Formal Complaint Processes | Information for Complainants and Respondents | Student - Sexual Misconduct

Formal Complaints Against Students: Sexual Misconduct

This handout provides an overview of the Formal Complaint process for allegations of Sexual Misconduct against a student investigated by IDHR. You can email IDHR staff at idhr@mit.edu with questions at any point throughout the process.

Sexual Misconduct. The Mind and Hand Book prohibits Sexual Misconduct (including sexual harassment, nonconsensual sexual contact, nonconsensual sexual penetration, and sexual exploitation), Intimate Partner Violence, Stalking, and Title IX Sexual Harassment (collectively referred to as “Sexual Misconduct”).

Formal Complaint. A signed, written document requesting that MIT investigate the allegation as part of a disciplinary process. A Formal Complaint can be filed by anyone online. At any time during the Formal Complaint process, the parties could agree to instead participate in Alternative Dispute Resolution/Informal Resolution.

You do not need to file a Formal Complaint to seek supportive measures. Simply telling IDHR or a Responsible Employee about discrimination or discriminatory harassment does not automatically result in a Formal Complaint.

The Parties. The Complainant is the person who initiates a Formal Complaint and the Respondent is the person against whom the Formal Complaint is made. Together, they are the “parties.”

Neutral Investigator. The Investigator does not take sides. The IDHR Investigators are committed to providing a fair and unbiased investigation process and are focused on gathering the available information.

Advisors and Support Persons. Both parties are encouraged to seek assistance from an advisor. The parties may bring an advisor of their choice, including an attorney, with them to any meetings, interviews, or hearings. The advisor may assist either party in preparing their case and in accompanying the party at any meeting or in any hearing. There are trained individuals within the Institute who may be available to be your advisor. The IDHR Director or Case Manager can provide you with more information about seeking an advisor.

Understanding the Complaint. The first step in an investigation is to gather information about the complaint for the “Initial Assessment.” This usually involves interviewing the Complainant and gathering information from the Complainant, including documentation and names of witnesses, if any. 

Confidentiality/Anonymity. Parties frequently want to know whether a Complainant or witness may remain anonymous during a Formal Complaint. Respondents are provided enough information about the allegations to allow them a fair opportunity to respond. The level of detail necessary to do that varies depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident but will include the identity of a Complainant, if known.

Interviewing the Respondent. After the Investigator understands the nature and scope of the complaint, the Respondent is given notice of the allegations (including the identities of the parties involved in the incident, if known, the alleged sexual misconduct, and the date and location of the alleged incident), alleged policy violations, and has a full and fair opportunity to respond, including providing a written statement and participating in an interview. The Complainant is not present during the Respondent’s interview and vice versa.

Lack of Participation. If either party declines to participate in the investigation, the investigation will continue with the information available. Even without the participation of the Complainant or Respondent, the Institute may still elect to move forward with the disciplinary process depending on the specifics of the case.

Gathering Information. The Complainant and the Respondent will have an equal opportunity to participate in the investigation, including an equal opportunity to be heard, submit evidence, and suggest witnesses. The parties are strongly encouraged to preserve relevant evidence and share all information they have regarding the matter. The Investigator interviews witnesses and reviews all documentation deemed relevant to the situation. All information or documentation provided by either party, or by a witness interviewed in the course of an investigation, may be included in the final Investigative Report and shared with the other party.  For more information, click here for the IDHR Investigation Guide.

Review of Investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation, the parties will be provided with information gathered during the investigation and a Draft Summary of the Relevant Facts.  After the parties have an opportunity to review and respond to this information, the investigator will prepare a final Investigation Report and will provide the report to both parties.  The report will generally include a recommendation to the Committee on Disciple, except in allegations of Title IX Sexual Harassment.

Outcome. Generally, after receiving the final Investigation Report, both parties will have 3 days to inform the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards (OSCCS) whether or not they agree with the Investigator’s recommendation. The COD Chair will review the case in accordance with the COD Rules to determine the appropriate resolution method, which may include an administrative resolution or a hearing.

