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How sexual misconduct policies are handled at Fresno State

The Collegian reached out to Deborah Adishian-Astone, Fresno State’s vice president for Administrative Services, for a brief Q&A on the university’s Title IX/sexual misconduct policies. Here are Adishian-Astone’s answers provided to The Collegian in an email.

1.) How does the administration educate the Fresno State community about sexual assault/harassment/misconduct?

Pursuant to our system-wide California State University Executive Orders, our campus must implement preventive education programs to promote the awareness of CSU policies against Sex Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Dating and Domestic Violence, and Stalking, and to make victim resources available, including comprehensive victim services. Programs must include primary prevention and awareness programs for all new Students18 and new Employees and refresher programs at least annually for all Students and employees.  Students who serve as Advisors in residence halls, student members of fraternities and sororities and all student athletes and coaches are also required to participate annually in these training programs. Our Campus has works to exceed these expectations and conducts additional training and programs to increase the awareness of these issues.

2.) How does the administration define sexual assault/harassment/misconduct?

Definitions are taken from directly from CSU Executive Orders 1095, revised June 23, 2017, 1096 and 1097, both revised October 5, 2016. www.calstate.edu/eo/EO-1097-rev-10-5-16.html

3.) How many complaints of sexual assault/harassment/misconduct has the university received annually from the 2012-2013 school year through the 2016-2017 school year?

The report is located on the Title IX website. Attached is the 2015-16 report for your review:   http://fresnostate.edu/adminserv/hr/title-ix/ .

4.) Does the administration in its investigations/hearings use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard or a “clear and convincing standard”? Please explain the administration’s reasoning for it choice.

Pursuant to CSU Executive Orders, the California State University uses a preponderance of the evidence standard.

5.) Does the administration in a hearing permit the alleged perpetrator or his/her lawyer to ask questions of the complainant?

The Title IX office uses an investigative process to determine if by a preponderance of the evidence there is a finding regarding a policy violation. The alleged perpetrator is allowed to submit written questions for the complainant to the Investigator.  

The Student Conduct Office conducts a hearing after the investigative process if there is a finding against the alleged perpetrator. At this hearing, an administrator serving in a role as a hearing officer makes a determination regarding a disciplinary sanction against the alleged perpetrator. Again, as in the investigative process, the alleged perpetrator is provided an opportunity to submit written questions for the complainant to the administrator.  

6.) What is the administration’s process for conducting investigations/hearings and reaching a judgment? In particular, does the same person/team conduct the investigation, oversee the hearing and render a final decision?

Pursuant to CSU Executive Orders, the Title IX Office completes the investigation and determines if there is a finding against the alleged perpetrator.  If the Title IX Coordinator completes the investigation rather than a Deputy Coordinator, the Title IX Coordinator will also make the determination of whether there is a finding against the alleged perpetrator when this individual is a student. This finding is subject to an appellate review by the Chancellor’s Office.  In all student cases, when there is a finding against the alleged perpetrator and if the finding is upheld on appeal, the report is then passed to the Student Conduct Office for a hearing to determine whether to impose a disciplinary sanction. This hearing is conducted by an independent administrator and is never the same person who conducted the investigation.

For employees, discipline is handled by University Human Resources or Faculty Affairs and all findings and disciplinary sanctions are subject to the hearing procedures in the applicable Collective Bargaining Agreement. The person who conducted the investigation is not involved in the employee’s hearing procedure.

7.) Does the administration make available to the complainant copies of investigative reports and judgments?

Yes – the Complainant is given the report, exhibits, findings and outcomes.

8.) Does the administration have an appeal process? If so, how many appeals were filed from 2012-13 through 2016-17 and what were the results of those appeals?

All appeals of the campuses investigations and/or outcomes are handled through the CSU Office of the Chancellor appeals division. For 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic years, the Chancellor’s Office received eight (8) appeals from either the Complainant or the Respondent that originated from our Campus. At the end of the appellate process, the Chancellor’s Office upheld all eight (8) of the campus decisions. On a couple of occasions, the Chancellor’s Office initially remanded the cases back to the Title IX Coordinator for clarification and additional analysis. The Title IX Coordinator responded to these demands by providing additional clarification and reasoning for the decision. The substantive decision did not change after the remand. Once the Title IX Coordinator revised the decision to address points of clarification, the Chancellor’s Office upheld the Title IX coordinator’s initial decision. Remands may extend the time needed to arrive at a final outcome.

9.) What is the University’s criteria for removing protections for complainants (such as providing campus escorts)?  

The University will place interim remedies in place for students. These remedies remain in place through the process and beyond when deemed necessary by the University or the individual.   

10.) What is the average length of time of an investigation leading to a final judgment?

Pursuant to our executive orders, once a Complainant asks to move forward with an investigation the campus has 60 working days to complete it. The campus may extend this timeline if the investigator deems appropriate to complete a thorough investigation.  An extension is necessitated in circumstances where witnesses are unavailable due to medical reasons or semester breaks. Pursuant to Executive Order 1098, students will be contacted by the Student Affairs Office to determine outcome. Dependent on a request for a hearing, this process can take between 10-60 working days.   

If either party in the process chooses to appeal the decision or the outcome, this timeline will need to be extended to include the appellate processes. As described in the response to Question 13, if the Chancellor’s Office remands a case for clarification and improved analysis, this timeline could extend by a few months even beyond the normal appellate process.