students may be referred for an alcohol or drug assessment and counseling.
No Contact Orders
Given the nature of cases involving sexual misconduct, a student may request issuance of a no contact order. For more detailed information about interim measures, please refer to the “Interim Measures” section above. No contact orders often require that the complainant and respondent have no contact with each other during the course of the investigation and/or thereafter, even when there is no finding of a policy violation. No contact orders may also be issued and maintained even in cases where an investigation is not undertaken or either party has declined to participate in the University proceeding or the criminal process. The University may also employ or continue such orders and implement other interim measures on its own initiative, as appropriate. The issuance or continuation of a no contact order is not an accountability proceeding or corrective action for purposes of a student’s record and is not subject to appeal. Additional information about no contact orders may be found in Chapter 3 of the Student Handbook under the section, “No Contact Orders,” and questions may be directed to Student Accountability.
Students may also seek orders of protection, restraining orders, or other similar orders issued by a court of law and may be assisted in doing so by representatives from University offices, including, for example, the Project Safe Center, the Office of Housing and Residential Education, and VUPD. If a student obtains an order of protection or similar order issued by a court, the student should share that information with VUPD and the Project Safe Center so the University can assist.
Where the respondent is a student, and the Title IX Office has determined that the respondent violated this policy, Student Accountability will review the Title IX Office’s final report and will render an appropriate sanction. If, upon reviewing the materials, Student Accountability requires clarification or additional information from the Title IX Office before rendering a sanction, Student Accountability may request such clarification or additional information from the Title IX Office. The sanctioning determination will be made based on the information contained in the Title IX Office investigative report, with particular regard for the nature of the incident, the respondent’s reported cooperation and candor, and the respondent’s disciplinary history (if any).
Student Accountability will notify the complainant and the respondent simultaneously in writing of the sanction imposed following the issuance of the final report.
The guidelines for sanctions in sexual misconduct cases are set forth below. See also the "Sanctions" section of Chapter 3 of the Student Handbook.
- The range of sanctions for any student found responsible for Sexual Assault – Intercourse is suspension to expulsion, depending on all of the relevant facts and circumstances.
- Sanctions for Sexual Assault – Contact, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Exploitation, Stalking, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, Retaliation , or any of the other delineated forms of sexual misconduct , will range from disciplinary probation to expulsion, depending on all of the relevant facts and circumstances.
- Inappropriate behavior that does not violate this policy may be addressed under other applicable policies, including the Student Handbook.
- In some cases of sexual misconduct, participation in an evaluation and/or treatment program by an approved counseling service may be required as part of an accountability action plan that accompanies a sanction. Participation in such a program may also be a condition for readmission to the University or a condition for remaining in the University. In cases of suspension, Student Accountability may require the fulfillment of additional conditions for readmission to Vanderbilt.
- Unless Student Accountability decides that an interim measure, such as interim suspension, should be imposed immediately in order to protect the safety and security of the complainant or the University community, sanctions will be effective when the appeal period expires or the appeal is decided, whichever is later.
Student parties have the right to appeal the determination by the Title IX Office and the sanction (if any) rendered by Student Accountability. Student parties will be notified simultaneously in writing of this right and the procedures for appeal. Faculty, staff, and postdoctoral fellows/trainee parties may not use this process to appeal adverse decisions under this policy. However, they will be notified if the student party submits an appeal.
Student appeals will be decided by a panel of three Appellate Officers for Sexual Misconduct ("Appellate Officers") with one serving as the Chair of the panel. Appellate Officers will be faculty and/or administrators appointed by the Chancellor (or the Chancellor's designee) for two- or three-year terms, who will receive annual training on issues involved in sexual misconduct, such as relevant evidence, the appeals process, standards of review, and actual or perceived conflicts of interest. Assignment to cases will be on a rotating basis. Any appeal of a finding of a violation of another University policy (and/or sanction for that violation) which arises out of or is related to an alleged violation of this policy will be decided under the process set forth in this policy by the Appellate Officers.
An Appellate Officer may not consider an appeal if the Appellate Officer has a conflict of interest. Each Appellate Officer is responsible for determining whether or not a conflict of interest exists and may consult with the Dean of Students or designee or the Office of the General Counsel, if necessary. If a conflict does exist, the case is assigned to the next panelist in the rotation.
