Nondiscrimination Complaint Procedures

Students at SPU

Policy

Seattle Pacific University holds that all persons are created in the image of God and possess intrinsic dignity and worth.

It is the policy of Seattle Pacific University not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in its programs or activities, as required by applicable laws and regulations.

As a Christian educational institution affiliated with the Free Methodist Church of North America, Seattle Pacific University is permitted and reserves the right to prefer employees or prospective employees on the basis of religion.

If you have any questions regarding this policy, contact any of the following persons:

  • Dr. Jeff Jordan, Vice President for Student Life
    206-281-2481
    Room 209 Student Union Building
    Seattle Pacific University
    3307 Third Avenue West
    Seattle, WA 98119
  • Mr. Gary Womelsduff, Director of Human Resources / Title IX Coordinator
    206-281-2809
    330 W. Nickerson St.
    Seattle Pacific University
    3307 Third Avenue West
    Seattle, WA 98119
  • Dr. Sandra Richards Mayo, Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
    206-281-2191
    Room 253 Demaray Hall
    Seattle Pacific University
    3307 Third Avenue West
    Seattle, WA 98119

Violations of the University’s nondiscrimination policies should be reported as soon as possible after the alleged action for possible resolution, investigation, and corrective action (if necessary). Reports of discrimination should be made to the complaint coordinators identified below. If you have a question regarding the application of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and its implementing regulations, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities, you may contact the University's Title IX Coordinator (see the University's Title IX website) or the U.S. Department of Education's Officer for Civil Rights. For complaints regarding sexual harassment, sexual assault, or other sexual misconduct, refer to the University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy. If a student has a complaint about an academic matter and alleges discrimination, the academic appeal procedure in the applicable University academic catalog should be followed before the student files a complaint pursuant to these nondiscrimination complaint procedures.

Definitions

“Area Vice President” means a vice president of the University with supervisory authority for a particular area. For purposes of this policy, the Provost will be considered an Area Vice President for employees not supervised by any other Area Vice President.

“Business Day” means any day other than a Saturday, Sunday, or University holiday.

“Complaint Coordinators” are responsible for responding to questions regarding the University’s nondiscrimination policy. Complaint Coordinators also (1) evaluate Complaints in order to assign them to a Mediator (if appropriate) or to an Investigator; (2) receive and review recommendations from the Mediator or Investigator; and (3) evaluate materials and recommendations received from the Mediator or Investigator, and submit recommendations and materials to the appropriate Decision Maker. The following individuals are the Complaint Coordinators:

  • Vice president for student life or designee, 206-281-2481
  • Director of Human Resources or designee, 206-281-2678

If one of the Complaint Coordinators is the Respondent, please contact the other Complaint Coordinator. If both Complaint Coordinators are Respondents (or they and their designees are unavailable), then please contact any Area Vice President or the President. The President or Vice President contacted by the Complainant should then appoint a special Complaint Coordinator to handle the Complaint.

“Complainant” means a person who files a Complaint under these procedures.

“Complaint” is an expression of dissatisfaction over something a person has experienced and that may be a violation of the University’s nondiscrimination policy. In order to begin the grievance procedure (whether informal or formal), the Complaint should be presented to a Complaint Coordinator as soon as possible after the alleged action. If a Complaint does not involve an alleged violation of the University’s nondiscrimination policy, the Complainant may be directed to other University offices (e.g., Student Life or Human Resources) or other resources (e.g., Staff Handbook). If a Complaint involves a University employee, other policies or procedures may also be applicable and adjustments to this procedure may be necessary. The University, in its sole discretion, may decide not to follow these procedures in the case of Complainants or Respondents who are not University employees or students, and the University reserves the right to take any action it deems appropriate to protect the University community and the University’s best interests.

“Decision Maker” means the Provost if the Respondent is a faculty member (including regular and adjunct faculty members and instructors, whether employees or contractors), the Director of Residence Life if the Respondent is a residential student, the Dean of Students for Community Life if the Respondent is a non-residential student, and in other cases means the Area Vice President who has supervisory authority over the Respondent or responsibility over matters involving the Respondent. For example, if the Respondent is an employee of a University vendor, and the vendor’s contract or relationship with the University falls within the area of responsibility of the Senior Vice President for Planning and Administration, then the Senior Vice President for Planning and Administration is the Decision Maker for purposes of these procedures. If the Complaint involves an Area Vice President (or any other employee reporting only to the President) as the Respondent, then the President (or designee) is the Decision Maker. If the Complaint involves the President as the Respondent, then the Chair of the Board of Trustees (or designee) is the Decision Maker. If deemed necessary or appropriate, the Chair may refer the matter to the Board of Trustees or its Executive Committee.

