Below is a general summary of the procedures used to respond to allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violence when a formal investigation is initiated. The specific process used for any individual investigation will depend on the affiliation of the respondent with the university and whether the allegations involve Title IX misconduct (as described below). For detailed policy information, including misconduct definitions and the specific procedural requirements for particular respondents, please see the UW-Madison Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence (“SH/SV Policy”).
For purposes of this summary, the “complainant” is the person who is alleged to have been subjected to the misconduct and the “respondent” is the person alleged to have engaged in the misconduct.
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Request for Investigation
If a report is received alleging that a campus community member or visitor has engaged in conduct that may violate the UW-Madison Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence, the information will be reported to the Title IX Program within the Office of Compliance. If the allegations would constitute a violation of the campus policy and an investigation is warranted, a staff member within the Title IX Program will be assigned as a neutral, third-party investigator.
In most cases, the investigator will start by contacting the complainant to discuss the possibility of a formal investigation. If the complainant agrees to participate in a university investigation, the complainant will meet with the assigned investigator to provide a statement or participate in an interview. The complainant will also be asked to provide any documentary evidence (emails, text messages, social media posts, other records, etc.) they would like to be considered during the investigation and to identify any witnesses who might provide information to support the complainant’s statement.
Please note: There are rare occasions in which the university will proceed with an investigation without the participation of a complainant (either under policy or as a complaint involving Title IX misconduct). This decision will be based on a variety of factors, including an assessment of a perceived ongoing risk to the campus community absent an investigation.
Title IX Misconduct
Some alleged violations of the campus SH/SV Policy may also be alleged violations of Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Alleged violations of Title IX will be considered “Title IX Misconduct.” (“Title IX Misconduct” only applies to violations that occurred after August 14, 2020).
Title IX misconduct refers to a smaller subset of alleged policy violations in which:
The alleged misconduct:
1) Meets specific definitions under Title IX
2) Is on the basis of sex
3) Occurred within the University’s education program or activity
4) Was directed against someone in the United States,
5) The complainant is participating in or attempting to participate in the University’s education program or activity at the time they file the complaint, and
6) The complainant files a formal complaint.
If alleged violations a do not meet all of the criteria above, the complaint will be dismissed. The university may also dismiss cases if the complainant notifies the Title IX Coordinator in writing that they would like to withdraw the complaint or any allegations therein, if the respondent is no longer enrolled by the university, or if specific circumstances prevent the university from gathering evidence sufficient to reach a determination as to the Title IX Complaint or allegations therein.
Dismissal of a formal complaint of Title IX Misconduct does not prevent the university from responding to and investigating the alleged violations under campus policy.
If the allegations meet all of the criteria above and the formal complaint is not otherwise dismissed, the investigation and disciplinary process will incorporate certain procedural requirements required for allegations involving Title IX Misconduct.
To file a formal Title IX complaint, click here:
Notice of Investigation and Respondent Participation
Once sufficient information is obtained from the complainant, the investigator will send a Notice of Investigation to the respondent that 1) describes the alleged misconduct, 2) includes relevant policy charges, 3) notifies respondent if the investigation involves Title IX misconduct, and 4) invites the respondent to meet with the investigator to respond to the allegations. The respondent will also be asked to provide any documentary evidence (emails, text messages, social media posts, other records, etc.) they want to have considered during the investigation and to identify any witnesses who might provide information to support their statement.
The investigator will also interview relevant witnesses and/or review relevant witness statements, if any, and review any documentary evidence provided by the complainant, the respondent or other sources, including witnesses.
Written Reports and Determination of Responsibility
Once this investigation is complete, the investigator will prepare a report outlining the information gathered during the investigation. Both the complainant and the respondent are afforded an opportunity to review the Initial Investigative Report for accuracy and provide feedback.
Once both parties have an opportunity to review and inspect both the Initial Investigative Report, the investigator will draft the Final Investigative Report, which will include recommended factual findings, the investigator’s determination as to whether any violation of the campus policy occurred and, when appropriate, any recommended discipline or sanctions.
Note: The standard of proof required in cases alleging sexual harassment and sexual violence is the “preponderance of the evidence” standard. Under this standard, it must be more likely true than not true that the alleged misconduct occurred for the respondent to be held responsible and potentially face disciplinary action.
If the investigation process includes Title IX misconduct in addition to policy violation determinations, the Final Investigative Report will also determine whether there has been a violation regarding the Title IX misconduct. Alternatively, a formal complaint of Title IX misconduct may be dismissed at this stage if, as a result of the investigation, the investigator determines that the alleged conduct does not meet the Title IX misconduct requirements listed above.
Once complete, the Final Investigative Report will be distributed to both parties.
For all investigations with student respondents and/or involving Title IX misconduct the case will likely proceed to a live hearing for independent fact findings and determinations about policy violations. If parties choose to waive their rights to a hearing or otherwise settle the complaint, a hearing will not be scheduled. Click here to view a flowchart of the formal investigation process.
For investigations involving employees or other community members that do not involve Title IX misconduct, the investigator’s findings will be considered the final decision unless either party appeals (See Appeals section below).
For cases that proceed to a hearing, the hearing officer or committee will make independent decisions regarding factual findings and alleged policy violations.
- In any hearing the complainant and the respondent have the right to be accompanied by a support person or advisor, who may be an attorney. If a party does not have an advisor, the university will provide one for them.
- Both parties shall have the opportunity to hear and respond to the information presented and their advisors will be afforded the opportunity to present questions to witnesses and the other party.
- The hearing officer or committee will only allow cross-examination questions and admit evidence that is relevant to the allegations.
- Hearings may be conducted virtually, allowing the parties to participate from separate rooms.
Hearing decision & notification
- The hearing officer or committee determines, using a preponderance of the evidence standard, whether or not the respondent is responsible for violating the SH/SV Policy and or engaging in Title IX misconduct, and, if so, what sanctions will be imposed.
- Parties have the right to obtain a copy of the audio recording of the hearing; parties may also have a written transcript of the proceedings prepared at their own expense.
Parties will be notified of their rights to appeal either the investigator’s or hearing panel’s decision. Specific appeal rights will depend on the respondent’s affiliation with the university (student, employee type, visitor, etc.) and whether the process involves Title IX misconduct. All appeals are based upon the record. If one party appeals, the other will be notified and provided an opportunity to respond. The appeal decision will be communicated in writing to the respondent and the complainant.
Settlements and Informal Resolutions
For cases that would otherwise proceed to a fact-finding hearing, parties may have an option to come to a settlement following distribution of the Final Investigative Report. Parties will be made aware of their options to pursue a settlement or informal resolution process at that stage in the investigative process.