A petition for appeal, signed by the petitioning student, must be submitted in writing to the Appellate Officers, either by hand delivery to 310 Sarratt, or by email attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org, by no later than 5pm on the tenth (10th) calendar day following the date that notice of the determination by the Title IX Office (when the respondent is found not to have violated the policy) is sent to the parties, or following the date the complainant and respondent are notified of the sanction. Requests for extensions must be submitted prior to the expiration of the ten-day period and will be granted or denied by the Chair of the panel.
The petition must be no longer than ten (10) double-spaced pages with one (1) inch margins and twelve (12) point font. Petitions that exceed or deviate from these requirements will be reviewed by the Chair of the panel who will determine whether to accept the petition as is or require that it be modified to meet these requirements. The petition must include the following: a statement of the grounds for appeal, supporting explanation, and copies of, or reference to, all information not previously submitted to the Title IX Office that the petitioner wishes the Appellate Officers to consider. Except for new information, as defined below, no documents or other evidence will be considered on appeal unless previously submitted to the Title IX Office.
Grounds for Appeal
The four grounds for appeal are as follows:
- Procedural irregularities sufficient to affect the determination by the Title IX Office and/or the sanction imposed by Student Accountability.
- The Title IX Office and Student Accountability are expected to conduct investigations and proceedings in accordance with their policies and procedures. Deviations from those policies and procedures, which render their actions fundamentally unfair, constitute a sufficient basis for the Appellate Officers to reverse, modify, or remand the determination by the Title IX Office and/or the sanction imposed by Student Accountability. Procedural irregularities that are considered by the Appellate Officers to be harmless and that did not, in the judgment of the Appellate Officers, materially affect the process are not a basis for upsetting the determination by the Title IX Office and/or the sanction imposed by Student Accountability.
- The evidence does not support the determination by the Title IX Office.
- It is not the role of Appellate Officers to substitute their judgment for the judgment of Title IX Office if there is a reasonable basis for the Title IX Office's determination based on a preponderance of the evidence. Deference must be given to Title IX Office's determination, especially to the extent that the Title IX Office had the opportunity to hear the witnesses and to assess their credibility and demeanor. The Appellate Officers may not alter the Title IX Office's determination unless, in the Appellate Officers' assessment, the determination is clearly erroneous and cannot be reasonably supported by the evidence.
- New evidence that was not reasonably available for presentation to the Title IX Office, the introduction of which could reasonably be expected to have changed the Title IX Office's determination.
- All available relevant evidence is expected to be presented to the Title IX Office before it prepares its final investigative report. A student who seeks to offer new evidence in support of an appeal must show that the evidence was not reasonably available for presentation to the Title IX Office, and that the introduction of such new evidence can be reasonably expected to have changed the Title IX Office's determination. If the Appellate Officers determine that the student has satisfied this burden, the Appellate Officers shall remand the case to the Title IX Office with instructions to reconsider the case in light of the new evidence.
- Severity of the sanction imposed by Student Accountability.
- The Appellate Officers may not substitute their judgment for the reasonable decision of Student Accountability with respect to sanctions. However, sanctions may be vacated or changed upon a finding, based on the totality of relevant facts and circumstances, that the sanctions imposed by Student Accountability are the product of an abuse of discretion. Abuse of discretion does not necessarily imply an intentional wrong or bad faith.
Consideration of Petition and Determination of Appeal
- One of the three Appellate Officers will be designated as the Chair of the panel.
- When the panel receives a petition, the Chair:
- notifies all persons who were sent formal notification of the Title IX Office’s determination and the sanction (if any) that a petition for appeal has been filed;
- requests that the Title IX Office and/or Student Accountability provide to the Appellate Officers the final investigative report, and other information considered in determining responsibility and/or imposing sanctions; and
- forwards a copy of the petition to the Title IX Office and Student Accountability as well as the non-petitioning party. The Title IX Office and/or Student Accountability may submit written comments within ten (10) calendar days of receiving the petition from the Chair. The non-petitioning party may also submit a response within the same time period. The written comments and response are subject to the same length and formatting limitations as the petition. Requests for extensions by the Title IX Office and/or Student Accountability as well as the non-petitioning party must be submitted prior to the expiration of the ten-day period.