“Decision Reviewer” means the person, committee or board who reviews the Determination, if appealed. If the Director of Residence Life or the Dean of Students for Community Life is the Decision Maker, then the Vice President for Student Life is the Decision Reviewer. If the Provost or an Area Vice President is the Decision Maker, then the President (or designee) is the Decision Reviewer. If the President is the Decision Maker, then the Chair of the Board of Trustees (or designee) is the Decision Reviewer. If the Chair of the Board of Trustees (or designee) is the Decision Maker, then the Board of Trustees (or designee, for example the Executive Committee), is the Decision Reviewer.

“Determination” means the decision made by the Decision Maker on a Complaint.

“Investigators” are responsible for investigating and making recommendations to the Complaint Coordinator for resolving Complaints. The Investigator is the University employee or agent appointed by the Complaint Coordinator who first receives the Complaint. The Complaint Coordinator shall consult with the Decision Maker in selecting the Investigator.

“Mediators” are responsible for attempting to resolve a Complaint between the Complainant and the Respondent. The Mediator is the University employee or agent appointed by the Complaint Coordinator who first receives the Complaint. The Complaint Coordinator shall consult with the Decision Maker in selecting the Mediator. Nothing prohibits the Mediator in a matter from later serving as the Investigator, if the Complainant, Respondent, Complaint Coordinator, and Decision Maker agree.

“Respondent” means the person accused by the Complainant of violating the University’s nondiscrimination policy.

“University Holiday” means those holidays scheduled on the University’s master calendar when the University’s administrative offices are closed for business.

Deadline for Filing a Complaint

Complaints of alleged violations of the University’s nondiscrimination policy should be reported as soon as possible, but no later than 180 calendar days after the alleged incident.

Reports of Complaints

Who Receives Complaints

Complaints of alleged violations of the University’s nondiscrimination policy should be made to one of the Complaint Coordinators. The Complaint Coordinator should schedule a meeting with the Complainant as soon as reasonably possible to discuss the Complaint, and the process, and to gather additional information. Note: Any community member who feels she or he is in immediate danger should call the Office of Safety and Security at 206-281-2911.

Responsibilities of the University’s Supervisory Employees

A University Supervisory Employee or faculty member who has reasonable cause to believe the University’s nondiscrimination policy has been violated should promptly report the incident to one of the Complaint Coordinators. For purposes of these procedures, the term “Supervisory Employee” means any University employee whose normal job responsibilities include supervising the work of any other University employee.

Form and Contents of Complaints

Complaints may be verbal or in writing. A writing includes electronic documents, such as emails. The Complaint Coordinator or assigned Investigator may request a written and signed statement from the Complainant. If the Complaint Coordinator accepts a verbal Complaint, the Complaint Coordinator should summarize the Complaint in writing and ask the Complainant to sign the summary as evidence of its accuracy. The Complaint should include as much of the following information as possible: (1) the name of the Complainant; (2) the identity of the Respondent (or description if the identity is not known), and any available contact information for the Respondent; (3) the date, time and location of the alleged incident or incidents and any pattern of similar behavior; and (4) a description of the alleged incident. A copy of the Complaint should be provided to the Respondent (or a summary if only a verbal Complaint is received). The Complaint Coordinator will also need to know the Complainant’s contact information and should request the names and contact information for any potential witnesses; a description of any available evidence; a description of the Complainant’s reaction to the incident; a description of any prior incidents; and any other information that the Complainant believes may be helpful to an investigation. This additional information need not be included in the Complaint, but may be provided or documented in a separate writing.

University-Initiated Complaints

The University, in its sole discretion, may initiate its own Complaint if an alleged victim declines to file a Complaint.

Who Receives Copies of Complaints

The Complaint Coordinator who receives the Complaint should provide copies of the Complaint or summary of the Complaint to the following individuals (unless the Complaint Coordinator is also the person entitled to notice):

  • The Decision Maker.
  • When the accused is a student (including a student in capacity as a student employee), the vice president for student life should be notified.
  • When the accused is an employee of the University, the director of Human Resources should be notified.

Informing the Respondent

After receipt of a Complaint, the Complaint Coordinator should notify the Respondent promptly, and should provide a copy of the Complaint or a summary of the Complaint (if a written Complaint has not been filed). The Complaint Coordinator should briefly describe the University process and direct the Respondent to these procedures. The Respondent should be reminded that it is a violation of University policy and may be a violation of federal law (depending on the allegations) to retaliate in any way against the Complainant. The Respondent should be reminded to abide by the confidentiality provisions of these procedures. The Respondent shall have five Business Days to provide a written response to the Complaint, unless the Complaint Coordinator (in the Complaint Coordinator’s sole discretion) expressly permits in writing a longer period of time. The Respondent must make a written request for the extension before the end of the five-day period. The Complaint Coordinator should consider vacation, leave schedules, and extraordinary circumstances before permitting an extension. If the Respondent wishes, a verbal response may be given to the Complaint Coordinator, who will prepare a written summary to be approved by the Respondent. If the Respondent has no corrections or declines to sign the summary, the summary shall be deemed accurate and complete for purposes of these procedures. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if the Respondent is not a faculty member, other employee or student of the University, then the Decision Maker or the President may elect to handle the matter outside of these procedures. For example, the matter may have to be investigated with the help or cooperation of the Respondent’s outside employer.

