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Bias Incident Response Process
Lake Forest College is committed to providing a safe and inclusive campus environment for all students, faculty, and staff. We value the diversity of our community members’ ethnic, gender, religious, cultural and racial backgrounds, in equal measure with the breadth and depth of all experiences that they bring to our campus. The College’s mission statement states that we embrace cultural diversity and develop responsible members of the global community. Additionally, we work to enable students to become adept at approaching differences openly, honestly, and respectfully, and to solve problems in a civil manner, collectively. As such, it is expected that all members of our campus community – students, faculty, staff, and administration – will strive to foster an environment that is free from bias.
Lake Forest College has a Bias Incident Response Process (“BIR Process”) that is designed to respond to incidents that can be more difficult to define than harassment or discrimination, but that can nonetheless harm or threaten individuals or groups based on characteristics of identity including, but not limited to, sex, pregnancy, gender identity or expression, race, color, creed, national or ethnic origin, religion or religious affiliation, sexual orientation or preference, age, marital or family status, disability, or veteran status. Illustrative examples of potential bias incidents include targeted graffiti or vandalism, homophobic or sexist jokes, racist epithets, religious slurs, or demeaning remarks on social media. Bias incidents may or may not be intended to cause harm.
The College intends this process to operate consistent with – and never in opposition to – the principles of academic freedom to which the College has been historically committed. Rigorous discussion and debate are fundamental to the College’s educational mission, and neither this Bias Incident Response Process nor any other College policy or process is intended to determine or restrict teaching methods, course content, or the processes of intellectual inquiry and debate. Offensive speech, by itself, does not violate this Process or other College policy. For speech/expression to constitute a Bias Incident, it must lack a reasonable and responsible relationship to an educational, political or artistic goal, and must threaten, intimidate, or marginalize an individual or group based on one or more of the characteristics of identity listed above.
I. Initial Inquiry
Any student, faculty or staff member who experiences or witnesses a potential bias incident should report the incident of bias using the linked Bias Incident Report Form. Once the Bias Incident Report is filed the Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations (OIR) will begin to follow up on the bias incident within 72 hours of receiving the report. Please note that any bias incident emergencies should always be reported directly to Public Safety or 911.
If the potential bias incident involves faculty, then the Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations and Dean of Faculty will collaborate in response. If the incident involves staff then the Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations and the Director of Human Resources will collaborate in the response. In incidents involving non-members of the Lake Forest College community, the Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations will respond in collaboration with the President of the College.
The Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations will first contact the students affected by the reported bias incident and an initial inquiry will begin regarding the complaint (i.e., the Bias Incident Report). This will most frequently begin with an attempt to gain additional information from the complainant, preferably through an inperson meeting. The scope and timing of further action will depend upon a number of factors, including but not limited to, whether the identity of the complainant and/or respondent (the person complained about) is known; whether the complainant is willing to participate in an investigation; whether the complainant requests anonymity or confidentiality; whether the respondent is affiliated with the College and whether the College has an obligation to proceed with an investigation based on the nature of the conduct alleged, regardless of the complainant’s wishes. Students accused of incidents of bias are required to participate in the College’s process of investigation and resolution. In addition, students who provide evidence in bias investigations run no risk of penalty from the College if their evidence – in addition to bearing upon a bias claim – also reveals other activities prohibited by the Code of Student Conduct. Students providing evidence may be required to take advantage of educational or counseling opportunities, but no record of a conduct violation will be based on their evidence. Following an Initial Inquiry, possible next steps include:
- Formal Investigation: The Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations may determine the complainant provided sufficient information to support a claim of bias and that the respondent may be responsible. In these cases, the complaint will proceed to full investigation. Prior to the conclusion of an investigation, the complainant may request to withdraw the complaint by contacting the Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations in writing. As noted above, although the Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations weighs the wishes of the complainant heavily when deciding whether to pursue a full investigation, in some cases the College may have an obligation to proceed with a full investigation based on the nature of the allegations.
- Informal Action: Informal action involves action taken by the College in response to a situation or report of bias when the complainant does not desire a formal investigation or when there is not enough information to proceed with a full investigation. Examples of informal actions include, but are not limited to, a warning to cease current behaviors, no-contact directives and/or an educational conversation with the respondent or others. Informal action does not result in findings related to responsibility or in sanctions.
