Policies & Procedures | For Allegations Against Faculty | FAQ

FAQ for Allegations Against Faculty

These FAQs do not cover allegations of Title IX Sexual Harassment (see P&P, Section 9.4). The FAQs are in the process of being updated. If you have questions about Title IX Sexual Harassment, please click here to see the Information for Formal Complaints Against Staff and Faculty –Title IX Sexual Harassment handout or email IDHR at idhr@mit.edu

Application of Policy

What is a Complaint under Section 9.8?

A Complaint under Policies & Procedures Section 9.8 is a formal complaint alleging a violation of an MIT Conduct Policy, including those alleging discrimination or discriminatory harassment or other inappropriate conduct. A Section 9.8 Complaint may not be used for violations of other MIT policies.

What is the difference between discrimination or discriminatory harassment and other inappropriate conduct?

A Complaint based on discrimination or discriminatory harassment alleges conduct that was based on a class or characteristic covered by MIT’s nondiscrimination policy, such as race, color, sex, etc. (MIT’s nondiscrimination policy is found Section 9.2). A Complaint based on other inappropriate conduct does not allege conduct based on a protected class.

For example, a Section 9.8 Complaint alleging racist conduct, harassment on the basis of religion, sexual harassment, or gender-based harassment would fall under the category of discrimination or discriminatory harassment; while a Complaint alleging generalized harassment – not based on any protected class – falls under the category of other inappropriate conduct.

The category of discrimination and discriminatory harassment for the purpose of a Section 9.8 Complaint also includes sexual misconduct (for example, sexual assault and sexual exploitation), intimate partner violence (also known as domestic violence or dating violence), and stalking.

For a list of Conduct Policies falling under these two categories, see Section 9.8.1, Application of Policy.

Complaints alleging discrimination or discriminatory harassment are investigated by the Institute Discrimination & Harassment Response office; Complaints alleging other inappropriate conduct are investigated by the Human Resources Office.

Who can file a Section 9.8 Complaint?

Any member of the MIT community can file a Complaint under Section 9.8, including faculty, staff, students, fellows, individuals with visitor appointments, affiliates and any other individual who conducts business with or on behalf of the Institute. An individual who has filed a Section 9.8 Complaint under this policy is referred to as the Complainant. Anyone else – that is, anyone who is not an MIT community member – may not file a Section 9.8 Complaint; they may, however, submit a report and request that the Institute Discrimination & Harassment Response office (IDHR) initiate a Section 9.8 Administrative Complaint against a current faculty member, researcher, staff member, or postdoctoral scholar (associate or fellow).

What is a Section 9.8 Administrative Complaint?

A Section 9.8 Administrative Complaint is a formal complaint filed by the Institute Discrimination & Harassment Response Office (IDHR) where a concern is raised by a non-MIT community member or by an MIT community member who does not want to be a Complainant, and where, in the judgment of the IDHR office, the concern warrants investigation.

Can I file a Section 9.8 Complaint anonymously or request that my identity not be disclosed to the Respondent?

All MIT community members are encouraged to report any concern about a possible violation of an MIT Conduct Policy. Discrimination or discriminatory harassment can be reported, i.e. brought to the attention of the Institute, anonymously by submitting an online report directly to IDHR. Other inappropriate conduct can be reported anonymously to Human Resources or through Ethicspoint (see below). Making a report of a violation of an MIT Conduct Policy is not the same as filing a Section 9.8 Complaint. IDHR, Human Resources, and local HR representatives can provide MIT community members with information about available support services and resources and about their rights and options, including to file a Section 9.8 Complaint or seek informal resolution.

If a Complainant files a Section 9.8 Complaint, the Respondent is provided with 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.

If the Complainant requests that their name or other personally identifiable information not be shared with the Respondent, MIT’s ability to investigate a Section 9.8 Complaint and address concerns may be limited. Therefore, depending on the circumstances, MIT may not be able to honor a Complainant’s request for anonymity and may need to proceed with a formal investigation by filing a Section 9.8 Administrative Complaint.

