Formal Complaint Process under Title IX

Preliminary Assessment

Upon receiving a report, complaint or formal complaint of an alleged incident of sex discrimination, sexual misconduct, or sexual harassment, the Title IX Coordinator will conduct a preliminary assessment to determine Rockford University’s response using the following threshold criteria:

  • Would the incident be considered “sexual harassment” under Title IX, as defined on in this policy (see Definitions)?
    • In assessing the type of incident, the Title IX Coordinator will determine if the alleged conduct was either:
      • Quid pro quo harassment (involving a University employee);
      • Sexual Assault, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, or Stalking; or
      • Unwelcome conduct that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to a University program or activity
  • Did the incident occur in a University education program or activity, as defined on in this policy (see Definitions)?
  • Did the incident occur in the United States?

If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, the alleged incident may be considered one or more of the following forms of conduct and addressed accordingly:

  • Non-sexual harassment sex discrimination: University grievance procedures for handling incidents of sex discrimination can be found in the University’s nondiscrimination policy.
  • Sexual Misconduct: Incidents of sexual misconduct will be addressed using the conduct process outlined the University Code of Conduct or the processes outlined in the Faculty and Employee Handbooks.
  • Non-actionable: Complainant may request and the University may provide supportive measures as appropriate.

If the answer is “yes” to all three threshold criteria, the incident may constitute sexual harassment under Title IX, and the complainant may file a formal complaint under Title IX to initiate an investigation and grievance process.

After conducting the assessment, the Title IX Coordinator will send a written notification of their preliminary assessment to the complainant.

The complainant may appeal the Title IX Coordinator’s preliminary assessment of the alleged incident to the University President within 10 days of receiving written notice from the Title IX Coordinator. If a formal complaint or complaint is filed, the respondent may appeal the Title IX Coordinator’s preliminary assessment to the University President within 10 days of receiving the complaint.

Complainants may request supportive measures or an investigation into allegations of conduct that do not meet Title IX jurisdictional conditions under the University Code of Conduct (for incidents involving students) or Faculty and Employee Handbooks (for incidents involving employee to employee conduct issues).

Regardless of whether an alleged incident is determined to constitute sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or sex discrimination, and regardless of whether or not the complainant files a formal complaint under Title IX or a complaint under University Code of Conduct or Faculty and Employee Handbooks, the University will provide supportive measures to the complainant. Learn more information about Supportive Measures.

Updated: August 2020
Filing a Formal Complaint

Filing of a formal complaint of an alleged incident of sexual harassment under Title IX initiates the investigation and grievance process outlined in this policy.

Who Can File a Formal Complaint?

The complainant or Title IX Coordinator must file the formal complaint.

Third parties cannot file formal complaints. Additionally, fundamental fairness and due process principles require that a respondent be informed of the details of the allegations made against them, to the extent that the details are known, to provide an adequate opportunity for the respondent to respond. Therefore, a complainant cannot remain anonymous and file a formal complaint. However, the Title IX Coordinator will keep confidential the identities of the complainant and respondent (and witnesses) from anyone not involved in the grievance process, except as permitted by FERPA, required by law, or as necessary to conduct the grievance process. Learn more about Confidentiality.

While a formal complaint requires the complainant’s identity, Title IX does not require a complainant to identify the respondent in a formal complaint. If a complainant does not know the respondent’s identity and file a formal complaint, the University is still required to investigate the formal complaint because an investigation may reveal the respondent’s identity. If the respondent’s identity becomes known, the University will send both parties the written notice of allegations, follow the grievance process outlined in this policy, and may impose disciplinary sanctions against the respondent at the conclusion of the grievance process. However, if a respondent’s identity remains unknown, the University will be unable to comply with the required grievance process outlined in this policy and therefore unable to impose disciplinary sanctions against the respondent.

Under certain circumstances, the Title IX Coordinator may determine that an investigation is necessary, even when the identity of the complainant is unknown or the complainant does not want an investigation. In this case, the Title IX Coordinator may choose to sign a formal complaint and initiate the grievance process. When this occurs, the Title IX Coordinator is not a complainant or otherwise considered a party included in the grievance process. The alleged victim will remain the complainant and be treated as a party in the grievance process. However, the complainant is not required to participate in the grievance process.

How to File a Formal Complaint:

Formal complaints may be submitted in person, by mail, or by email to the Title IX Coordinator, whose contact information is listed in this policy and on the Title IX webpage. Additionally, formal complaints may be submitted using the online formal complaint form. Formal complaints cannot be filed by telephone.

What is a Formal Complaint?

A formal complaint is a document or electronic submission (such as an email or online form) that contains the complainant’s physical or digital signature or otherwise indicates that the complainant is the person filing the complaint.

A formal complaint alleges sexual harassment against a respondent and requests that Rockford University investigate the allegation of sexual harassment. Therefore, submitting a formal complaint indicates an intentional decision on behalf of the complainant to initiate the Title IX grievance process.

When Can A Formal Complaint be Filed?

There is no time limit on a complainant’s decision to file a formal complaint, so the decision to sign and file a formal complaint does not need to occur in the immediate aftermath of an alleged incident or reporting an incident.

However, at the time of filing a formal complaint, the complainant must be participating in or attempting to participate in a University education program or activity.

This requirement does not exclude a complainant who has graduated or is on a leave of absence if the complainant intends to apply to a different University program, intends to remain involved in University alumni programs and activities, or may intend to re-apply after a leave of absence.

Dismissal of a Formal Complaint

The investigation of the conduct alleged in the formal complaint may uncover new information about the incident. In accordance with Title IX, Rockford University must dismiss the formal complaint of sexual harassment under Title IX if at any point during the investigation or hearing process it is determined that the conduct alleged in the formal complaint:

  1. Would not constitute sexual harassment as defined under Title IX (as defined in Definitions), even if proven;
  2. Did not occur in University education program or activity; or
  3. Did not occur against a person in the United States.

Such dismissal does not indicate that a University policy violation did not occur. Therefore, the University may choose to address such incidents using University Code of Conduct or Faculty and Employee Handbook processes.

The University reserves the right to dismiss a formal complaint or allegations therein, if at any time during the investigation or hearing:

  1. A complainant notifies the Title IX Coordinator in writing that the complainant would like to withdraw the formal complaint or any allegations therein;
  2. The respondent is no longer enrolled or employed by the University
  3. Specific circumstances prevent the University from gathering evidence sufficient to reach a determination as to the formal complaint or allegations therein.

Upon dismissal of a formal complaint (either as required or not), the University will promptly send a written notice of dismissal and reason(s) therefor simultaneously to both parties.

The complainant and respondent have the right to appeal the University’s dismissal of the formal complaint or any allegations therein on several bases. Learn more information about the bases of appeal.

Consolidation of Formal Complaints

Rockford University may consolidate formal complaints as to allegations of sexual harassment against more than one respondent, or by more than one complainant against one or more respondents, or by one party against another party, where the allegations of sexual harassment arise out of the same facts or circumstances. Where a grievance process involves more than one complainant or more than one respondent, references in this policy to the singular “party,” “complainant,” or “respondent” include the plural, as applicable.

Compliance and Title IX
Burpee Center, Student Life Suite
5050 E. State Street
Rockford, IL 61108