Confidentiality in Sexual Misconduct Cases: Policy Information for Witnesses

As a potential witness, you are bound by confidentiality obligations during the college’s process of investigation and adjudication.  This requirement is crucial to protect the integrity of the process. Except as set forth below, 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:

a) Students may discuss their experiences, including experiences regarding the case, with the staff support people at Sexual Assault Survivor Services, Health Services (including medical and psychological practitioners) or the Chaplain’s office – these individuals are confidential resources.
b) Students may discuss their experiences regarding the case with confidential health, mental health, and chaplaincy professionals off campus.
c) Students may discuss the case with their parents.

d) Student witnesses may discuss the case with student participants or their advisors, to the extent necessary for the participant to obtain or present evidence or otherwise participate in the process of investigation and adjudication. The college cautions students to ensure that any such discussions do not attempt to influence or tamper with any potential witnesses or otherwise attempt to interfere or obstruct with the college’s investigation.  A student should inform the Title IX deputy for students (Dean Sandstrom) if they have reason to believe there may have been a violation of this policy.

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: 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.