Confidentiality in Sexual Misconduct Cases: Information for Respondents

During the process of investigation and adjudication: All parties are bound by confidentiality completely during the process of investigation and adjudication. This requirement is crucial to protect the integrity of the process. This means that all parties involved in the process (complainant, respondent, witnesses and advisors) are forbidden to discuss the case or to share written materials related to the case with anyone. The only exceptions to this confidentiality requirement are as follows:

  1. Students may discuss their experiences, including experiences regarding the case, with the staff support people at Health Services (including medical and psychological practitioners) or the Chaplain’s office – these individuals are confidential resources.
  2. Students may discuss their experiences regarding the case with confidential health, mental health, and chaplaincy professionals off campus.
  3. Students may discuss the case with their advisors, provided that those advisors have been made aware of their responsibilities to keep the facts and process of the case confidential.
  4. Students may discuss the case with their parents.

If students believe there are others with whom it is important to speak, they should inform the Title IX deputy for students (Dean Sandstrom), who will endeavor to enable them to access support while maintaining the confidentiality that is promised to all parties.

Violations of confidentiality represent additional violations of the code of conduct, and will cause a new conduct process to be initiated.   Violations of confidentiality may also constitute retaliation.

Retaliation is harmful action taken against someone who has filed a complaint, provided testimony, or in some other way participated in a disciplinary investigation or process. It could also include actions taken against someone who has intervened as a bystander to stop or attempt to stop harassment, discrimination, or misconduct. It can include intimidating, threatening, coercing, or discriminating against an individual because of their participation in a disciplinary process, or because they opposed behavior that was in violation of our Code of Conduct.

If the actions directed at that individual would deter a reasonable person in the same circumstances from reporting misconduct, participating in a disciplinary process, or opposing behavior in violation of our Code of Conduct, it is deemed retaliatory.

Any retaliation will cause a new and separate disciplinary process to be initiated.

Advice: If a student asks you a direct question, such as “have you been accused of something?” simply say “no”. Let the dean you are working with know immediately afterwards, both so that you can have help thinking about how to manage if you get asked again, and so that if someone else has violated confidentiality that can be addressed.

After the case concludes completely (including any appeals of the disciplinary decision of the college), the rules of confidentiality change somewhat.   In particular:

  1. The materials and information learned in the disciplinary process itself remain confidential. No participant in the case may share any written materials of the case – including but not limited to the no contact order, investigator’s report, finding and sanctioning letters, emails from the Title IX deputy or advisor – with others. The only exceptions to this rule are the students’ parents, mental health counselors, and advisor (provided that the advisor has been made aware of their privacy responsibilities).
  2. You may share your own experiences about the incident, the adjudication process and your experience of it, and the outcome with others if you wish to do so. You cannot, however, name the witnesses who were called, or discuss in any way information that you learned through the process of the adjudication. This means that you cannot tell people what the other party in the case said, or what witnesses said, during the case. Nor can you share the investigator’s report or letters about the process and its outcomes with others.

The only exceptions to these rules pertain to the confidential resources with whom the respondent could speak in earlier phases of the case.

  1. Students may discuss their experiences, including experiences regarding the case, with the staff support people at Health Services (including medical and psychological practitioners) or the Chaplain’s office – these individuals are confidential resources.
  2. Students may discuss their experiences regarding the case with confidential health, mental health, and chaplaincy professionals off campus.
  3. Students may discuss the case with their advisors, provided that those advisors have been made aware of their responsibilities to keep the facts and process of the case confidential.
  4. Students may discuss the case with their parents.

Advice: We recommend that all students be thoughtful and cautious about with whom and how they discuss their experiences.   On a small campus information shared with even close friends is sometimes spread in ways one doesn’t expect, with unintended consequences. Sometimes friends will jump to take up the issue with the other party or their friends, with the result being a public back-and-forth. This could lead to behavior that could be characterized as retaliation, and result in a separate disciplinary process.

If you do choose to talk with friends about your experience, we advise that you be direct with them about how you do or don’t want them to act on the information, so that you retain control of how your story is shared if you wish to have that control. Your dean, any member of Sexual Assault Survivor Services, or the Title IX deputy for students (Dean Sandstrom) can assist you in thinking through these issues or in talking with your friends if you would like.