- Upon receiving any written comments or response from the Title IX Office, Student Accountability, and/or the non-petitioning party, the Chair sends the written comments and response to the petitioner, offering the petitioner an opportunity to reply. Replies must be submitted within five (5) calendar days and are limited to five (5) pages with the same formatting limitations. Requests for extensions by the petitioner must be submitted prior to the expiration of the five-day period.
- The Appellate Officers then proceed to consideration of the appeal. The Appellate Officers’ consideration of the appeal must be based only on (a) the original records created by or provided to the Title IX Office and/or Student Accountability, including the final investigative report, (b) the petition, (c) any new evidence in the petition that was not reasonably available for presentation to the Title IX Office and the introduction of which could reasonably be expected to change the Title IX Office’s determination, (d) any written comments/responses, and (e) any reply.
- The Appellate Officers decide by majority vote whether to affirm, modify, or reverse the determination by the Title IX Office and/or the sanction imposed by Student Accountability or to remand the case to the Title IX Office and/or Student Accountability with such instructions as the Appellate Officers consider appropriate.
- In cases where there has been a material procedural error on the part of the Title IX Office and/or Student Accountability, the Appellate Officers will remand the case to the Title IX Office and/or Student Accountability, as appropriate.
- In cases where the Appellate Officers deem that new evidence should be considered, the Appellate Officers will remand the case to the Title IX Office.
- Generally, the appellate process should conclude within 30 days.
- The Chair notifies the complainant, the respondent, the Title IX Office, and Student Accountability of the Appellate Officers' decision and the reasons for the decision. The decision of the Appellate Officers is final.
- At no time may Appellate Officers substitute their opinions or values for University policy.
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Procedures for Faculty
Where a faculty member is a party in a matter involving a student and an alleged violation of this policy, the investigation will follow the process set out in this policy and will be jointly conducted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Office and the Title IX Office. The appropriate Dean’s office will be provided with the notice of investigation. As appropriate, the investigation will also provide information regarding possible violations of other policies related to the allegations of misconduct. If, after receiving information from or consulting with the Title IX Office and Equal Employment Opportunity Office, the Dean for the appropriate school or the Provost’s office determines that the disciplinary process should be initiated, the Dean will follow the process for violations of the faculty standards of conduct set out in the Faculty Manual.
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Procedures for Staff
Where a staff member is a party in a matter involving a student and an alleged violation of this policy, the investigation will follow the process set out in this policy and will be jointly conducted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Office and the Title IX Office. Human Resources, as well as the staff member’s department, will be provided with the notice of investigation. As appropriate, the investigation will also provide information regarding possible violations of other Human Resources policies related to the allegations of misconduct. If, after receiving information from or consulting with the Title IX Office and Equal Employment Opportunity Office, the staff member’s department, in consultation with Human Resources, determines that the disciplinary process should be initiated, the process for violations of Human Resources policies will be followed. http://hr.vanderbilt.edu/policies/index.php
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Procedures for Postdoctoral Fellows and Trainees
Where a postdoctoral fellow or trainee is a party in a matter involving a student and an alleged violation of this policy, the investigation will follow the process set out in this policy and will be jointly conducted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Office and the Title IX Office. The appropriate Dean’s office will be provided with the notice of investigation. As appropriate, the investigation will also provide information regarding possible violations of other policies related to the allegations of misconduct. If, after receiving information from or consulting with the Title IX Office and Equal Employment Opportunity Office, the fellow or trainee’s department, in consultation with the appropriate Dean’s office, determines that the disciplinary process should be initiated, the process for similar conduct violations will be followed.
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Prevention, Education, and Training
Vanderbilt provides numerous programs that address sexual misconduct, including the intersection of alcohol and drug use with sexual violence. Vanderbilt’s programs include Preventing Sexual Assault (an online prevention module), The Escalation Workshop, True Life at Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt Visions, AlcoholEdu, and Green Dot. A number of individual departments and offices, including the Title IX Office and the Project Safe Center, and student organizations also provide regular and ongoing programming on these important issues.
