1.0 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Purpose
The purpose of this SOP is to outline the procedural steps that will be taken when a report or complaint has been filed with the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (“OIED”) to address allegations of unlawful discrimination or harassment.
The University has created these procedures to provide fair, prompt, and consistent mechanisms for the resolution of complaints alleging violations of the Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy (“Policy”). These procedures provide for both an informal resolution process and a formal investigation process.
The availability of these procedures is not intended to impair or limit the right of any individual to seek a remedy available under applicable law (see Section 5.5 for a listing of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies).
2.1 Reporting an Allegation or Filing a Complaint
Brown University recognizes that deciding whether to make a report or file a complaint is a personal decision, and the Complainant’s autonomy is to be respected to the extent possible. However, when there is a risk of imminent harm to an individual or others, or if there is a threat to the safety of the campus, Brown University may take immediate action upon receipt of a report or complaint. In such circumstances, University representatives will explain these actions to the individual(s) making the allegation.
All individuals seeking to inform OIED of any alleged discrimination or harassment incidents and wishing to proceed with a potential resolution process, will be required to complete an intake form. The submission of an intake form does not constitute a formal complaint, but rather a preliminary review of an alleged discrimination or harassment incident.
2.1.1 Complaints Against Student Respondents
Alleged violations of the Policy by students (as defined in Section B.3 of the Code of Student Conduct) are evaluated by the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards (“OSCCS”) pursuant to the procedures codified in the Code of Student Conduct. To make a report or file a complaint of discrimination or harassment against a student, contact OSCCS at (401) 863-3145 or email [email protected].
2.1.2 Complaints Against Faculty and Staff Respondents
Alleged violations of the Policy by faculty and staff are first evaluated by OIED pursuant to the procedures codified in this SOP. To make a report or file a complaint of discrimination or harassment against a faculty or staff member, please submit an intake form per Section 2.5.
2.2 Timeframe for Reporting
A faculty or staff Complainant pursuing an informal resolution or formal investigation under the Policy, and seeking to initiate a preliminary review, must submit an intake form alleging any violations of the Policy within one (1) year of the alleged discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. Students must submit an intake form within 180 days of graduating from or no longer being enrolled in the University. The University will accept a report of discrimination or harassment at any time, although the University’s ability to investigate may be limited with the passage of time.
If the Complainant and/or Respondent is no longer affiliated with Brown (e.g., a report is made after a student is no longer enrolled or graduated or an employee is no longer employed by Brown), the University will provide reasonably available and appropriate support measures which may include without limitation assisting the complainant in identifying external reporting options and taking appropriate action to address the prohibited conduct.
Complainants and Respondents are entitled to be accompanied by an adviser (including a union representative when applicable and excluding members of their own department) at meetings and investigation interviews. An adviser is an individual of the complainant’s or respondent’s choosing but may not be an attorney. Only one adviser may be present at each meeting or interview. Schedule adjustments, including that of interviews, will not be made for advisers if the request creates an unduly delay in the process, which is considered to be a delay of three (3) or more business days.
During meetings, interviews, and the investigation process, advisers may not actively participate or speak for or answer questions on behalf of their party, although they may ask to take a break briefly to provide consultation or support. Parties may seek legal advice from attorneys, but attorneys may not accompany a party to any meeting or interview.
2.4 Informal Resolution and Formal Investigations
The University has created a framework for resolving complaints that allege a violation of the Policy. The goals of this SOP are intended to provide fair, prompt, and consistent mechanisms for determining whether the Policy has been violated and, if so, to provide appropriate resolution.
2.5 Intake Form Submission
All individuals seeking to inform OIED of any alleged discrimination or harassment incidents and to proceed with an informal resolution or formal investigation will be required to complete an intake form. The submission of an intake form will aid in the preliminary review of a potential discrimination or harassment complaint and does not constitute a formal complaint.