MIT also offers additional anonymous and confidential options for reporting concerns, including the following:

  • An anonymous hotline managed by Ethicspoint, a third-party vendor, for reports of wrongdoing or violations of MIT policy. More information can be found at hotline.mit.edu. Lincoln Lab has a separate anonymous hotline. Hotline reports may be forwarded to IDHR or HR if appropriate.
  • The MIT Ombuds Office is an independent, confidential resource which can help with conflict management but does not investigate complaints and will not provide any information about your complaint to IDHR or HR without your express approval.
  • The MIT Police have an online form for anonymous reporting of sexual assault, which can be submitted by anyone and does not ask for the name of the victim or reporter.

Who can a Section 9.8 Complaint be filed against?

A Section 9.8 Complaint may be filed against an MIT faculty member, researcher, staff member, or postdoctoral scholar (researcher or fellow).

Can I use this process to file a Section 9.8 Complaint against an MIT student?

You may only use this process to file a Section 9.8 Complaint against a student if the alleged conduct violation occurred while the student was serving in a capacity where they were being paid by MIT. Examples include students who engage in misconduct in their role as a Graduate Resident Advisor (GRA), Research Assistant (RA), or Teaching Assistant (TA). All other complaints against students are handled by the Office of Student Conduct and the Committee on Discipline (https://handbook.mit.edu/complaint-procedures).

Can I use this process to file a Section 9.8 Complaint against another member of the MIT community, like an affiliate, visiting student or scholar, or vendor?

The process outlined here is not used for complaints against visitors, affiliates, or other members of the MIT community who are not employed in some capacity by the Institute (with the exception of postdoctoral fellows, who are subject to this Section 9.8 process). However, an individual should still report a Conduct Policy violation by a non-employee MIT community member by completing and submitting this form. If MIT receives a report about a member of the community who is not an employee, MIT may still review and take action in response to the report. In such cases, MIT will generally provide written notification of the allegations to the community member alleged to have violated an MIT Conduct Policy, and an opportunity for both parties to meet with the person who is reviewing the allegation, to submit written statements and evidence, and to respond to factual findings made during the process.

If I believe I am being paid less due to a protected status, like my race or gender, can I use this process to file a Section 9.8 Complaint about discrimination in my compensation?

This process is generally not appropriate for complaints about pay or job classifications. If you have a concern about your compensation or job classification, please contact your immediate supervisor, your local HR representative, or your Human Resources Officer. These individuals can work with the Compensation Office to review your concerns. Human Resources may seek consultation or assistance from IDHR in such cases.

Can I use this process to allege a violation of MIT’s consensual relationships policy (P&P 9.5)?

No, this process is not used for alleged violations of the consensual relationships policy. Please see P&P 9.5 for procedures on how to handle concerns covered by that policy.

Can I use this process if I have a complaint about an academic decision?

Complaints about academic issues are generally handled by the relevant academic department, since academic subject matter expertise is often necessary in resolving such complaints. The Department may seek assistance from IDHR or HR when responding to a complaint that alleges an adverse academic decision was due to discrimination against the Complainant.

Complaints about academic misconduct in research and scholarship follow the procedure outlined in P&P 10.1.

If the allegations concern a grade dispute, the procedure outlined on the Registrar’s website is followed.

Can I use this process to file a complaint about disability discrimination, including a complaint about a failure to provide an accommodation for my disability?

While you can file a Section 9.8 Complaint if you are alleging that you have been subjected to discrimination or harassment as a result of a disability, this process cannot be used to resolve complaints about disability accommodations. In order to request a reasonable accommodation(s) for a disability, students should contact Student Disability Services and employees should contact Disability Services in Human Resources. A complaint alleging failure to provide a reasonable accommodation for a disability follows the process here: https://studentlife.mit.edu/sds/students/grievance-procedure.

Can I use this process for complaints about my performance review?

