OED Process

Intake

Students, faculty, staff, applicants, and other university community members who believe they have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, or retaliation by a faculty or staff member may submit a complaint to OED in person, by phone, by mail, or by email.

The complaint will typically initially be referred to OED’s intake coordinator to schedule an intake phone call or meeting. During or before the intake, the complainant (the individual who made the complaint) is encouraged to submit any relevant documents (e.g., emails, text messages, photographs, social media communications, and voicemails) and the names of any relevant witnesses.

Based on the information gathered during the intake, the Director of the Office of Equity and Diversity will determine whether OED will investigate the complaint, facilitate an alternative resolution, refer the matter to another university resource for handling, or respond in another manner, as appropriate. Please note that the initial intake does not automatically initiate an investigation or other response.

 

Investigation

If the Director of the Office of Equity and Diversity determines that an investigation is the appropriate response to a complaint, the following process typically applies. OED is responsible for conducting prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations. Because every complaint is unique, OED has discretion to determine how to investigate a specific complaint. The investigative process for complaints against faculty is set forth more fully in Chapter 6 of the Faculty Handbook.

 

Initial Notices

If OED conducts an investigation, OED will typically notify the respondent (the individual against whom the complaint was made) of the investigation and the alleged policy violation(s) in writing after the investigator has interviewed the complainant and defined the scope of the investigation. During the investigation, the investigator will present the respondent with sufficient information so that the respondent can meaningfully respond.

Upon receipt of a complaint by or against a faculty member, OED will notify the appropriate dean, the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, and the Vice Provost designated by the Provost. These individuals will typically be updated periodically during the investigation and upon closure of the investigation.

After receipt of a complaint against a staff member, OED will notify the Associate Senior Vice President for Human Resources and, if appropriate, the manager or Senior Vice President of the relevant administrative unit. These individuals will typically be updated periodically during the investigation and upon closure of the investigation.

 

Fact Finding

Participants in the OED process should not attempt to investigate the allegations. During the course of a typical investigation, the assigned investigator will interview the complainant, the respondent, and any relevant witnesses, and will gather relevant documentary and physical evidence. Because every complaint is unique, the investigator has discretion to determine how to appropriately investigate a specific complaint.

 

Evidence Review Process

At the conclusion of the fact-finding stage of the investigation, the parties are given the opportunity to review and respond to information collected during the investigation. Evidence made available for review may include interview notes, emails, text messages, photographs, recordings, or other documents.

The investigator may exclude evidence from the review process that is immaterial, confidential, or contains private information about a party or another individual. Evidence excluded from review is not typically considered in making findings of fact or determining whether a policy violation occurred.

The parties are not provided with a copy of the evidence and may not use personal electronic devices during the review process; however, the parties may take notes during the review process. The parties are allowed to review and respond to the evidence for as much time as reasonably needed.

During the review process, the parties may submit questions related to the evidence provided for review or questions for the investigator to ask the other party; however, the investigator may exclude questions that are immaterial, inflammatory, or argumentative.

 

Findings

After the evidence review process, the investigator will make findings of fact.

For complaints against staff, the investigator will determine whether the respondent violated university policy. The investigator will notify the parties of the factual findings and the conclusions regarding whether the respondent violated university policy, as well as the procedures for appeal, in writing and on the same day.

For complaints against faculty, the Executive Director of the Office of Equity and Diversity or their designee will determine whether the respondent violated university policy. The investigator will notify the parties of the factual findings in writing and on the same day. Subsequently, the Executive Director of the Office of Equity and Diversity or their designee will notify the parties on the same day and in writing of the conclusions regarding whether the respondent violated university policy and the procedures for appeal.

 

Appeal Process

The appeal process for complaints against faculty is set forth in Chapter 6 of the Faculty Handbook.

The following process applies only to complaints against staff. For complaints against staff, the parties have the right to appeal the findings and conclusions. If a party chooses to appeal, that party must submit the appeal to oed@usc.edu within seven calendar days of receipt of the findings notification.

The appeal must state one or more of the following criteria as the reason for the appeal: (1) new evidence has become available which is sufficient to alter the findings or conclusions and which the party filing the appeal was not aware of or which could not have been reasonably obtained during the investigation; (2) there was a procedural error that had a material impact on the fairness of the investigation; or (3) the conclusion is not supported by the findings or the findings are not supported by the evidence. The appeal should also include supporting arguments, documentation, and any other information the appealing party wishes to include. The appeal process consists of a review of documentary evidence and no verbal statements or arguments will be considered.

If the appealing party believes they need more time to appeal, they may submit a request for an extension in writing to oed@usc.edu within the seven-day appeal period. The request for an extension should include the reason for requesting the extension and the proposed date by which the appeal should be submitted. If the extension is granted, the other party will have the same extended period of time to appeal. If the other party chooses not to respond to the appeal, it will not be interpreted as agreement with the appeal.

If a party chooses to appeal, the other party will be notified in writing within two business days and will have seven calendar days to submit their response in writing to oed@usc.edu.

Upon review of the appeal, the Executive Director of the Office of Equity and Diversity or their designee will (1) uphold the initial decision in its entirety; (2) send the case back to the investigator for further investigation; or (3) reverse specific findings of fact not supported by the evidence or conclusions regarding whether the respondent violated university policy not supported by the findings.

 

Discipline or Corrective Action

The disciplinary process for complaints against faculty is set forth in Chapter 6 of the Faculty Handbook.

For complaints against staff, if OED concludes the respondent violated university policy, the Associate Senior Vice President for Human Resources or their designee will issue a written ruling to both parties stating the disciplinary action the university will impose and any other corrective action the university will take. OED does not determine what disciplinary or corrective actions, if any, are appropriate.

 

Alternative Resolution

If the Director of the Office of Equity and Diversity determines that an alternative resolution is the appropriate response to a complaint, OED will facilitate an alternative resolution. Alternative resolution is the process by which complaints are resolved without conducting a full investigation (e.g., address the complaint with the respondent, counsel the respondent on the applicable university policy, and document the complaint and resolution).

 

Referral

If the Director of the Office of Equity and Diversity determines that a referral to another university resource is the appropriate response to a complaint, OED will help connect the complainant to an appropriate university resource (e.g., Student Support and Advocacy, Human Resources, the Title IX Office, the Office of the Ombuds, Disability Services and Programs, the Academic Senate’s Panel on Collegial Problem Solving, the Office of Campus Wellness and Crisis Intervention). Other university resources may be better suited than OED to handle certain types of complaints.