The College has two approaches for resolving complaints of alleged discrimination and harassment: informal resolution and the formal grievance processes. Informal resolution efforts and the formal grievance processes are not mutually exclusive, and neither is a prerequisite for the other. Moreover, the informal resolution process may be ended at any time in order to initiate a formal complaint.
Individuals who believe that they have been victims of sexual or some other form of harassment can reach out to an EO/AA officer who will meet with them to hear their concerns, and review available options for informal and formal resolution. Discussing a concern does not commit one to making a formal charge. However, an individual reporting harassment should be aware that the college may decide that it is necessary to take action to address the harassment beyond an informal discussion.
The college encourages the prompt reporting of any potential violations of this policy, so that it can take appropriate steps to maintain an environment free of harassment, and to ensure that its procedures are effective in promoting this goal. While no fixed reporting period has been established, early reporting and intervention has proven to be the most effective method of resolving actual or perceived incidents of sexual and other forms of harassment.
A. Informal Resolution: Seeking Mediation
- Informal resolution procedures are allowed for incidents other than non-consensual contact, non-consensual intercourse, exploitation, dating/domestic violence, and stalking and are intended to allow the complainant and the respondent to provide detailed information about the alleged incident(s) of discrimination or harassment and reach a mutually agreeable resolution. The mediation process aims to assure fairness, to facilitate communication, and to maintain an equitable balance of power between the parties.
- With consent of both the reporting individual and the respondent, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action will contact a mediator whose training is appropriate to the conflict to be resolved. The mediator is not an advocate for either the reporting individual or the respondent. The role of the mediator is to aid in the resolution of problems in a non-adversarial manner.
- The informal resolution process ends when a resolution has been reached or when the reporting individual or the respondent has terminated the process. At any time during the mediation process, the complainant and the respondent are free to withdraw consent. A successful informal resolution results in a binding agreement between the parties.
- The mediator shall notify the faculty director of affirmative action or the EO/ AA officer of the result of the mediation process. If the dispute is not resolved through mediation, the faculty director of affirmative action or the EO/AA officer shall immediately inform all affected parties and discuss with the reporting individual other alternatives for achieving resolution. The reporting individual may file a formal grievance with the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action or withdraw the informal complaint. The informal resolution process, if unsuccessful, will not prejudice the rights of either party in the dispute. Therefore, should the informal resolution be unsuccessful, neither the reasons for the failure of the mediation nor any material or statements made during the process will be used in any subsequent proceedings or forums.
- No written records of the mediation process, other than the final resolution, shall be retained by the faculty director of affirmative action or the EO/ AA officer. Original documents shall be returned to their original source or to another site as agreed in the resolution by the reporting individual and the respondent.
B. Formal Grievance Process
A formal grievance process may be initiated in person by meeting with the EO/ AA Officer or in writing to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (for matters involving faculty, the grievance should be directed to the faculty director of affirmative action). The following procedures are used when the accused is a member of the faculty, administration, or staff. When the accused is a student, the matter will be referred to the Dean of Students Office and the procedures for the College Regulations Panel (Part K, Section F) will be used. The college strongly encourages submission of grievances in writing after meeting first with the appropriate person. The formal grievance should be hand delivered or sent by certified mail to either the attention of the faculty director of affirmative action or the EO/AA officer, as appropriate, at: Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, Vassar College, Campus Box 645, 124 Raymond Ave, Poughkeepsie NY 12604-0645. A formal grievance must identify and include the following information:
- Reporting individual’s signature and the date signed;
- Name of the accused individual, her or his position or status, and contact information, if known;
- Clear and concise description of the alleged incident(s), when and where it occurred;
- Description of all informal efforts, if any, to resolve the issue(s) with the person involved. This includes names, dates and times of attempted or actual contact along with a description of the discussion and the manner of communication made in the course of each effort;
- Supporting documentation and evidence; and
- Names of witnesses or individuals who may have direct and relevant information about the specific allegation (with accompanying addresses, email addresses, and telephone numbers).
Those wishing to file a formal complaint alleging non-consensual intercourse, non-consensual contact, sexual exploitation, dating/domestic violence and/or stalking against another student should refer to Part F for definitions, Part G for the specific college regulations, and Part K, Section G for information about Title IX hearing processes.