This process is generally not appropriate for complaints about a performance review, which are usually reviewed by the DLC or the employee’s HRO. That person may seek assistance from the IDHR or HR.

 

Informal Resolution

 

What is informal complaint resolution and why does MIT encourage it?

Not all complaints require a formal investigation to reach a resolution. Informal complaint resolution occurs when the Complainant and the Respondent reach a mutually agreeable outcome that results in a cessation of the complained of conduct but without a full investigation and without any finding that the alleged misconduct did or did not violate an MIT policy. Informal resolution can take many forms and may involve a mediated resolution.

MIT encourages parties to start with informal resolution because it is often quicker and less adversarial. Informal resolution can also provide more confidentiality than a formal investigation. However, informal resolution is not appropriate in all circumstances, for example when one party wants a definitive finding that the complained of conduct violated an MIT policy.

If informal resolution fails, can the formal review process still be used?

Yes. At any time, either the Complainant or Respondent may end the informal resolution process. If the Complainant had not yet filed a formal Complaint, they may do so at that time. If a Complaint had been filed and put on hold while informal resolution was attempted, the formal investigation process can then resume.

 

Filing a Complaint

 

How do I file a Section 9.8 Complaint?

You may file a Section 9.8 Complaint either by submitting the Section 9.8 Complaint form online or by submitting the form in person with the Institute Discrimination & Harassment Response Office. After receiving a Section 9.8 Complaint, IDHR, in consultation with HR where appropriate, will perform an initial assessment to determine whether the alleged behavior would violate a Conduct Policy, if the factual allegations in the Complaint are true.

Section 9.8 Complaints that do not include allegations of discrimination or discriminatory harassment will be referred to Human Resources to be resolved through that office. Complaints that involve allegations of discrimination or discriminatory harassment will remain with IDHR for resolution.

For allegations of discrimination or discriminatory harassment, all MIT community members are encouraged to meet with IDHR before filing a Section 9.8 Complaint. For allegations of other inappropriate conduct, all MIT community members are encouraged to meet with their Human Resources Office (HRO) first. You can find out who your HRO is here: https://hr.mit.edu/hro-list/search.

How will I know if my Section 9.8 Complaint was received?

If you file the Section 9.8 Complaint online form, you will receive an email response confirming that it was received. Someone will follow-up with you and offer to meet to discuss the Complaint.

Is there a deadline for filing a Section 9.8 Complaint?

While there is no deadline by which a Section 9.8 Complaint must be filed, in order to preserve evidence, ensure witness availability, and potentially protect others from similar behavior, MIT encourages individuals to file Complaints as soon as possible after the offending event or incident. If, for example, many years have passed since the complained of conduct occurred or the individual accused of wrongdoing is no longer employed at MIT, IDHR may determine that it cannot undertake an investigation.

If a Section 9.8 Complaint has been filed against me, will I be provided with a copy of the Complaint?

A Respondent is notified in writing after a Section 9.8 Complaint is filed and an initial assessment has determined that the Complaint may proceed. The Respondent is informed of the name of the assigned investigator, sufficient details about the nature of the allegations for the Respondent to be able to respond, and a summary explanation of the complaint resolution process that will be followed. The Complaint itself is not given to the Respondent at the outset of the investigation but will be provided as part of the investigative record. Information about other employees or information not germane to the investigation may be redacted from the Complaint.

Who else is notified when a Section 9.8 Complaint is received?

A Respondent’s supervisor or manager will be notified of the Section 9.8 Complaint. Other offices at MIT, such as Human Resources or the Office of the General Counsel, are generally informed.

If I submit a Section 9.8 Complaint and feel that the person I complained about is retaliating against me, what should I do?

Retaliation against employees (or others filing complaints or participating in the investigation of a complaint) is prohibited https://policies.mit.edu/policies-procedures/90-relations-and-responsibilities-within-mit-community/97-retaliation. A complaint alleging retaliation is considered a separate violation from the violation(s) alleged in the underlying complaint and can also be addressed through MIT’s complaint resolution process. The Institute may determine that retaliation occurred even when the investigation into the underlying complaint does not result in a finding of a policy violation.