Informal Resolution

The Complainant may request that the Complaint be handled through this informal resolution process. Both the Complaint Coordinator and the Respondent must agree to the informal resolution process. If appropriate, the Complaint Coordinator may suggest that the Complainant consider pursuing an informal resolution. If the Complainant does not wish to attempt an informal resolution, then the matter shall proceed to investigation. Generally an informal resolution of a Complaint will not involve a formal investigation, findings, or unilateral disciplinary action. Complaints involving possible misunderstandings or miscommunication between the parties should be considered for informal resolution. This informal resolution process may not be appropriate if the allegations involve more serious violations, intentional violations or a repeated incident after a prior informal resolution involving the Respondent.

If the Complainant desires to attempt informal resolution, then the Complaint Coordinator shall provide the Respondent with a copy of the Complaint, or a summary of the Complaint if there is no written Complaint.

If the Respondent agrees to participate in the informal resolution process, the Complaint Coordinator shall assign a Mediator to the matter (if deemed appropriate), and shall provide the Mediator with a copy of the Complaint or a copy of the summary provided to the Respondent, along with the contact information for both parties. The Mediator will be selected in consultation with the Decision Maker.

The Mediator shall contact both parties and schedule a mediation session as soon as possible. The Mediator may interview the parties before the mediation and ask for documents or other evidence from the parties. The Mediator should clearly set forth the ground rules for the mediation process. Information and discussions during informal negotiations are confidential and not to be considered part of any later formal investigation related to the original complaint (unless required by law), nor is the mediator available to be called upon for information during any subsequent formal investigation.

The goal of this informal resolution process is to achieve a voluntary and mutually acceptable resolution of the Complaint. The Mediator shall not be required to follow any particular process or approach. Either party, the Mediator or the Complaint Coordinator, may end the informal resolution process at any time. In the event of a termination of the informal resolution process, the Mediator should immediately inform the Complaint Coordinator, and should submit a written report to the Complaint Coordinator. The report may contain non-confidential information disclosed during the informal resolution process (including, but not limited to, statements made by the parties and the identity and statements of any witnesses or other evidence).

If the mediation results in a resolution of the Complaint, the Mediator shall document the resolution in a writing signed by both parties, and then provide a copy to the parties and the Complaint Coordinator.

The Complaint Coordinator should evaluate the appropriateness of the resolution. If the Complaint Coordinator does not believe the resolution is voluntary and mutually acceptable or otherwise believes the resolution is inappropriate, the Complaint Coordinator may still initiate a formal investigation of the Complaint. The Complaint Coordinator and the University may disregard any informal resolution.

Formal Grievance Investigation

If the Complaint has not been informally resolved, the informal resolution process is not used, the informal resolution process has been terminated, or the Complaint Coordinator believes a formal grievance investigation is warranted, then the Complaint Coordinator shall assign an Investigator to proceed with an investigation. The Investigator will be selected in consultation with the Decision Maker. The investigation may be streamlined, but should be impartial and as thorough as appropriate under the circumstances. An Investigator should be assigned by the Complaint Coordinator as soon as possible after receiving notice that the informal resolution process has been terminated, or after determining that an investigation should take place.

The Complaint Coordinator shall provide the Investigator with a copy of the Complaint, the Respondent’s response (if any), and any other information, or documents that the Complaint Coordinator believes should be shared with the Investigator, including the Mediator’s summary report, if any.

The Complainant and the Respondent should be interviewed by the Investigator and given an opportunity to submit any evidence. The Investigator should also interview any key witnesses who may have knowledge bearing on the matter and may require the Complainant or Respondent to provide additional documentation, information or evidence as appropriate. The investigation should be completed as expeditiously as reasonably possible, depending on the seriousness of the allegations, witnesses, available evidence, schedules, and available resources. The investigation need not be exhaustive, but should be reasonably complete, depending on the circumstances.

Parties may seek outside legal counsel at their own expense, but such counsel may not participate in the University’s internal proceedings.

