The Review Process

If you are a USF student or employee and have been the victim of sexual harassment, sexual violence, or other gender-based harassment, it is important that you read the following information. Although not intended to be a comprehensive explanation of your options and rights, this information may be useful to you.

Sexual harassment, sexual violence, and other gender-based harassment occurring in the college setting implicates a federal law called Title IX of the Higher Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex (gender) in education programs or activities and which triggers certain responsibilities on the part of USF. The USF System has a team of Title IX officers who can help explain USF’s responsibilities in these cases.

Both the Office of Student Conduct and the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Opportunity (DIEO) have the authority to address complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence in a non-criminal context. This USF System process is completely separate for the police and courts. Within the USF System, the identity of the respondent determines which of the two offices handles the case. When the respondent is a student at the time of the incident, the Office of Student Conduct provides a student process for investigating those cases whether they occur on or off campus. When the respondent is an employee, those cases are handled by the DIEO. When the respondent is both a student and employee, the two offices may work together to resolve the case. When the respondent is neither a student nor employee, USF can still assist you with counseling and other support services.

It you are uncertain about which office to contact, you may call either office and they will ensure your report is ultimately reviewed by the appropriate office.

When a complaint is filed with with a USF System office, the office will review the complaint and provide an appropriate response which may include counseling, mediation, and/or referral for disciplinary action (up to and including termination from employment and/or expulsion from the USF System). Additionally, the reviewing office will report any conduct that may be criminal in nature to the appropriate law enforcement entities.

The Office of Student Conduct or the DIEO will review the allegations and determine an appropriate course of action. Some cases can be handled informally and outside of the formal investigation process, although USF will not mediate cases of sexual violence even on a voluntary basis. All investigations will be conducted in a thorough and neutral manner.

When made aware of sexual violence, USF may have an obligation to proceed with an investigation, regardless of a complaint’s wishes, in order to ensure campus safety. Complainants are not not required  to participate, if you choose not to; however, this may limit the university’s ability to respond to the incident. If you request that you name or other identifying information not be used in an investigation, USF will consider your request in the light of the context of its responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment. In most cases, information including your name may be shared with the respondent, witnesses, and with university officials who have a legitimate need to know.

Beyond that, USF will take steps to protect your identity and the identity of all individuals involved.

A complainant may be accompanied by an advisor during any meeting. The advisor may be an attorney or any support person (including an advocate from the USF Center for Victim Advocacy & Violence Prevention). In the university’s process, the complainant and respondent will not be permitted to directly question each other and are not required to be present together at any point. Both a complainant and a respondent have the right to the investigation. USF will decide the case based on a preponderance of the information standard (whether or not it is more likely that the conduct occurred).

In most cases, USF will not wait until a criminal case is resolved before proceeding with the case. In addition, if a university official has a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed, she or he may be obligated to report that to law enforcement, if police have not already been notified. In cases where a police investigation has been conducted or is being conducted for sexual assaults, law enforcement may be able to provide information to USF with the victim’s consent. USF’s fact-finding investigation may be delayed for a short period of time upon request from law enforcement, but will be promptly resumed as soon as possible.

The university will use its best efforts to resolve sexual violence or sexual harassment within 60 days, but depending on the complexity of the case, up to 90 days may be necessary. The university will keep a complainant advised as to the status of the case as the complainant desires and reasonable. The complainant will be informed of the outcome of the case in writing.

Because the school’s primary concern is student safety, minor alcohol and drug violations by a complainant revealed in an investigation will be handled informally whenever possible. The use of alcohol and other drugs never makes an individual at fault for sexual violence.

USF will take interim steps to protect a complainant while the case is pending. Depending on the case and the complainant wishes, these steps may include class changes and on-campus housing moves, ordering a respondent to not have contact with you, excluding a respondent from parts of campus, or providing an escort to accompany you on campus.  Any adjustments made will be designed to minimize the burden on the complainant’s educational program. Some of these actions may also be remedies on those cases results in a finding of a policy violation.

USF has a policy which prohibits retaliation against any employee or student who reports an incident or alleged sexual harassment or sexual violence, or any employee or student who testifies, assists or participates in a proceeding, investigation or hearing relating to these allegations. Respondents are informed of this provision and any retaliation should be reported immediately to the appropriate Title IX officer.