Determining if an Investigation Will Proceed
When EOA receives a report of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, EOA will contact the complainant to identify support resources and supportive measures and to offer the opportunity to schedule a meeting to discuss the allegations and the EOA investigative process. If a person chooses not to participate in an investigation, EOA may move forward based on the available information but Vanderbilt’s ability to respond may be limited.
EOA will assess whether the alleged conduct, as reported, could constitute a violation of University policy. If EOA determines the alleged conduct, as reported, could not constitute a violation of University policy under its jurisdiction, it will notify the complainant(s) of its determination not to open an investigation. EOA may also refer the conduct to another office or official, including for review to determine whether the alleged conduct could violate another university policy. University
The Director of EOA or designee has the discretion to administratively close an investigation before reaching a determination. The Director or designee will consider relevant factors, such as whether the allegations lack sufficient detail, whether the complainant has declined to participate in an investigation, and the effect of closing the investigation on the safety of the University community and the University’s commitment to provide a non-discriminatory environment before deciding whether to administratively close an investigation. The Director or designee may also re-open an investigation based on a consideration of relevant factors, including, the time that has elapsed since the investigation was closed, any new or newly-identified information or allegations, and fairness to both parties.
The University will address all reports of prohibited conduct to the extent practicable under the circumstances, including instances for which there is not an identified complainant.
Notice of Allegations
If EOA determines that an investigation is appropriate, student respondents will receive a Notice of Allegations (“NOA”) from Student Accountability. The date the NOA is issued marks the official start of an investigation.
The NOA will identify the applicable University policies and state the allegations potentially constituting a policy violation. If at any point during the investigation EOA decides to investigate allegations that are not included in the original NOA, it will provide a revised NOA to the respondent. EOA may contact the respondent for the purposes of obtaining or sharing information before issuing the NOA.
EOA will promptly notify the complainant of the issuance of the NOA to the respondent.
The Investigative Process
During the investigation, an EOA investigator will meet with the complainant and respondent, separately, to explain the role of EOA, the investigation and appeals procedures under this policy, and the available resources for assistance, including supportive measures that may be appropriate. Both the complainant and, in the event of an investigation, any respondent will have the opportunity to be accompanied by an adviser. Advisers must be Vanderbilt students, faculty members, or staff of the person’s own choosing, to whom the person is not related, and who have not had formal legal training. Advisers to Vanderbilt Law School students are the only exception from the final requirement regarding legal training; those advisers may have legal training but must otherwise meet the requirements for advisers.
During the investigation phase, the investigator will strive to collect all relevant information but cannot compel external sources to provide information they may have. Relevant information may include: the initial report, law enforcement investigation documents; medical records with the appropriate releases; relevant student files or records; electronic communication, such as text messages, emails, and messaging apps; internet or social media posts; screenshots; pictures; audio and video recordings; video surveillance; verbal or written statements; swipe records; and receipts. The investigator also may interview the complainant, the respondent, and any witnesses. The complainant and respondent will have the opportunity to provide information to investigator, including the names of people with relevant information. The investigator will consider the witness lists provided by the complainant and respondent when identifying witnesses for interview, but decisions about whom to interview are solely within the investigator’s discretion. The investigator retains discretion to limit the number of witness interviews conducted if the investigator finds that the witnesses’ statements would be unreasonably cumulative, if the witnesses are offered solely as character references and do not have information relevant to the allegations at issue, or if the witnesses are offered to render testimony that is otherwise inadmissible. As the investigation progresses, the investigator may conduct follow-up interviews as necessary. If the complainant or the respondent learns of, or recalls, additional information during the course of the investigation, that person should notify the EOA investigator promptly.
Persons are encouraged to exercise discretion in sharing information related to the investigation to safeguard the integrity of the process and to avoid the appearance of retaliation. While discretion regarding the process is important, complainants and respondents are not restricted from discussing and sharing information with others, including those who may support or assist them during the process.
EOA will record and transcribe interviews conducted as part of an investigation. EOA will provide interviewees with a transcript of their interview for their review and for accuracy. The parties will have three business days to review and offer corrections to the transcript. If corrections are not submitted within three business days, the investigators will proceed with the transcript as drafted.
Before making a final determination, EOA will provide the respondent the opportunity to review evidence that may be used to determine whether the respondent engaged in prohibited conduct. EOA may redact non-party names and sensitive information from the evidence. The respondent may view the redacted information by scheduling an appointment with EOA. The respondent may submit written comments on the evidence. Comments may not exceed10 double-spaced pages, and pages must be formatted with one (1) inch margins and twelve (12) point font. Comments must be submitted either by hand delivery to EOA, 2100 West End Avenue, Suite 700, or by email attachment to the EOA investigator by no later than 5:00 p.m. on the tenth calendar day following the date the respondent receives the evidence. Requests for extensions must be submitted to the EOA investigator before to the expiration of the 10-day review period.
EOA will review comments to the evidence received from the respondent and will conduct any further investigation it considers necessary or appropriate. After the conclusion of any additional investigation, EOA will issue any additional evidence gathered to the respondent for review. The respondent will have an opportunity to submit a written response limited to the information added following the additional investigation and subject to the formatting and time periods identified for the initial review.
EOA may investigate and make findings of fact regarding possible violations of other University policies (e.g., policies outlined in the Student Handbook) by the parties to the investigation when those violations are integral to the alleged violations of this policy. The relevant information and findings will then be shared with Student Accountability or the appropriate office or official for further action. If the conduct complained of involves a possible violation of another University policy that EOA determines is not integral to a violation of this policy, EOA will refer the report to the department or school responsible for investigating and/or resolving such reports.
Interviews conducted as part of an investigation under this policy may be recorded by the University. Recordings not authorized by the University are prohibited.
Evidence Not Considered
The EOA Director or designee will decide in each case whether to receive evidence from experts or other witnesses. Polygraph evidence will not be considered. Evidence concerning the character of a party will not be considered.
Preservation of Investigative Materials
EOA will maintain materials obtained during the investigation in accordance with applicable record retention policies.