Wilkes University

Frequently Asked Questions

Responding to Sexual Misconduct – Employee Q&A on Title IX 

Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender. Title IX prohibited conduct includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, relationship (dating or domestic) violence and stalking. 

Complainant: A person who believes they experienced sexual misconduct. This person can be a student, faculty or staff member, or a third-party taking part in University-sponsored programs and activities. Respondent: The person whose actions are alleged to have violated the Sexual Misconduct Policy. Reporter: A person who has information that sexual misconduct may have been committed by a University student, employee or participant in a University program. Often times this person will be a designated responsible employee.

Responsible Employee: The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) defines a responsible employee as an individual:

1. who has the authority to take action to redress sexual harassment and/or misconduct,
2. who has been given the duty of reporting incidents of sexual harassment and/or misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Title IX Coordinator; or
3. who a student reasonably believes has this authority or duty.

At Wilkes University, all employees (except those working in the Health and Wellness Office) are responsible employees. 

If the University knows or in the exercise of reasonable care should know about sexual harassment including sexual violence that creates a hostile environment, Title IX requires the University to take immediate and appropriate steps to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred (subject to confidentiality considerations). If an investigation reveals that sexual harassment including sexual violence created a hostile environment, the University must then take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the sexual harassment or sexual violence, prevent its recurrence and, as appropriate, remedy its effects on the complainant and the University community. 

At Wilkes University, all employees (except employees working in the Health and Wellness Services Office who are confidential resources and therefore not required to report incidents of sexual misconduct without a student’s consent) are designated as “Responsible Employees” and must promptly report all Title IX related concerns to the Title IX Coordinator and/or a Deputy Title IX Coordinator.

Title IX Coordinator

Samantha Hart
10 East South Street, Suite A Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766
Phone: (570) 408-3842
Email: samantha.hart@wilkes.edu

Deputy Title IX Coordinator - Students

Philip J. Ruthkosky, Ph.D.
Associate Dean of Student Affairs/Student Development Office of Student Affairs
2nd Floor Passan Hall
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766
Phone: 570- 408-4108
Email: philip.ruthkosky@wilkes.edu

Deputy Title IX Coordinator - Faculty/Staff

Joseph Housenick
Chief Human Resources Officer Human Resources Office
10 East South Street
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766
Phone: 570-408-4631
Email: joseph.housenick@wilkes.edu

Responsible employees are often the first to witness or hear from a student or employee about behavior that may constitute sexual harassment or misconduct. According to Title IX, when a responsible employee has such information, the University is deemed to possess that knowledge and is obligated to take actions intended to stop the behavior, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects. By reporting the information, the responsible employee enables the University to fulfill its legal obligation to assess the information and determine how to respond. Therefore, responsible employees are extremely important in contributing to a campus environment where sexual harassment and sexual misconduct are prohibited and promptly addressed. 

The OCR is very clear that notice of sexual violence, whether actual or constructive, must be investigated. Actual notice is best defined as a report or information received by a responsible employee, whether provided by a victim, a third party, or other source (i.e. online postings). Constructive notice occurs when a responsible employee knew or should have known about the prohibited conduct. For example, the employee overhears a group of students talking about prohibited conduct in class; or hears a rumor “going around” about prohibited conduct. A responsible employee cannot avoid reporting obligations by deliberately choosing to avoid hearing or learning about the potential prohibited conduct. If an individual believes they may have received constructive notice, that individual has an obligation to report this to the Title IX Coordinator for follow up.

Once a responsible employee receives notice (actual or constructive), the University is deemed to constructively know about the report of sexual misconduct (whether the employee shares what they know or not). This triggers the University’s federal obligations to respond to the notice under Title IX. 

Yes. Exceptions are situations where students are unlikely to expect that a disclosure would trigger reporting obligations. There are a few circumstances where a responsible employee learns of sexual misconduct and does not have to report it for Title IX purposes. The OCR wants students to feel free to participate in preventive education programs and access resources during these programs. For instance, public awareness events such as “Take Back the Night” or other forums at which students disclose experiences with sexual violence are not considered notice to the school for the purpose of triggering an individual investigation unless the complainant initiates a complaint or indicates that it is their intent to initiate a complaint by disclosing their experience.

Next, if a student discloses a sexual misconduct experience during an essay, the professor is not obligated to report to the Title IX Coordinator. The reason for this exception is because during a required class writing assignment, it is unlikely that a student would expect that the disclosure would trigger a reporting obligation under Title IX so the faculty member is not required to disclose. However, the faculty member should still check to see whether the student intended the writing assignment disclosure to be notice. If not, there is no notice. If so, the faculty member should report it.

Finally, disclosures in climate surveys and during Human Subjects Research do not trigger any reporting obligations under Title IX. This is because it is unlikely that a student would expect a disclosure under these circumstances to trigger an investigation and/or obligations under Title IX. Therefore, a faculty researcher or an individual conducting a climate survey for the University would not be required to report the information to the Title IX Coordinator.

It is important to note, though, that if a faculty researcher thinks that interviews conducted in the context of a research project may illicit a personal account of a sexual assault, the faculty researcher should make clear to students prior to the interview that disclosures made during interviews, without more, are not considered notice to the school for the purpose of triggering an individual investigation. 

(1.) Before a student reveals information that they may wish to keep confidential, a responsible employee should make an effort to ensure the student understands the employee’s obligation to report the student’s information to the Title IX Coordinator.