An intake form must be filled out via the OIED website https://www.brown.edu/about/administration/institutional-diversity/incident-reporting. Once an intake form is received, OIED will make an initial assessment (as defined in Section 2.6).
2.6 Initial Assessment
Upon receipt of an intake form, the designated OIED staff will be responsible for making the initial assessment. For faculty matters, if an intake form submission involves a question of academic freedom, the relevant dean will be notified and will guide the initial assessment. For all other faculty and staff matters, OIED will proceed based on the following determinations:
1. Is the respondent an individual covered under the University’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy; and
2. Has the Complainant provided sufficient information needed to determine whether the conduct, if substantiated, would violate the University’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy.
If the answer to either question is no, then OIED does not have the authority to resolve the matter and will be referred as follows:
If the Respondent is:
Intake Form will be referred to:
|Staff||University Human Resources|
|Student||Office of Student Conduct|
If the answer to both questions is yes, then OIED will proceed with notifying the reporting party of the informal resolution or formal investigation processes noted in this SOP. To move forward with either of these processes, the complainant must notify the assigned OIED staff member of their intention to proceed by completing a complaint form provided by OIED.
2.7 Interim or Protective Measures
The University may implement interim actions prior to completing an informal resolution process or formal investigation based on the nature of the alleged conduct. Such actions may be involuntary placement of an employee on paid leave, reassignment of work location, or other means. The decision to implement interim measures is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with OSCCS for students, University Human Resources for staff, or the relevant dean for faculty and includes without limitation such factors as the risk of harm to a complainant, safety, University property or operations, or other exceptional circumstances. Failure to comply with an interim or protective measure constitutes a violation of the Policy.
2.8 Informal Resolution
An informal resolution is an alternative to a formal investigation and generally involves a facilitated resolution that is acceptable to the Complainant and Respondent. A full investigation of the allegation is not conducted in the informal resolution process; however, the details of the allegation will be gathered to allow the University to engage in an assessment of risk. An informal resolution can be the full and final resolution to a complaint.
An informal resolution can be requested by a Complainant or Respondent at any time after a complaint has been submitted. Generally, informal resolutions are pursued when the Complainant and Respondent, having been fully informed of all available options, have explicitly and voluntarily made that choice. An informal resolution process is voluntary for both the Complainant and the Respondent. Engaging in the informal resolution process is not an admission of responsibility for the allegation or an admission of the falsehood of the allegations. The existence of an informal resolution is not viewed as a finding against the Respondent.
The Complainant or Respondent may withdraw from an informal resolution process at any time before its completion. If an informal resolution process is ended, any information obtained may be used by OIED in a subsequent formal investigation.
Once a complaint has been resolved through an informal resolution process, the matter will be closed. This means that allegations resolved through an informal resolution will not advance through the formal investigation process unless the terms of the informal resolution are broken or incomplete. If a term of the informal resolution is broken or incomplete, the information obtained may be submitted as evidence in a subsequent investigation involving the Complainant and/or Respondent.
In all cases, OIED will have the discretion to determine whether an informal resolution is appropriate to the circumstances.
In addition to OIED, the following resources are also available to assist with facilitating discussions and mediating conflicts:
• Employee and Labor Relations, [email protected]
• University Ombudsperson, [email protected]
2.9 Formal Investigation
OIED may conduct a formal investigation into allegations of discrimination or harassment when:
● Attempts at informal resolution between a Complainant and Respondent are unsuccessful;
● A Complainant decides not to resolve the matter informally and instead chooses to pursue a formal investigation; or
● OIED determines that a formal investigation is warranted.
Once a formal investigation has commenced, the Respondent will be notified in writing of the allegations under investigation. In addition, the Respondent’s supervisor will be notified that OIED has opened an investigation for potential policy violation. The Respondent will be given seven (7) business days to respond in writing to the allegations; however, a response to the allegations is not required in order to move forward with the case.
