Guidelines for Addressing Perceived Threats by a Member of the Faculty
In April 2011, the Grievance Committee recommended to Faculty Council that the College develop clear guidelines for members of the F&M community who believe they are being threatened by the behavior of a colleague. Faculty Council has, therefore, developed the following procedures in close collaboration with the Director of Human Resources, the Office of the Provost, and the Grievance Committee.
This document is not intended to supersede existing guidelines or procedures delineated in the Faculty Handbook, the College’s Anti-harassment Policies, or the College’s Standards of Conduct Policy. Rather, it provides a path for members of our community to deal with a potentially threatening situation more expeditiously than the lengthy process of filing a grievance that is described in the Faculty Handbook. The following guidelines were crafted to deal with events that are not emergencies but seem to require speedier action than the established grievance procedures.
In the event of an actual emergency, one should contact the Department of Public Safety or the Police. For less urgent grievances, one should follow the procedures described in the Faculty Handbook. Moreover, any incident of sexual harassment should be reported immediately and investigated following procedures outlined in the College’s Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence Policy or Anti-harassment Policy.
Members of the F&M community who believe they are threatened by the behavior of a member of the faculty in ways that lie outside the definitions included in the Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence Guidelines or other harassment as defined by the college Anti-harassment Policy should follow the following protocols.
Any member of the campus community may contact the Associate Vice President, Human Resources, who serves as the College’s Fact-finding Officer and the designee of the President for purposes of investigating complaints not covered by existing policies, to discuss the appropriate manner in which to make a complaint concerning a perceived threat by a faculty member. In the event of a complaint, it is important that all parties involved in an investigation conduct themselves in a professional manner. The individual who makes a complaint (herein, the complainant), the faculty member named in the complaint (herein, the respondent), and all those who participate in an investigation are to be treated with dignity and respect. To help assure an objective investigation is conducted and those involved are treated with respect, all information provided or obtained during an investigation is to be kept strictly confidential. Information is not to be shared with colleagues or others who are not directly involved in the investigation or do not have a business need to know the information. However, parties involved in the investigation have the right to seek advice from their own legal counsel if they elect to do so. Indeed, it is the right of both the complainant and the respondent to choose to be accompanied by legal counsel in meetings with the Fact-finding Officer. Moreover, both the complainant and the respondent may each select and confide in one colleague, who would then be bound by the confidentiality clause. A colleague could provide a different sort of counsel than an attorney would, which could be valuable to the parties involved and possibly also to the effective resolution of the case.
Please note: In cases of allegations of actual or threatened criminal behavior, the Fact-finding Officer or another College administrator will notify the Director of Public Safety. The proper law enforcement official may also be notified. Any suspected criminal activity involving or witnessed by a member of the College community is to be immediately reported to the Department of Public Safety. Employees and students are also encouraged to report suspected criminal activity to the appropriate law enforcement official.
The Fact-finding Officer will meet with and take a verbal or written statement from the complainant. The complainant will be notified that the matter will be investigated so that issues can be identified and resolved. The investigation will generally include notifying the respondent as soon as possible or as deemed appropriate by the Fact-finding Officer.
The Fact-finding Officer then will meet with the respondent in order to notify the respondent of the complaint. At this time he/she may respond, verbally or in writing. At the start of the meeting, the Fact-finding Officer should inform the respondent of her/his rights and responsibilities. The respondent also has the right to withhold response at this juncture. However, if no verbal or written statement is provided at this initial meeting, the respondent must submit a response within two working days at a follow-up meeting with the Fact-finding Officer. This response can simply be that the respondent is seeking legal counsel. The Fact-finding Officer will document the discussion and statements made by the respondent. The respondent may also provide an additional statement or provide additional information at a later date. The respondent may request that his/her department chair or a member of the campus AAUP chapter be present at the initial and follow-up meetings with the Fact-finding Officer. Alternatively, the respondent may request that another Franklin & Marshall colleague be present if appropriate to the situation. All such individuals will be expected to refrain from impeding the fact-finding process.
The respondent will normally be told who initiated the claim and given full details of the claim so that he/she can respond. However, every effort will be made to protect privacy; to avoid causing interpersonal conflicts to escalate; and to limit the possibility of retaliation against the complainant. The identity of the complainant may be withheld if, in the judgment of the Fact-finding Officer, revealing the identity is likely to create a safety risk for that individual. However, it is understood that if adverse action is recommended or taken toward the respondent, he/she is entitled to know who made the claim.
After the Fact-finding Officer has met with both the complainant and the respondent, the Fact-finding Officer may interview members of the campus community who are believed to have relevant, credible information about the complaint. This step may not be necessary unless there are discrepancies between the accounts of the complainant and the respondent. Details of the complaint will be shared only with those who are believed to have relevant information, and the least amount of information necessary to conduct a thorough investigation will be shared. The Fact-finding Officer will make a good-faith effort to protect the privacy of both the complainant and the respondent. Discretion will be exercised before interviewing students and colleagues of both individuals.
During the investigation, the Fact-finding Officer may be accompanied to interviews by a witness of his/her choice and may consult, as appropriate, with College administrators about policies, procedures, and practices that may be relevant to the questions to be asked during the investigation.
After gathering facts from the complainant, the respondent, and any witnesses, the Fact-finding Officer will recommend to the College President the next course of action. As appropriate, the Fact-finding Officer may first consult with the Provost and Dean of the Faculty; an Associate Dean of the Faculty; the faculty member’s department chair; the College’s Title IX Coordinator; the Dean of the College if a student initiated the complaint; the Director of Public Safety if there is a safety-related concern; outside legal counsel; and/or the College’s Employee Assistance Program provider. Again, every effort will be made to protect the privacy of those involved, and the least amount of information necessary in order to conduct a thorough investigation, and make a recommendation, will be shared.
In formulating a recommendation to the President, the Fact-finding Officer will rely on guidelines from the Faculty Handbook and/or the College’s Standards of Conduct Policy. If appropriate, and based on provisions in the Faculty Handbook, the recommendation may include bringing the matter to a College committee.
It is the expectation of the College that the complainant, the respondent, and all those who participate in an investigation will be treated with dignity and respect during the investigation. No retaliation will be permitted against any member of the College community who makes a good-faith complaint or who participates in the investigation of a complaint. It is also expected that such individuals will cooperate fully during the investigation.
If the Fact-finding Officer believes, at any point during the investigation, that a faculty member poses an immediate risk of harm to self or others, the Fact-finding Officer will notify the Associate Vice President, Public Safety. The Associate Vice President, Public Safety may also be present during meetings with the faculty member.
If a faculty member is asked to leave campus due to a perceived risk to self or others, the faculty member will retain full, normal base salary and benefits while the matter is being investigated. At the time a final determination is made pertaining to actions to be taken, procedures parallel to those outlined in the Faculty Handbook (section V.P. 7 Payment of Salary) will determine how the faculty member is to be compensated.
The President may delegate responsibility for investigating a complaint to an administrator other than the Fact-finding Officer if a conflict of interest would result from the Fact-finding Officer investigating the complaint. At all times, the matter will be kept confidential to the extent practical, with only those having a business need to know being informed of the initial complaint and subsequent action.
The respondent has the right to file a counter-complaint by following procedures outlined in the Faculty Handbook and to request identification of the accuser as part of such an action.
The Fact-finding Officer will inform both the complainant and the respondent of the outcome of the investigation. The respondent against whom an actionable complaint has been made may appeal any action directed toward him/her by following procedures outlined in the Faculty Handbook.