If you think you have been or might be retaliated against, please contact your HRO or IDHR.

What if I change my mind after I file a Section 9.8 Complaint?

If a Complainant decides they no longer want to pursue a Section 9.8 Complaint, IDHR will determine whether the investigation should continue without an individual Complainant. In some cases, IDHR may decide to proceed with an investigation even if the Complainant no longer wishes to pursue the matter. For example, if it is determined that the alleged conduct might violate the law or interfere with the academic or work environment, IDHR may decide that a formal investigation should still go forward, even without a Complainant. Under those circumstances, the Complaint would then be considered an Administrative Complaint.

 

Formal Investigations

 

Who serves as the investigator?

In cases of discrimination and discriminatory harassment, an investigator from IDHR will be assigned to conduct the investigation. In cases of other inappropriate conduct, a Human Resources Officer will serve as the investigator. Both the Complainant and Respondent are provided with the name of the assigned investigator before the investigation begins and are given an opportunity to object to the assigned investigator if they believe the assigned investigator is not or cannot be neutral while conducting the investigation.

I have been identified as a witness and don't want to get involved. Can I decline the request by the investigator to be interviewed?

Witnesses are expected to meet with the investigator, to provide relevant documentation when asked, and to answer all questions fully and honestly. Cooperation ensures that the Institute responds justly to anyone who has been the victim of another’s inappropriate acts and to ensure that any Respondent wrongfully accused of misconduct is appropriately exonerated. Although participants may have differences of opinion, differences of perception, or reasonable differences in their recollection of past events, all participants – Complainants, Respondents, and witnesses - are expected to be truthful during the investigation. Filing a false Section 9.8 Complaint in bad faith or dishonesty during an investigation may lead to disciplinary action.

How much information is shared with witnesses who are interviewed during an investigation?

Witnesses do not receive a copy of the Section 9.8 Complaint and are only provided with information relevant to their own role. Witnesses are generally not informed of the investigation’s findings. Please review the answer to question, "Who is notified of the outcome of an investigation?"

Are formal investigations confidential?

During a formal investigation, all participants, including the Complainant, Respondent, and any witnesses, are expected to treat the matter as confidential so as not to compromise any aspects of the investigation and to respect the rights of the parties. Even after an investigation is complete, participants should keep in mind the effect that allegations can have on reputations and be respectful of the privacy of all individuals involved. Sharing confidential information in a manner that harms another individual may constitute retaliation prohibited under Section 9.7.

As a Complainant or Respondent, can I bring someone with me when I meet with the investigator?

Yes. Both the Complainant and Respondent can bring someone from the MIT community to a meeting about the Complaint. Section 9.8.5.4 provides further detail on who can accompany you and what role they can play during the meeting.

How long does it take to complete the formal investigation?

The goal is to complete the investigation as promptly as possible. The length of the investigation depends on many factors, including the complexity of the Complaint and the availability of Complainant, Respondent and witnesses. MIT is committed to completing an investigation in a time frame that is responsible and appropriate to the complexities of that specific investigation.

What if one of the parties leaves MIT during the formal investigation?

If either the Complainant or the Respondent leaves MIT after a Complaint is filed but before the investigation process is completed, MIT generally continues the investigation to the extent possible. If an individual sues or files a complaint with an external agency before MIT’s complaint resolution process is completed, MIT also generally continues an ongoing investigation. However, the process outlined in Section 9.8 may be modified by MIT to reflect the fact that one or more parties is no longer at the Institute, and MIT may choose to terminate an investigation in some cases.

 

Findings and Discipline

 

Who decides if an MIT Conduct Policy was violated?