- Close the Case: In order for a case to be referred for a full investigation, there must be sufficient information to believe an incident of bias has occurred and the respondent may be responsible. The Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations may dismiss a case when insufficient information exists to move forward or when the alleged misconduct—even if substantiated— would not warrant future response. The Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations may, in its discretion, reopen a case in the future if additional information becomes available or a complainant who was unwilling to participate in an investigation changes their mind.
II. Formal Investigation
When a complaint proceeds to full investigation, the matter will be investigated in a prompt, thorough and impartial manner. Investigation will commence as soon as practicable following the initial inquiry process detailed above. Investigations will be conducted as expeditiously as possible and are usually completed within a reasonable period, typically 60 days, though this may vary based on the availability of parties and witnesses, breaks in the academic calendar, the scope of the investigation or unforeseen or exigent circumstances. In instances when an investigation will exceed 60 days, the investigator will notify both the complainant and respondent. Depending upon the circumstances, the investigator will likely be an OIR staff member, the College Title IX Coordinator, or a faculty or staff representative appointed by the Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations and the Dean of Faculty or the Director of Human Resources, as appropriate.
During an investigation, complainants will have the opportunity to describe their allegations and present supporting witnesses or other evidence. The respondent will have the opportunity to receive notice of each allegation, respond to each allegation and present their evidence supporting their position and propose relevant witnesses. The investigator will review evidence presented and will, as determined appropriate by the investigator, meet with additional witnesses identified by the complainant, the respondent or third parties. In some instances, the investigator may identify and communicate with witnesses who were not identified by the complainant, respondent or third parties.
Investigation meetings are not tape recorded by the College and may not be recorded by any participant. Parties and witnesses may take notes during investigation meetings. Generally, the investigator will meet with each party and each witness separately. In some cases, the investigator may interview the parties and/or witnesses more than once. The parties may submit additional materials or information to the investigator following their interview(s). In all cases, both the complainant and respondent will have equal opportunities to share information and have their information considered.
There is no time limit for when a complainant must report an incident of bias; however, reports should be made as soon as possible after the incident, preferably within one year, because the passing of time makes a review of the evidence more difficult and the memories of involved parties may become less reliable.
All parties involved in the investigation are expected to cooperate and provide truthful information throughout the investigation process.
Complainants and respondents may be accompanied by one advisor throughout the investigation and any hearing process, provided that the involvement of the advisor does not result in an undue delay of the process. It is the responsibility of each party to coordinate scheduling with their advisor for any meetings. An advisor is a support person who is present to provide support to a complainant or respondent throughout an investigation and/or hearing. An advisor may not speak, write or otherwise communicate with an investigator or with the individual responsible for deciding an investigation appeal on behalf of the complainant or respondent. Advisors may not engage in behavior or advocacy that harasses, abuses, or intimidates either party, a witness or individuals involved in resolving the complaint. Advisors who do not abide by these guidelines may be excluded from the process.
Advisors cannot be a witness or party in the matter or a related matter, a family member of the complainant or respondent or an attorney.
Privacy and sharing of information
The purpose of the Bias Incident Response is to provide the College community with a positive working and educational environment that is free of bias. Complaints of bias will be investigated in a manner that is consistent with this goal. Lake Forest College cannot promise complete confidentiality or privacy in its handling of bias complaints. Lake Forest College makes every reasonable effort to handle inquiries, complaints and related proceedings in a manner that protects the privacy of all parties. Each situation is reviewed as discreetly as possible, with information shared only with those who need to know about it in order to investigate and resolve the matter.
All participants in an investigation of bias will be informed that confidentiality helps enhance the integrity of the investigation, protect the privacy interests of the parties and protect the participants from statements that might be interpreted to be retaliatory or defamatory. For these reasons, the complainant and respondent will be asked at the beginning of an investigation to keep the information related to the investigation private, to the extent consistent with applicable law. Witnesses and advisors will also be asked to maintain complete confidentiality to the investigation to the extent consistent with applicable law.
In certain circumstances, and upon explicit request, the College may be able to address bias concerns and stop problematic behavior without revealing to the alleged respondent the identity of the person who complained and/or the individuals involved in the investigation. However, this is not possible in the majority of matters, as situations typically require the disclosure of the complainant’s identity in order to fully investigate the matter and/or to enable the respondent the ability to fully respond to the allegations against them. When complainants report allegations of bias to the College and do not consent to the disclosure of their names and/or do not disclose the identity of the alleged respondents or identifiable information about the alleged respondents, the College’s ability to respond to the complaints may be limited.
