Policy Statement on Sexual Misconduct (Title IX)

See also Sexual Assault Resources

In keeping with Trinity’s mission and identity as a Catholic institution rooted in principles of respect for human life and dignity, devoted to action for social justice, and with a special mission in the education and advancement of women, Trinity expects all students, faculty and staff, visitors and guests, personnel of vendors and others on campus to act at all times with respect for the rights of each person, maintaining an environment free from harassment, intimidation, discrimination, sexual or other forms of assault or violence against persons in any form.

Any form of violence against another person, including and especially sexual violence, is anathema to Trinity’s mission and values.  Individuals who commit acts of sexual violence will be separated from the Trinity community as quickly as possible and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Trinity’s Harassment Policy covers all forms of harassment, intimidation or assault broadly for all persons on campus.  The Harassment policy includes sexual, racial, ethnic, religious and all other forms of harassment.

This Policy Statement on Sexual Misconduct (the Title IX Policy) specifically addresses incidents of harassment and assault of a sexual nature that constitute a violation of Title IX of the Higher Education Amendment of 1972 and its amendments, and as defined by the rules promulgated by the Department of Education in May 2020 and effective August 2020. This policy will be updated should the Department of Education’s ongoing review of these 2020 rule changes make amendments to currently required procedures. It should also be noted, that forms of misconduct that do not fit within the Title IX definitions below may violate other Trinity policies, and such incidents will be handled according to those policies

In keeping with the non-discrimination requirements of Title IX, Trinity does not discriminate on the basis of sex in programs or employment at Trinity.

Trinity expects full compliance with this Title IX policy.  In any case in which a student complains of sexual assault, harassment or other forms of sexual misconduct that fall within the definitions below, this policy statement takes precedence over other policy statements and procedural directions.

Students may bring complaints or concerns under this policy about any member of our community, whether student, staff, faculty or third parties.

Trinity is committed to the prevention and eradication of all forms of sexual intimidation or coercion, which are inimical to a living and learning community. Trinity provides programs to educate students about sexual misconduct and how to prevent it, as well as resources for those who have been a victim of sexual misconduct.

NOTE:  Trinity reserves the right to call the police and to refer cases of sexual misconduct described in this policy to the police or prosecutor at any time.  Referral of a case to the police or prosecutor does not prevent Trinity from also pursuing internal disciplinary actions.

I.  Definitions

Conduct that constitutes a violation of Title IX is defined as:

  1.  Conduct that conditions the provision of an aid, benefit or service on an individual’s participation in unwelcome sexual conduct (i.e., quid pro quo)
  2. Unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to an education program or activity
  3. Sexual assault (as defined by Clery Act), or “dating violence,” “domestic violence” and “stalking” (as defined by Violence Against Women Act)

The Title IX statute applies to persons in the United States with respect to education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance Trinity will respond when sexual harassment occurs in the school’s education program or activity, against a person in the United States. Title IX applies to all of Trinity’s education programs or activities, whether such programs or activities occur on-campus or off-campus.


Consent means words or actions that communicate approval of sexual activity taking place between the parties; consent to one activity does not automatically imply consent to other forms of sexual activity.  Consent must be made in the absence of coercion of any kind, and silence in and of itself cannot be interpreted as consent.  In addition, persons who are incapacitated due to the use of alcohol or drugs cannot give consent.

Other misconduct offenses that may fall under other policies include:

  • Threatening or causing physical harm, extreme verbal abuse, or other conduct which threatens or endangers the health and safety or any person, including communications on social media;
  • Discrimination, as defined by actions that deprive other members of the community of educational access, benefits or opportunities on the basis of gender;
  • Unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or similar conduct, either verbally or physically, to include pictures, writing or posts on social media;
  • Intimidation, defined as implied threats or acts that cause fear of bodily injury to a person or their family;
  • Hazing;
  • Bullying, which is defined as severe or repeated behavior intended to intimidate, control, or diminish another;
  • Violence between those in an intimate partner relationship;
  • Stalking, which is defined as a repeated course of conduct intended to place another or their family members in fear of bodily harm, that may not rise to the levels defined in the Violence Against Women Act.

II.  Victim Resources

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual harassment or violence, Trinity’s most immediate concern is getting help and support to the victim immediately.  While there is a formal process for making a specific complaint about violations of this policy and the law (see Section III below), getting help for physical and emotional trauma is the top priority.

The staff of Trinity’s Health and Wellness Center can provide confidential counseling and medical assistance to you if you have suffered sexual assault.  Call 202-884-9615 or email healthcenter@trinitydc.edu  The staff in the Health Center may keep victim assistance reports confidential if the victim so requests.

Trinity’s Residence Life staff and Public Safety staff are also available 24/7 to assist victims of sexual assault, including calling for medical and police assistance.  Call 202-884-9111 at any time to get assistance.  Please note that the law does not permit these and other university personnel, except the counselors and medical staff in the Health Center, to keep reports of sexual assault confidential.

Victims of sexual assault may also wish to contact off-campus resource agencies directly.  The Title IX Sexual Assault Resources page of the website includes names of agencies and contact information.