Vanderbilt also provides regular and ongoing training to faculty and staff, including the Provost, the Deans of the various schools, and Human Resources:
- The University provides training on nondiscrimination laws and policies, including those covering sexual misconduct, as an essential part of new faculty and staff orientation.
- The Office of Student Care Coordination maintains an online guide for faculty and staff on assisting students of concern.
- The Project Safe Center, the Center for Student Wellbeing, and the Office of Student Care Coordination facilitate training on responding to students in distress.
- The University provides training for managers and supervisors with hiring responsibilities on subjects including discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.
- The Title IX Office provides in-person training as well as an online modules for faculty members regarding Title IX, sexual misconduct, and reporting obligations.
- The Title IX Office, Student Accountability, and the Project Safe Center also provide training to faculty, staff, and students on sexual misconduct and the University's policies that address these issues.
The Title IX Coordinator, the Title IX Office staff, the Director of Student Accountability, and Project Safe Center staff are trained at least annually, and on an ongoing basis, on issues related to sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and intimate partner violence, and in conducting investigations in a manner that protects the well-being and safety of the complainant, the respondent, and the University community. University law enforcement personnel, mandatory reporters, and others involved in responding to sexual misconduct and intimate partner violence cases receive training as well.
Vanderbilt encourages anyone who witnesses, experiences, or has information about possible sexual misconduct to take reasonable actions to prevent or stop such actions. Reasonable actions may include, depending on all relevant facts and circumstances, reporting the behavior (in accordance with the reporting options outlined above), directly intervening when it is safe and reasonable to do so or contacting law enforcement. Bystander intervention is an effective means by which to reduce sexual misconduct in our community. Vanderbilt uses Green Dot, a bystander intervention program, available through the Project Safe Center. A person who has been subjected to sexual misconduct need not confront the other party.
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Federal Statistical Reporting Obligations
Under the Clery Act, the University is required to report statistical information regarding sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking occurring on campus and on non-campus property controlled by the University and utilized by students. Personally identifiable information is not included, but information must be provided to VUPD regarding the nature of the incident, the date it occurred, and its general location (e.g., on or off campus, in residential housing, or in the surrounding area) for publication in the Annual Security Report. This report helps to provide the community with information regarding the extent and nature of campus crime and security measures on campus, to ensure greater community safety.
Mandated federal reporters, known as Campus Security Authorities, include: campus law enforcement; Student Accountability; the Title IX Coordinator and Title IX Office staff; Residential Education staff (including Resident Advisers); advisers to student organizations; designated staff within the Office of the Dean of Students and its offices; coaches and other designated staff within the Department of Athletics; and anyone else with significant responsibility for student and campus activities.
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Federal Timely Warning Reporting Obligations
Under the Clery Act, VUPD must issue timely warnings, also known as security notices, with respect to crimes that pose a serious or continuing threat of bodily harm or danger to members of the campus community. The victim's 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. In addition, VUPD must issue immediate notifications, also known as "AlertVU," upon confirmation of a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students, faculty, staff, or postdoctoral fellows/trainees occurring on campus.
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Appendix: List of Mandatory Reporters
The University's mandatory reporters include, but are not limited to, the following employees or categories of employees:
- Faculty members and teaching/graduate/research assistants
- Senior leadership (e.g., Chancellor, Provost, Vice Chancellors, and Deans, including Associates and Assistants)
- Title IX Coordinator and staff in the Title IX and Student Discrimination Office
- Staff in the Equal Employment Opportunity Office
- Staff in Student Access Services
- Staff in Vanderbilt University Public Safety
- Staff in the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards, and Academic Integrity
- Staff and graduate assistants in the Office of the Dean of the Students
- Staff, graduate assistants, and resident advisers in the Office of Housing and Residential Education
- Staff and graduate assistants in the Office of the Dean of the Ingram Commons
- Faculty Heads of House, Faculty in Residence, and Faculty Directors in Living Learning Communities
- Other professional staff working within the Provost's areas, including departmental program coordinators
- Professional staff, graduate assistants, and coaches in the Department of Athletics
- Designated staff in Human Resources
- Administrative Compliance Officer in the Office of Audit, Risk, and Advisory Services
- Staff in the Office of Risk and Insurance Management
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