Throughout its proceedings, Lake Forest College will be sensitive to the wishes of the complainant. Nevertheless, the College has a compelling interest to address allegations of bias brought to its attention. Lake Forest College reserves the right to take appropriate action in such circumstances, even in cases when the complainant is reluctant to proceed with an investigation or requests anonymity.
An Honor Council consisting of students, faculty and staff will be established to provide input on educational intervention and appropriate sanctioning in bias incidents, through consultation with the Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations on a case by case basis.
For the Spring 2020 semester, a provisional Honor Council will be appointed to (i) provide input in bias incidents, as described above, (ii) discuss and clarify the purposes and operating procedures to be followed by a permanent honor council, and (iii) formally recommend to College Council the approval of a permanent honor council with those purposes and procedures, to be in place by the start of Fall 2020. The Intercultural Advisory Group (IAG) will solicit student, faculty, and staff applications, and will select members of the provisional honor council.
At the conclusion of an investigation, the investigator will determine whether the preponderance of the evidence indicates that the respondent is responsible for an incident of bias. The investigator(s) will provide their conclusions to the Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations and or Dean of Faculty or the Director of Human Resources, as appropriate. The complainant and the respondent will be notified, in writing, of the outcome of the investigation and the rationale of the outcome decision, upon its conclusion.
When a respondent is found responsible for an incident of bias, the College’s response is based on several factors, including the severity of the conduct, and aims to prevent problems from recurring. In addition, the College may recommend steps to address the effects of the conduct on the complainant and others. Respondents will be subject to disciplinary action, including sanctions listed in Article III (c) of the Student Handbook.
For staff respondents, in the event a policy violation is found, The Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations will provide findings to the Office of Human Resources and the respondent’s manager(s), who are responsible for deciding what sanctions or corrective actions should be imposed on the respondent, in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Staff Handbook.
For faculty respondents, in the event a policy violation is found, The Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations will provide findings to the Dean of Faculty. Any sanctions or corrective actions imposed will be determined in accordance with the Faculty Handbook.
For third party respondents, findings of a violation may be provided to the third party’s employer (when applicable) and the appropriate College office for further action consistent with the findings.
The complainant or respondent may appeal the resolution of a case in instances where they are dissatisfied with the outcome. The appeal must be made within five (5) calendar days of the date of the written notification of the findings, or, if sanctions are imposed, the determination of sanctions. An appeal must be in writing and specify the basis for the appeal. The original finding is presumed to be reasonable and appropriate based on a preponderance of the evidence. If the appealing party is a student, the appeal goes to the Dean of Students; if a faculty member, to the Dean of Faculty; and if a staff member, to the Vice President for Business. The only grounds for appeal are as follows:
- New information discovered after the investigation that could not have reasonably been available at the time of the investigation and is of a nature that could materially change the outcome;
- Procedural errors within the investigation or resolution process that may have substantially affected the fairness of the process;
- An outcome (findings or sanctions) that was manifestly contrary to the weight of the information presented (i.e., obviously unreasonable and unsupported by the great weight of information).
The decision on an appeal will be issued as expeditiously as possible, usually within 45 days, though this may vary based on the scope of the appeal or unforeseen circumstances. The official reviewing the appeal may review the full case, beyond the aspects of the case outlined in the request for appeal. If the reviewer does not find that any of the three grounds for appeal are present in the case, the outcome will be upheld. If the reviewer finds that any of the grounds for appeal are present in the case, they may amend the outcome, may issue a new outcome or may refer the matter back to the investigator for further consideration. A final outcome on an appeal is not subject to further appeal.
In the event sanctions are imposed, it shall be in the discretion of the appellate reviewer whether the sanctions shall be implemented or stayed pending resolution of an appeal.
Lake Forest College strictly prohibits retaliation against anyone for making a complaint of bias for participating in an investigation of bias. Retaliation is any attempt to seek retribution against an individual or group of individuals who engaged in protected activities. Action in response to protected activities is retaliatory if (i) it has a materially adverse effect on the working, academic, or other College-controlled environment of an individual; and (ii) it would not have occurred in the absence of the protected activities.
Anyone experiencing any conduct that they believe to be retaliatory should report it to The Director for the Office of Intercultural Relations immediately.
IV. Conflicts of interest
Any participant in an investigation who has a complaint regarding the conduct of the investigator or who believes the investigator has a conflict of interest should contact one of the individuals listed under the Appeals section, above. If a participant has a concern regarding an individual responsible for hearing an appeal, the participant should contact the Vice President for Student Affairs.