Westminster College takes incidents of sexual misconduct that occur within its student body very seriously. The College upholds a Sexual Violence and Harassment Policy within its College Handbook. The policy itself outlines the behavior and actions that constitute sexual misconduct, and also lists what actions the College will take once a student faces allegations of sexual misconduct. The process used to discipline acts of sexual misconduct is separate and more heavily scrutinized that what the College uses for acts of standard misconduct.
Sexual Misconduct at Westminster College
When a complaint is filed by a student that may involve sexual misconduct, it is reviewed by the College Title IX Office to see if action is warranted under the Title IX policy. While a complaint is being resolved, the student who files the complaint will be known as "complainant," whereas the student who faces the allegations will be known as the "respondent." As part of its inquiry, The Title IX Coordinator will review the complaint to determine if the incident does, in fact, violate the sexual misconduct policy, and if the complaint may be resolved through informal means. The Title IX Coordinator will meet with both parties separately to discuss the incident. Informal resolution to the matter may be suggested by the College, however, informal resolutions are not used for more serious violations such as sexual assault and sexual violence.
Westminster College Judicial Process
The respondent will receive an official notice of the violation through their College email. The Title IX Coordinator will schedule a hearing and gather a Judicial Board for sexual misconduct cases as deemed appropriate by the College. Prior to a hearing, both parties will have a pre-hearing conference to discuss the judicial process as well as the potential consequences of the hearing outcome. Hearings will be led by the chair of the selected board. The chair will determine the order and flow of the hearing, however, both complainant and respondent will, in theory, be granted certain rights throughout the process. Both parties will be able to present their own evidence and witnesses and to question one another's supporting witnesses, however, they may not be able to question one another directly. The board will hear out all relevant information, and will make a decision using the standard of "more likely than not."
At hearings, students are entitled to the presence of an adviser, however, this adviser may not be an attorney unless criminal charges are also involved. Sexual misconduct cases can carry serious consequences for the student facing the allegations. These consequences can have long-term negative effects on a student's academic and professional careers. For this reason, students would be well-served to retain an attorney whether or not they face criminal charges. For example, if a student fails to take the necessary steps to properly defend against the sexual misconduct allegations and is found responsible, regardless of whether there are contemporaneous criminal charges or not, the finding of responsibility alone can greatly jeopardize the student's present circumstances and also their future prospects. Even if a student is not suspended or expelled from the College after a finding of responsibility, the finding alone is enough to significantly impede future goals because of disclosure issues. In addition, attorneys can ensure that a student's rights are protected, and can also advise, counsel, and coach a student through their hearings to make their case as strong as possible. In addition, if a student does later face criminal charges, they will already have a defense attorney at the ready. Ultimately, there are far too many potential considerations and concerns to not be represented by an attorney when accused of sexual misconduct at Westminster College.
Appeals at Westminster College
If a hearing results in an unfavorable outcome, students are entitled to an appeal. Appeals must be submitted within seven (7) calendar days of the hearing outcome. Appeals are reviewed in two stages; the first is at the level of an appeals board, and a final appeal may be made to the College President. The grounds for appeal are procedural error, a claim that the policy was not violated, or that the sanctions are unjust.