If you are a student at Orange Coast College (OCC), and you have been accused of sexual harassment, sexual violence or other gender-based harassment it is important that you read the following information. Although not intended to be a comprehensive explanation of your options and rights, this information may be useful to you.
Sexual harassment, sexual violence and other gender-based harassment occurring in the college setting implicates a federal law called Title IX of the Higher Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities and which triggers certain responsibilities on the part of the college. Orange Coast College has a Title IX Coordinator who can help explain the college’s responsibilities in these cases. The Title IX Coordinator is Dr. Derek Vergara, who can be contacted at (714) 432-5930.
OCC is committed to maintaining a positive learning, working and living environment. The college will not tolerate acts of sexual harassment or sexual violence or related retaliation against or by any employee or student. When sexual harassment or sexual violence has occurred and is brought to the attention of a responsible administrator, steps will be taken to end the harassment or violence, prevent its reoccurrence, and address its effects.
Within the college’s processes, the person making the allegations is referred to as the Reporting Party or Complainant. The person who the allegations have been made against is referred to as the Respondent. A complainant who wishes to report sexual harassment, sexual violence or other gender-based harassment may report their complaint directly to the Title IX Coordinator. A complainant may also report directly to law enforcement. If the incident happened on campus, you may contact the Campus Safety Department or the Student Health Center. If a report is initially made with the Student Health Center, authorized personnel may refer cases to the Title IX Coordinator, but only with the victim’s consent. A complainant may pursue both the campus process through the Title IX Coordinator and the criminal process simultaneously. In addition, students may file a Title IX complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.
The Title IX Coordinator has authority to address complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence in a non-criminal context. This campus process is completely separate from the police and courts. Within Orange Coast College, the identity of the respondent determines which of the two offices handles the case. When the respondent is a student at the time of the incident, the Title IX Coordinator provides a student conduct process for investigating those cases whether they occur on or off campus. For cases where the respondent is an employee, those cases are handled by the Director of Personnel Services, who is also a member of the Title IX Investigative Team. When the respondent is both a student and an employee, the two offices may work together to resolve the case. If you are uncertain about which office to contact you may call either office. When the respondent is neither a student nor employee at Orange Coast College, the college can still assist you with counseling and other support services—contact the Student Health Center for these services.
The Title IX Coordinator will review the allegations and determine an appropriate course of action. Some cases can be handled informally and outside of the formal investigative process, although the college will not mediate cases of sexual violence even on a voluntary basis. For cases that result in an investigation, those investigations are conducted by individuals who have received specialized training in those types of investigations. All investigations will be conducted in a thorough and neutral manner.
When the college becomes aware of sexual violence, the college may have an obligation to proceed with an investigation, regardless of a complainant’s wishes, in order to ensure campus safety.
In the college’s process, the complainant and respondent will not be permitted to directly question each other and are not required to be present together at any point. Both a complainant and a respondent have the right to identify witnesses and provide other information relevant to the investigation. The college will decide the case based on a preponderance of the evidence standard (whether or not it is more likely than not that the conduct occurred).
In most cases, the college will not wait until a criminal case is resolved before proceeding with the case. In addition, if a college official has a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed, she or he may be obligated to report that to law enforcement if police have not already been notified. In cases where a police investigation has been conducted or is being conducted, law enforcement may be able to provide some information to the Title IX Coordinator with the victim’s consent. The college’s fact-finding investigation may be delayed for a short period of time upon a request from law enforcement, but will be resumed as soon as possible. Most sexual violence or sexual harassment investigations conducted through the Title IX Office takes up to 60 days to be resolved, depending on the complexity of the case and the number of parties involved. The college will keep a complainant advised as to the status of the case as the complainant desires and as is reasonable. The complainant will be informed of the outcome of the case in writing.
Because the school’s primary concern is student safety, minor alcohol and drug violations by a complainant may be handled informally. If a complainant is underage and reports a sexual assault incident where alcohol and drugs were used, the complainant will not get in trouble. The use of alcohol or other drugs never makes the victim at fault for sexual violence. An individual accused of sexual misconduct does not avoid or mitigate responsibility because s/he was under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
The college will take interim steps to protect a complainant and respondent while the case is pending. Depending on the case and the complainant’s wishes, these steps may include class moves, ordering a respondent to not have contact with the complainant, excluding a respondent from parts of campus, or providing the an escort to accompany the complainant on campus. Any adjustments made will be designed to minimize the burden on the complainant’s educational program. Some of these actions may also be remedies in those cases resulting in a finding of a policy violation.
OCC has a policy which prohibits retaliation against any employee or student who reports an incident of alleged sexual harassment or sexual violence, or any employee or student who testifies, assists or participates in a proceeding, investigation or hearing relating to these allegations. Respondents are informed of this provision, and any retaliation should be reported immediately to the appropriate Title IX Coordinator.
College employees must refer reports of sexual harassment, sexual violence, or other gender-based harassment to the Title IX Office. The only exception to the obligation to report applies to employees working in the Student Health Center.