Title IX Sexual Harassment COD Hearing Procedures. MIT must follow the legally required processes for Formal Complaints of Title IX Sexual Harassment. In those matters, the Investigation Report will not include a recommendation, the hearing will be at least 10 days after the report issues, the hearing will include live cross-examination of parties and witnesses, and, if a party does not have an advisor, MIT will provide them with an advisor to conduct cross-examination.

The results of the COD process will be shared with both parties. OSCCS staff will provide information about the COD process, possible consequences, and other assistance as you interact with MIT’s discipline process. Please feel free to contact them at 617-258-8423 or osccs@mit.edu if you have any questions about the resolution process.

Privacy. To the extent provided under applicable law, MIT will make all reasonable efforts to ensure preservation of privacy, restricting the sharing of information to those with a legitimate need to know. Information collected in this process may be subpoenaed in criminal or civil proceedings. The parties are encouraged to use discretion in their sharing of information about the Formal Complaint process.

Supportive Measures. The Institute will provide assistance in changing academic, living, transportation, and working situations, when alternative accommodations are available, regardless of whether there is a Formal Complaint or whether the Complainant chooses to report the incident to campus police or local law enforcement. Any supportive measures, to the extent possible, will remain confidential.

Contact Between the Parties During an Investigation. During the investigation and resolution process, we request that the Complainant and Respondent refrain from contact, direct or indirect, with each other in order to protect the integrity of the process and help ensure that the process remains prompt and equitable. IDHR can put in place a campus issued No Contact Order, where appropriate, whether or not there is a Formal Complaint. 

Court Harassment Prevention and Abuse Prevention Orders. The MIT Police and/or Violence Prevention and Response (VPR) can provide information on obtaining a court-issued Harassment Prevention Order or Abuse Prevention Order, depending on the nature of the case. A violation of a court-issued order can result in criminal charges and it is enforced anywhere in the United States. Once issued, MIT will also work with you to make accommodations to enforce the order.

Law Enforcement. The Complainant has the option simultaneously to report the incident to MIT Police or local law enforcement and/or file a criminal complaint or to decline to notify law enforcement. A victim advocate through MIT’s VPR office can provide assistance in notifying law enforcement. The Institute will generally not defer disciplinary proceedings to wait for the conclusion of parallel criminal proceedings.

Retaliation. The Institute strongly prohibits retaliation. Complainants, Respondents, and witnesses are protected from any form of retaliation for engaging and/or participating in the investigative process. Anyone responsible for retaliation or threats of retaliation—whether that person is a party, a witness, or any other member of the MIT community—will be subject to disciplinary action by the Institute. Anyone who feels they are being subjected to retaliatory behavior are strongly encouraged to immediately contact the Investigator or the Dean on Call (617-253-1212).

Resources for support. The Institute offers a variety of support services to students. 

  • Confidential Resources: “I want to think through my situation with someone who can keep my information as confidential as possible.”
    • Mental Health and Counseling: 617-253-2916/ 617-253-4481 (nights/weekends)
    • MIT Medical: 617-253-1311
    • Ombuds Office: 617-253-5921
    • MIT Office of Religious, Spiritual, and Ethical Life: http://studentlife.mit.edu/rl/mit-chaplains 
    • Violence Prevention and Response (VPR): 617-253-2300 (confidential hotline) (for student survivors of sexual assault, interpersonal violence, and stalking)
    • MyLife Services (for staff and faculty) 844-405-LIFE (24/7 hotline)
  • Private Resources: “I need to confide in someone and it is okay if that person needs to tell the IDHR Director.
    • Student Support Services (for undergraduates): 617-253-4861
    • Office of Graduate Education: 617-253-4860

Click here for a complete list of on and off campus resources or the IDHR Director or Case Manager can provide additional information, as needed. 

Reasonable Accommodations. We want all students to be able to fully access the Formal Complaint process and resources. Please contact the IDHR Director or Case Manager if you need an accommodation based on a disability.

More information. If you have any other questions about the investigation or investigation process, please do not hesitate to contact the IDHR Manager of Investigations.