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Virginia Highlands Community College and the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) will not tolerate sexual misconduct in any form. Sexual misconduct is a flagrant violation of the values and behavioral expectations of a college community. All reported violations within the jurisdiction of the College, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual violence, will be investigated and, as warranted, will be resolved through appropriate college disciplinary processes. Civil and criminal proceedings may also be used as appropriate in accordance with applicable state and federal laws. The VCCS Policy on Sexual Misconduct shall apply to all employees and students of Virginia Highlands Community College.  It shall be administered in agreement with the state laws relating to sexual misconduct.

An educational institution is a community of trust whose very existence depends on the recognition of each individual’s importance and value. This trust creates the freedom for each individual to live, think, act, and speak without fear of physical harm. Sexual misconduct shatters the bond of trust within a college community. If you believe that a member of the College community has violated the VCCS Policy on Sexual Misconduct, we encourage you to follow the reporting procedures outlined below.

The purpose of this policy is to provide all Virginia Highlands Community College faculty, staff and students with a method for addressing complaints of sexual misconduct. A further purpose is to communicate the intent of the College to create a campus free of such behavior.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is defined as sexual intercourse without consent, including rape (whether by acquaintance or stranger), sodomy, or other forms of sexual penetration.  To constitute lack of consent, the acts must be committed either by force, threat of force, intimidation, or through use of victim's mental helplessness of which the accused should have been aware. Mental helplessness includes incapacitation by alcohol or other drugs. Sexual assault also includes intentionally touching, either directly or through clothing, of the victim’s genitals, breasts, thighs, or buttocks without the victim’s consent, as well as touching or fondling of the accused by the victim when the victim is forced to do so against his or her will.

Verbal misconduct, without accompanying physical contact as described above, is not defined as sexual assault. Verbal misconduct may constitute sexual harassment, which is also prohibited under VCCS Policy and is specifically addressed in the following section.


Sexual Harassment

a.    Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct or written communication of a sexual nature which is intimidating, hostile, or offensive.  Sexual harassment shall be considered to have occurred when:  

  1. Accepting or tolerating such conduct is made a term or condition of a student's status or an individual’s employment either explicitly or implicitly;
  2. Accepting or rejecting such conduct is used as the basis for academic or employment decisions affecting the student or employee; or
  3. Such conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, or objectively offensive working or learning environment that substantially interferes with an employee's work performance or a student's academic performance.  

b.     Sexual harassment is contrary to the values of Virginia Highlands Community College.  It shall not be tolerated in any form, as outlined in Part 1604.11, Discrimination Because of Sexual Harassment of Title VII, Section 703, or the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.  All reported instances of sexual harassment shall be investigated.

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is defined as physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person's will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the victim's use of drugs or alcohol.  An individual also may be unable to give consent due to intellectual or other disability.  A number of different acts fall into the category of sexual violence including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion. All such acts of sexual violence are forms of sexual harassment covered under Title IX. 

 

Rights of the Complainant and the Accused

The College will ensure that the rights of both the complainant and accused are protected throughout the processes of investigating and mitigating charges of sexual misconduct. Specifically, all persons involved in investigations shall safeguard the identity of the complainant and the accused outside of the confidential proceedings of the process. At no time will the past sexual history of the complainant become a part of campus proceedings. These stated rights of the accused and the complainant shall be reviewed at the beginning of each meeting, discussion, or hearing of a sexual misconduct charge.

Reporting Procedures

Step 1

Students who believe that they have been subjected to sexual assault, sexual harassment, or sexual violence should report their complaint as soon as possible after the event occurs.  Reports of sexual misconduct may be made to Karen Cheers, Title IX Coordinator and Director of Admissions, Records and Financial Aid  located on the campus of VHCC in ISC 128-B, 276-739-2490 / kcheers@vhcc.edu  or to Hara Charlier, Vice President of Instruction and Student Services in Administration Building 109-B, 276-739-2429 / hcharlier@vhcc.edu

College employees may make report to their immediate supervisor,  Laura McClellan, Human Resources Director at 276-735-2425 / lmcclellan@vhcc.edu, or Karen Cheers, Title IX Coordinator and Director of Admissions, Records and Financial Aid  located on the campus of VHCC in ISC 128-B, 276-739-2490 / kcheers@vhcc.edu  or Beth Page, VHCC Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity Officer (AA/EEO)  and Coordinator of Project Excel located in ISC 120, 276-739-2561 / bpage@vhcc.edu  

Complainants have three options. They may pursue the College informal or formal procedure, or they may initiate a legal proceeding. Collegial and legal proceedings are not mutually exclusive, and may be used simultaneously. The complainant will be advised of all options available to her or him and of the statute of limitations for each option.