The investigator may conduct interviews with and request relevant documents, emails, text messages, or other records from the Complainant, Respondent, and any witnesses.
Once all relevant information has been collected, the investigator will evaluate the information, prepare an investigation report, and make a determination as to whether the Respondent violated the Policy.
2.9.1 Standard of Proof for an Investigation
In all stages of the process, Brown will apply the preponderance of the evidence standard when determining whether the Policy has been violated. The totality of the circumstances will be considered in this determination.
2.9.2 Determination Following an Investigation
At the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator will issue a determination letter to the Respondent, as well as the relevant senior officer for staff or relevant dean for faculty, which will include a recommended range of discipline if a violation of the Policy is found to have occurred. The investigator’s determination may contain one or more of the three following outcomes:
1. “No Violation” of the Policy;
2. “Inappropriate Behavior Not Rising to the Level of a Violation” of the Policy; and/or
3. “Violation” of the Policy.
22.214.171.124 Recommendation of Discipline
In the event of a violation of the Policy, the investigator will make a recommendation of a range of discipline. Discipline issued in connection with this SOP will be made by the relevant senior officer, in consultation with OIED and UHR, for staff or (ii) the relevant dean, in consultation with OIED, for faculty, to ensure consistency and fairness when violations are determined to have occurred. The discipline will be proportionate to the frequency and severity of the conduct. Discipline will be designed to remedy the policy violation and prevent the recurrence of the prohibited conduct. Examples of discipline that may be issued in connection with a violation of the Policy include, without limitation, a requirement not to repeat or continue the discriminatory or harassing conduct; a requirement to participate in training; an oral or written reprimand; denial of a merit pay increase or promotion; and reassignment, suspension, or separation from the University. Discipline may be issued against any employee who is determined to have violated the Policy or anyone with a responsibility to report harassment and fails to do so.
In matters involving faculty, if the relevant dean determines that there is adequate cause for separation of a term appointment or revocation of tenure of a faculty Respondent, the relevant dean will make this recommendation to the Provost and the President who will consider the recommendation and follow the appropriate procedure as stated by the Faculty Rules and Regulations.
In matters involving staff, if the relevant senior officer determines there is adequate cause for the separation or termination of a staff, the relevant senior officer will make this recommendation to the Senior Director of Employee and Labor Relations who will follow the appropriate procedure as stated by University policy or applicable collective bargaining agreement.
2.10 Appeal Process
Both the Complainant and Respondent have the right to appeal a final determination letter or finding of a violation of the Policy or the resulting discipline. The appeals officer will be the Vice President of University Human Resources for staff respondents and the Provost for faculty respondents, or their designee. Requests for appeal, including any supporting information, must be submitted in writing to the appeals officer within five (5) business days following the receipt of the determination letter.
2.10.1 Basis of Appeal
Appeals must be based on these limited grounds:
1. Substantial procedural error that materially affected the outcome;
2. Material, new evidence not reasonably available at the time of the investigation;
3. A decision or sanction that is clearly contrary to the weight of the evidence.
2.10.2 Authority of Appeals Officer
The appeals officer’s responsibility will be strictly limited to determining if a substantial procedural error that materially affected the outcome has occurred, new evidence was not reasonably available at the time of the investigation, or a decision or sanction was made that is clearly contrary to the weight of the evidence.
The appeals officer will have five (5) business days, following the receipt of all evidence from both the complainant and respondent, to acknowledge the receipt of the appeal request. The appeal review will be conducted within a reasonable timeframe. If any or all of the aforementioned grounds for appeal are found by the appeals officer, the appeal will be granted. If the appeal is denied, the matter is closed, and the investigator’s determination stands as the final decision.