After completion of the investigation, the Investigator should prepare written recommended findings as to the validity of the Complaint, and should provide those recommended findings to the Complaint Coordinator. Within seven Business Days after receipt of the written recommended findings, the Complaint Coordinator should recommend resolution of the Complaint to the Decision Maker, or should refer the matter back to the Investigator if the Complaint Coordinator believes additional investigation is warranted. The Complaint Coordinator may interview the Investigator and ask for clarification or ask any questions. The Decision Maker will make the Determination and communicate the Determination to the Complainant and the Respondent. The Decision Maker may ask questions of the Investigator or Complaint Coordinator, and may refer the matter back to the Complaint Coordinator if the Decision Maker believes that additional investigation is warranted.

For purposes of the Determination, facts shall be deemed established if the existence of a fact is more probable than its non-existence. The Determination should be supported by the established facts on a more-probable-than-not basis.

Appeal of Determination

Either party may appeal the Determination by filing a written Notice of Appeal (“Notice”) with the Decision Maker. The Notice must be filed within seven Business Days after the Determination is mailed to the appealing party or five Business Days after the Determination is received by the appealing party (whichever is earlier), or such other longer deadline indicated in the Determination. The Notice must include a copy of the Determination and a description of the errors being appealed. A Notice is deemed “filed” when the Decision Maker or the Decision Maker’s office receives the Notice. The Decision Maker should immediately forward the Notice of Appeal to the Decision Reviewer.

The appealing party shall also provide copies of the Notice to the Complaint Coordinator. The Complaint Coordinator will provide a copy of the Notice to the other party. The other party may file a rebuttal statement to the appeal within seven Business Days after the Notice is mailed to the other party, or five Business Days after receipt of the Notice by that party, whichever is earlier.

The Decision Reviewer shall review the appeal. Errors of fact should be corrected if clearly erroneous and prejudicial. Errors in the final determination should be reversed or modified if resulting from an abuse of discretion. The Decision Reviewer (in its sole discretion, based on the best interests of the University) may take any appropriate action, including, but not limited to, affirming, modifying, or reversing the Determination or requiring that additional investigation be performed. The Decision Reviewer shall provide a copy of the written appeal decision to (1) both parties, (2) the Decision Maker, and (3) the Complaint Coordinator. The decision of the Decision Reviewer shall be final.

Nothing in these procedures shall prevent qualified faculty members from pursuing remedies or procedures available under the Faculty Employment Handbook or otherwise provided by the University.

Confidentiality

All persons involved in (a) reporting a Complaint, (b) the informal resolution process, or (c) investigation, whether as a Complainant, Respondent, or witness, are expected to hold in confidence the substance of the allegations made in the Complaint and all matters they know related to the Complaint, the informal resolution process, or the investigation. Complaints often involve sensitive matters, and all the facts may not be known. Any premature disclosure of information outside the informal resolution or investigation process may not be fair to the Respondent or the Complainant. University representatives may share information on a need-to-know basis, or as required or permitted by law or regulation (for example, in response to requests by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Office for Civil Rights).

Prospective Complainants with concerns about confidentiality or the desire to keep confidential their identity should discuss these with the Complaint Coordinator before filing a Complaint (whether verbally or in writing). The University cannot guarantee the confidentiality of a Complainant’s or prospective Complainant’s identity, but may take into account the concerns of the Complainant or prospective Complainant and the need to protect the community, if deemed appropriate in the University’s sole discretion.

Retaliation

The University strictly prohibits retaliation against any person who files a Complaint or otherwise participates in a Complaint resolution process (whether formal or informal). This includes retaliation against anyone who makes a report or files a Complaint about a violation of the University's nondiscrimination policy, who expresses an intent to make such a report or Complaint, or who testifies as a witness or otherwise provides information as part of an investigation or Complaint resolution process. Retaliation can be any type of adverse or negative action taken toward a person who has filed a Complaint or otherwise participated in a Complaint resolution process (however, an adverse action would not be retaliatory if it was taken for some other justifiable reason). Examples of retaliation can include intimidation, coercion, harassment, threats, acts of violence, acts intended to embarrass another person, unjustified negative grades, or taking any other action that is likely to dissuade a person from making a Complaint in the future. Any student who commits retaliation may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the University. Any person who believes he or she has been retaliated against should contact one of the Complaint Coordinators. One of the Complaint Coordinators, in their discretion, will either (a) arrange for an investigation into the alleged retaliation, after which the applicable Decision Maker will make a determination on a preponderance of the evidence basis, or (b) coordinate with the Dean of Students for Community Life to have the alleged retaliation addressed through the Student Accountability Process (assuming the person accused of retaliation is a student).

Amendments

These procedures may not fully anticipate or address all possible situations. Therefore, the University reserves the right to amend or clarify these procedures at any time, with or without prior notice.

Last published on 9/22/2017

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