Once a complaint is received, an informal investigation of the reported incident will be made. If the investigator determines that further College action is necessary, a written statement summarizing the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegation will be prepared by both the complainant and the informal investigator. If the complainant is unwilling to make a written statement, no further action will ordinarily be taken. However, it is the responsibility of the investigator to inform the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services of the situation. The Vice President of Instruction and Student Services may decide to take other appropriate action. Also, the investigator should make every effort to provide needed counseling and referral for the complainant.

After the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services has received the report from the informal investigator, he/she will determine whether the appointment of a formal Investigative Committee is necessary, and step 2 will proceed. In cases in which the complainant or the accused is an employee of the College, the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services will notify the Director of Human Resources. In cases which result in an arrest by local police authorities, and/or if there is potential danger to any student or employee, the accused, even if released on bond, may temporarily be barred from campus, all classes, and/or employment suspended until the formal investigation is completed by an appointed committee.

Step 2

An Investigative Committee will be appointed by the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services.  The committee shall conduct a formal investigation and make a written recommendation of the incident to the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services within one week.  The committee shall consist of two faculty, two administrative, two classified staff, and one additional appointee to serve as chairperson. The committee shall have the authority to interview the complainant, witnesses and the accused (if willing to testify) to make a determination of facts surrounding the allegation. Additionally, the committee may view items of physical evidence and give both evidence and testimony weight according to the relevance and credibility each may possess. This committee, before acting, shall review the rights of the complainant and the accused.  After hearing all testimony and receiving all evidence, the committee shall make one of the following determinations about the allegation(s) against the accused:

1. The committee finds insufficient evidence to support a violation of school/ system policies, rules and regulations by any person involved.

2. The committee finds sufficient evidence that the allegations are true and that violations of school/system policies, rules and regulations occurred.

3. The committee finds that the allegations are false or baseless.

The findings of the committee will be submitted in writing to the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services office. Each specific allegation will be addressed along with a statement of “findings of fact” and a recommendation for disposition of the allegation. All committee members will review and sign the official recommendation sent to the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services’ office. After receiving the written recommendations of the committee, the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services shall make a decision as to disciplinary actions, notifying the student in writing of the decision. If a student is suspended or dismissed from the College by the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services, the reason for dismissal will be noted in the student file. If the complainant of the accused is an employee of the College, The Vice President of Instruction and Student Services will notify the Director of Human Resources of the committee’s findings.

Appeal Process

If the complainant does not agree with the decision of the Investigative Committee and the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services, she or he may appeal that decision using the Appeal Process. In order to proceed to the Appeal Process, the complainant must file a written appeal with the President of the College within ten working days after receipt of the decision of the College official. A copy of this appeal shall be sent to the other party by the President. The President of the College shall, within ten working days of receipt of this appeal, appoint an Appeals Committee. The committee shall convene within 20 working days to hear evidence and facts related to the charges of sexual misconduct. The Appeal Process Committee shall be appointed by the President with sensitivity to gender and racial composition. The committee will be chaired by the College’s Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity Officer or designee. It is the responsibility of the chairperson to guide the committee to a position of general agreement. The members of the committee shall report through different chains of command than the accused. 

The chair of the committee shall notify the complainant and the respondent in writing of the time and place for the hearing. The committee may receive evidence and facts from both the complainant and the respondent. It is the responsibility of the chairperson to review the rights of the complainant and the accused.  Within ten working days from the conclusion of the hearing, the chairperson shall notify the College’s President, in writing, of the committee’s findings and recommendation(s). The President will consider the findings of both the Investigative Committee and the Appeals Committee and the supervisor. The President shall render a decision in writing within ten working days of receipt of the committee’s findings and recommendations. The President’s decision will be communicated to the accused and the complainant, with copies to the accused’s supervisor and the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services, if a student is the accused. After the President’s decision, the record and related documentation will be maintained by the College’s EEO officer and the personnel office.

The Director of Human Resources and the Title IX Coordinator will provide periodic training programs for institutional personnel to ensure that the legal concepts associated with sexual misconduct are understood, that sexual misconduct are prevented, that instances of sexual misconduct are promptly investigated and remediated, and that support services are available for complainants.

Last updated: 3/7/2014 1:31:35 PM