(2) Ensure the student understands that they have the option to request that the University maintain the student’s confidentiality (which will be considered and decided by the Title IX Coordinator); and the ability to share the information confidentially with only school counselors or with the Victim’s Resource Center on North Franklin Street.

(3.) Once information is disclosed, the employee should report all relevant details about the alleged sexual misconduct that the student has shared to the Title IX Coordinator immediately:
Name of alleged perpetrator and student(s) involved in the alleged sexual misconduct;
Relevant facts regarding the alleged incident (including date, time, and location); and

The student’s option to request that the school maintain their confidentiality (the Title IX Coordinator will consider). 

As noted above, all faculty and staff members who do not work within the Health and Wellness Services Office are designated by Wilkes University as responsible employees. Title IX requires all responsible employees “who know or reasonably should know of possible sexual violence” to report the information to the appropriate school designee. A Wilkes staff or faculty person who is made aware of a case of sexual misconduct, either directly from a complainant or indirectly, is obligated to report the incident to the Title IX Coordinator.

Under Title IX, campus mental health counselors and health service employees are not required
to report incidents of sexual misconduct without a student’s consent. Consequently, students
who wish to seek confidential on-campus support should be directed to contact the University’s Health and Wellness Services Office located on the first floor of Passan Hall. Phone: 570-408-4730.

Students may also seek confidential counseling off campus at:

The Victims Resource Center 71 North Franklin Street Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701 (570) 823-0765

If a complainant requests to remain confidential after the University receives notice of a sexual misconduct report, the University will give serious consideration to that request. Generally, the University will seek to honor the request of the complainant not to proceed to a Title IX investigation and to remain confidential. The Title IX Coordinator will consider a number of factors in deciding whether the request can be honored, including the seriousness of the infraction; the complainant’s age whether there have been previous complaints about the respondent; and whether there is a safety risk to the complainant or the Wilkes community. Should the University, in weighing such factors, determine it must proceed, the University will explain its rationale to the complainant and make sure that the complainant is offered a support person throughout the process. The complainant will not be required to participate in the process as a prerequisite to the University proceeding. 

Upon a report of a Title IX concern, the University will work with the complainant to put interim measures in place to ensure a safe, hostile free environment for the student. Following an investigation and a determination that conduct prohibited by Title IX occurred, more permanent accommodations and safety measures may be implemented. Accommodations and safety measures (including interim measures) could include:

- Accompaniment to the hospital (if desired) by a Student Affairs professional.
- Access to ongoing information including criminal and University policy options as well as support
and advice from campus and/or off campus counselors.
- Assistance in reporting the incident to the local police department (if desired).
- Academic support services.
- Accommodations to minimize contact with the alleged assailant, which include: academic accommodations, housing relocation, and the issuing of a no-contact order.
- Protection from retaliation. Retaliation against a person who files a complaint or participates in an investigation is prohibited by University policy, and by state and federal law.
- A full explanation of the investigation and adjudication process (including timelines, hearing procedures, and the appeals process).
- Access to a Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator/Deputy Coordinator will serve as an impartial observer to assist students with any questions or concerns that they may have beginning from the time immediately following the alleged assault, through the investigation and to the outcome of hearings and appeals.

The Wilkes community encourages the reporting of misconduct and crimes by reporting parties and witnesses. Sometimes, reporting parties or witnesses are hesitant to report to University officials or participate in resolution processes because they fear that they themselves may be accused of policy violations, such as underage drinking at the time of the incident. It is in the best interests of our community that reporting parties choose to report to University officials, and that witnesses come forward to share what they know. To encourage reporting, Wilkes University will not pursue disciplinary action against complainants or witnesses for personal consumption of drugs or alcohol where such disclosures are made in connection with a good faith report or investigation related to a sexual misconduct incident.

 

After meeting with the victim and reporting the matter to the Title IX office, you have fulfilled your primary responsibility. The University, facilitated by the Title IX Coordinator, will then take prompt action to respond to the matter which may include an appropriate investigation, the provision of support and resources, and resolution.

However, there are a few things you can continue to do to assist the University:

  1. Watch the University environment for any signs of any ongoing problems. Be alert for retaliation, which is prohibited.
  2. Immediate interim measures, (steps taken right away to mitigate any effects on the education environment), may be appropriate, such as separating the respondent and complainant. These will be coordinated by the Title IX Coordinator/Deputy Coordinators and may need to be implemented by various employees throughout the campus.
  3. Keep the allegations as confidential as possible (no office chatting).
  4. Treat the people involved fairly and respectfully.
  5. Be mindful of the rights of all parties.
  6. Do not take sides. 

Third-party vendors, who are not employed directly by the University are not responsible employees and therefore do not technically have an obligation to report notice of sexual misconduct. However, these third-party employees are strongly encouraged to report the learning of any instance of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator. Those employed by third-party vendors to do work on the campus of Wilkes University, are expected to adhere to our policies and regulations, and to refrain from any form of illegal discrimination, sexual harassment, or retaliation.

Third parties who are present on the Wilkes University campus are protected under Title IX and have the opportunity to seek resources offered by the University.
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR NEED A CLARIFICATION, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT

Title IX Coordinator
Samantha Hart
10 East South Street, Suite A Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766 Phone: (570) 408-3842
Email: samantha.hart@wilkes.edu


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