If the Respondent is a faculty member or a senior research scientist/engineer/associate, the investigator prepares a fact-finding report which is then presented to a Faculty Review Panel. The Faculty Panel will review the report and make a finding as to whether an MIT Conduct Policy was violated. The Faculty Panel will also make a recommendation on discipline or other sanctions if it finds there has been a violation of an MIT Conduct Policy.

If the Respondent is a staff member or postdoctoral scholar, the investigator will make findings of fact as well as a determination as to whether a Conduct Policy was violated.

Who decides what action is to be taken if a violation of a MIT Conduct Policy is found?

If the Respondent is a faculty member or a senior research scientist/engineer/associate, the Dean of the Respondent’s School will determine the appropriate discipline, sanction or other action to be taken in response to the finding after reviewing the recommendation(s) from the Faculty Review Panel. See Section 9.8.4.3 for the process if there is disagreement about discipline between the Faculty Panel and the Dean.

If the Respondent is a staff member or postdoctoral scholar, the Dean or other Academic Council member in charge of the Respondent’s unit will determine the appropriate discipline, sanction or other action to be taken.

What is the standard of proof used by the investigator to determine if the allegations presented in a Section 9.8 Complaint are substantiated?

The standard of proof for formal investigations is that of a “preponderance of evidence” – that is, information that, compared with the information opposing it, leads to a conclusion that the fact is more probably true than not.

Who is notified of the outcome of the investigation?

The Complainant, Respondent, and the Respondent’s supervisor or manager are notified once a determination has been made as to whether a policy violation occurred. Where the Faculty Review Panel or investigator finds that the Respondent violated a Conduct Policy, the report and finding(s) are also sent to the Respondent’s department/unit head, as well as to the Respondent’s Dean or other appropriate member of Academic Council. See Section 9.8.4.3 and 9.8.4.4.

In cases of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking, the Complainant and Respondent will receive simultaneous notification in writing of the result of the investigation (including discipline), procedures for appeal (if applicable), any change to the result, and when the results become final.

Why does MIT provide a Review Panel for Section 9.8 Complaints against faculty?

Before the recent revision to the MIT complaint policy, the policy provided for a faculty panel to investigate and determine violations in certain complaints of discrimination or harassment against faculty members. As revised, the policy similarly calls for a faculty panel to determine whether a Conduct Policy was violated, though the underlying investigation is done by a trained investigator.

The role of the Faculty Review Panel in determining policy violations by other faculty reflects the faculty’s role in governance, and particularly its role in the stewardship of academic and educational matters. The faculty as stewards are uniquely qualified to determine when conduct by other faculty violates MIT’s policies.

How are the faculty members on a Faculty Complaint Review Panel chosen?

A pool of approximately 10 tenured faculty members are appointed by the President and the Provost to serve on panels for Section 9.8 Complaints against faculty members, senior research scientists, senior research engineers, or senior research associates. These faculty members are from each of MIT's five schools and will serve 1-3 year terms. 

In a given case, the Associate Provost will choose three impartial faculty members from this pool to serve as the Faculty Complaint Review Panel.

Does the Faculty Complaint Review Panel receive any training before considering a case?

Yes, these faculty members receive training on discrimination, harassment, sexual misconduct, and other relevant issues, including MIT’s Conduct Policies. This training incorporates perspectives from stakeholders at various stages of their education and careers, such as undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdocs. When a Faculty Complaint Review Panel is chosen for a particular case, the members of that panel will receive refresher training prior to engaging in their work.

As a Complainant or Respondent, can I appeal the findings from a formal investigation of a Section 9.8 Complaint?

Both the Complainant and the Respondent are able to appeal the finding of a policy violation in limited circumstances. Section 9.8.4.5. If a policy violation was found, neither party may appeal the discipline imposed on Respondent or other action taken.

 

Other

 

If my question is not answered by these FAQs, where can I find more information?

Much information about MIT’s policies and procedures is available online. The IDHR website is the best place to start. You may also contact IDHR at idhr@mit.edu or Human Resources at hrpolicies@mit.edu.