There are two possibilities in the event that an appeal is granted. The appeals officer may, at their discretion:
1. Send the case back to the investigator for additional fact-finding; or
2. Modify the decision and/or discipline.
2.11 Timeframe of the Formal Investigation
The University seeks to complete its investigation and disciplinary process, if any, as promptly as possible. A formal investigation process will take an average of sixty (60) business days. The length of investigations may vary with the complexity and unique factors in each case. Examples of such factors include, but are not limited to, circumstances in which critical witnesses are unavailable, or if law enforcement requests the University temporarily halt its investigation for a brief period of time.
Below is an overview of the approximate time associated with the major stages of the formal investigation process after OIED receives a complaint. All timeframes set forth in this process may be adjusted in the discretion of OIED. The Complainant and Respondent will be notified of any delays or extensions of these timeframes and will be provided with a revised timeline to resolve the complaint.
• Notice to the Respondent – Two (2) business days from receipt of the complaint
• Response to the complaint by the Respondent – Seven (7) business days from delivery of written notice of the complaint
• Investigation – Thirty (30) business days
• Determination Letter – Seven (7) business days from completion of the investigation
• Right to Appeal – Five (5) business days from the delivery of the determination letter
• Appeal Receipt Acknowledgement – Five (5) business days after receiving appeal
3.0 Definitions: N/A
All individuals to whom this SOP applies are responsible for becoming familiar with and following this SOP. University managers and supervisors are responsible for promoting the understanding of this SOP and for taking appropriate steps to help ensure compliance with it.
Supervisors are required to report promptly to the Subject Matter Contact identified in Section 6.3 of this SOP all instances or allegations of prohibited conduct that are disclosed to, observed by, or otherwise known to them.
5.0 Related Information
The following information complements and supplements this document. The information is intended to help explain this SOP and is not an all-inclusive list of policies, procedures, laws and requirements.
5.1 Related University Policies:
5.2 Related SOPs:
5.3 Related Forms:
5.4 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
● If I file a complaint and an investigation is conducted, will I be notified of the outcome? A Complainant will receive a letter notifying them that the matter has been appropriately addressed by the University; however, if a violation of the University’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy is found, a Complainant may not be made aware of whether discipline has been recommended or imposed. Respondents will receive a determination letter outlining the outcome of the investigation.
● Am I allowed to have a copy of the investigation documents? Generally, investigation documents are not shared. However, if a complaint results in an investigation, the Respondent will receive a notice of the complaint at the start of the investigation and a determination letter at the end of the investigation. The Complainant will receive a letter notifying them that the matter has been appropriately addressed by the University, but will not be notified of any discipline. If the parties agree to an informal resolution process, at the conclusion of the process an informal resolution letter will be issued to the Complainant and Respondent.
● Will determination letters be placed in an employment file? No. Determination letters will be not be placed in employment files.
● Will my complaint be kept confidential? Communications with OIED staff are not confidential in the way that conversations with staff in Counseling and Psychological Services, Health Services, or the University Chaplain are confidential; however, conversations with OIED staff about discrimination or harassment are private in that information will be shared with other individuals will only be shared on a need-to-know basis under limited circumstances. When necessary to share with another person or department, OIED staff will make every effort to withhold the identity of an individual who does not want that information shared with others in cases where the information does not present a danger to the individual or someone else.
5.5 Other Related Information:
Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement Agencies:
● Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, Phone: 401-222-2661
● Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Boston Office, Phone: 1-800-669-4000
● Office of Civil Rights, Region 1 U.S. Department of Education, Phone: 617-289-0111
● Providence Police Department, Phone: 401-272-3121
● Rhode Island Attorney General, Phone: 401-274-4400
6.0 SOP Owner and Contact
6.1 SOP Owner: Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity
6.2 SOP Approved by: Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity
6.3 Subject Matter Contact: Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity
● Telephone: 401-863-2216
● Email: [email protected]
7.0 SOP History
7.1 SOP Issue Date: November 9, 2021
7.2 SOP Effective Date: November 9, 2021
7.3 SOP Update/Review Summary: This is a new SOP that was derived from procedures in the previously published Discrimination and Harassment Policy, Date: September 2, 2016.