Expectations for Decorum
Institute Expectations for Decorum and Good Faith Participation in Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment Investigations and Hearings
The expectations for decorum and good faith participation apply equally to all participants in the investigation and hearing process, including the parties, witnesses, advisors and support persons. These expectations reflect the Institute’s commitment to proceedings that afford the highest level of respect for the rights and dignity of all participants.
This document should be read as a supplement to, and as consistent with, MIT Policies and Procedures (“P&P”), Section 9.8, for matters involving faculty and staff respondents; and the Committee on Discipline (“COD”) Rules, for matters involving student respondents. In the event of any discrepancy, the provisions of the P&P or the COD Rules will prevail.
Expectations for Decorum and Good Faith Participation
- No participant may act abusively or disrespectfully toward any other participant during the investigation or hearing, including towards parties, witnesses, advisors and support persons, or hearing panel members.
- Parties and witnesses who choose to participate in the investigation or hearing process are expected to answer questions honestly and on their own.
- Although an advisor or support person generally may not speak on behalf of their advisee, they may consult with their advisee. For longer or more involved discussions, the parties and their advisor or support person should ask for breaks to allow for private consultation. Breaks will generally be for not longer than 5 minutes. Breaks for consultation may not be used in bad faith to intentionally disrupt or delay an investigation or hearing.
- MIT generally expects participants to adjust their schedule to allow them to attend interviews and hearings, but will seek to accommodate significan conflicts in participant’s schedules, if doing so does not cause an unreasonable delay. Rescheduling requests may not be used in bad faith to intentionally disrupt or delay an investigation or hearing.
- When participating in an investigation or hearing, individuals are prohibited from:
- Interrupting other participants;
- Using profanity directed toward another participant;
- Irrelevant personal attacks;
- Objectively offensive or aggressive gestures;
- Harassing another participant;
- Yelling, screaming, badgering;
- Physically “leaning in” to the personal space of another participant;
- Approaching a hearing participant without the express permission of the hearing chair;
- Taking any action that a reasonable person may see as intended to intimidate a participant or meaningfully modify someone’s participation in the process; or
- Engaging in any other behavior to deliberately disrupt the investigation or hearing.
- Participants will refer to other parties, witnesses, advisors, and institutional staff using the name and gender used by the person and shall not intentionally mis-name or mis-gender that person in communication or questioning.
- When an advisor is conducting cross-examination during a Title IX Sexual Harassment hearing:
- The hearing chair must approve all questions before the party or witness responds. Advisors are not permitted to “object” to the hearing chair’s ruling, but the hearing chair, at their discretion, may affirmatively seek input from the advisors when considering approval of a question.
- As much as possible, advisors are expected to restrict the use of compound, redundant, irrelevant, or otherwise impermissible questions.
- Questions must be relevant.
- Questions are meant to test knowledge or understand a fact; they may not include accusations within the text of the question.
- Questions must be conveyed in a neutral tone.
- The advisor may not ask repetitive questions. This includes questions that have already been asked by the hearing panel. When the hearing chair determines a question has been “asked and answered” or is otherwise not relevant, the advisor must move on.
- The advisor may not ask questions that are harassing or otherwise in violation of the expectations set forth in #5 above.
- Participants, including advisors and support persons, are expected to comply with applicable confidentiality and privacy policies. [Assuming we write one.]
Institute Response When Decorum is Broken
If IDHR, during the investigation, or the hearing chair, during the hearing, determines that decorum is broken and the proceeding has become disorderly they may recess or pause proceedings to address the behavior.
Misconduct during the hearing can take many forms, both minor and egregious. It is within the hearing chair’s discretion to discourage or penalize participants who demonstrate a lack of the decorum. The hearing chair may give a verbal warning, pause the hearing process, remove a hearing participant, or take other steps that the chair deems appropriate to address the conduct.
The Institute will not interfere with the parties’ rights to have an advisor and support person of their choice and fully expects advisors and support persons to adhere voluntarily to Institute expectations. In extreme cases, where either IDHR or the hearing chair determines that an advisor’s or support person’s conduct undermines the integrity of MIT’s Discrimination and Discriminatory Harassment policies and procedures, the advisor or support person will be prohibited from continuing to serve as advisor or support person in that case. The affected party will be permitted to obtain a substitute advisor or support person.
Members of the MIT community are reminded that all expectations of conduct set forth in MIT Policies and Procedures, Section 9 (for all community members) and in the Mind and Hand Book (for students), apply during the investigation and hearing process and participants may be subject to discipline under the applicable procedures for policy violations relating to their conduct during an investigation or hearing.