Students who have been victims of sexual violence off-campus may request support assistance even if the perpetrator was not in any way affiliated with Trinity.  Such support may include academic accommodations, counseling and medical assistance, and assistance with contacting law enforcement.

III.  Reporting

Trinity encourages victims of sexual misconduct and assault to report any such incidents to at least one of the individuals listed below.  Victims do need to know that the federal law prohibits absolute guarantees of confidentiality, but Trinity will make every effort to protect the privacy, dignity and safety of victims who make reports.

Upon receiving a report of sexual misconduct, Trinity will launch an immediate investigation and take whatever disciplinary action is necessary against the perpetrator up to and including expulsion from campus immediately, permanent separation from Trinity, and reporting the perpetrator to police and prosecutors.

Students who wish to make sexual misconduct and assault complaints should report them to:

Ms. Sarah Phelps
Title IX Coordinator
Main Hall Room 113
125 Michigan Avenue, NE
Washington, DC  20017

Dr. Karen Gerlach
Vice President for Student Affairs
125 Michigan Avenue, NE
Washington, D.C.  20017

Ms. Michele Bowie
Dean of Student Services
125 Michigan Avenue, NE
Washington, DC  20017

Ms. Tracey Prince Ross
Executive Director of Human Resources
125 Michigan Avenue, NE
Washington, DC  20017

Other campus personnel who learn of sexual assaults or sexual misconduct may have reporting obligations, e.g., faculty, residence life staff, athletics staff, student affairs and academic affairs, supervisors in offices.  Trinity conducts routine staff training to ensure full compliance with the federal rules on sexual assault.

IV.  Process for Investigations and Case Management

Trinity will investigate all reports of sexual misconduct promptly.  Complainants (the person making the complaint) who request anonymity or confidentiality should be aware that Trinity may not be able to honor that request in all cases.  Trinity is required by Title IX and its own policies to maintain the safety and security of the campus community, and in some instances Trinity may have to go forward over the objection of the complainant if the facts warrant.  In every case, the privacy of the complainant will be preserved to the maximum extent possible.

A.  Protection and Support Resources

Prior to the full investigation or hearing on the matter, Trinity may impose interim measures to ensure the safety of the complainant or the community, such as orders of no contact between the parties, removal from residence halls, or immediate suspension and barring from campus in some cases.  Trinity will also call the police to arrest the perpetrator if the facts warrant.

Trinity will also provide the complainant with information and assistance in obtaining support resources.

B.  Initial Assessment

Any member of the faculty or staff who receives a student report about a case of sexual misconduct should notify one of the individuals listed above, who will also notify the Title IX Coordinator.  Promptly following the receipt of a report, the Title IX Coordinator will assess the complaint to determine if there is evidence of a violation of this policy and will request information from the complainant, including a statement and list of witnesses, if any.  If the Title IX Coordinator determines that there is sufficient evidence available to commence an investigation, then the case will proceed for further inquiry.

C.  Investigation

The Title IX Coordinator will direct an investigation conducted by a staff member specially trained in the investigation of sexual misconduct.  The investigation may include interviews and the gathering of any relevant documentary evidence, at the investigator’s discretion.

The respondent (the person identified as the perpetrator of the misconduct) will receive notification of the complaint.  The respondent be interviewed as part of the investigative process and will have the opportunity to provide a written statement  In addition to his or her statement, the respondent may attach other documents directly relevant to the charge.  Letters of testimony to the respondent’s good character will not be accepted.  The respondent’s failure to respond will not stop the process; the respondent may be found responsible, and sanctioned, in absentia.

Respondents must not engage in any form of retaliation against the complainant.  Retaliation is a separate offense that bears severe consequences.

In the absence of extraordinary circumstances, the investigation should normally conclude within seven (7) calendar days of the receipt of the complainant’s statement, though different fact patterns may result in variances to this timetable.  At the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator will make a report to the Title IX Coordinator who, with the investigator, will determine whether it is more likely than not that sexual misconduct actually occurred.

D.  If the Respondent Admits Sexual Misconduct

If the investigation results in a positive finding that sexual misconduct did occur, the Title IX Coordinator will meet with the complainant and the respondent separately to discuss the findings of the investigation, and give the respondent the opportunity to either admit or deny the allegations.

If the respondent admits the allegations, then the case moves directly to the penalty phase which is entitled “disciplinary proceedings” in Section F. of this policy statement.

The Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Student Services manage disciplinary review and imposition of penalties in cases involving student respondents who admit guilt.

The Director of Human Resources manages disciplinary review and imposition of penalties in cases involving respondents who are Trinity personnel who admit guilt.

The Vice President for Administration and the Director of Public Safety manage disciplinary review and imposition of penalties in cases in which the respondents are the personnel of vendors, conference guests, members of the Trinity Center, or other visitors to campus.

In all cases, the complainant must receive a report on the disposition of the case including the penalty imposed on the respondent.

E.  Hearings if Respondent Denies Allegations

If the respondent disputes the finding of sexual misconduct, the Title IX Coordinator directs that a hearing will convene as soon as reasonably possible after the investigation.  The hearing will not be postponed on the grounds that there is a criminal proceeding pending regarding the allegations.

In cases in which a hearing should be convened, both the complainant and the respondent should be mindful that the University has an obligation to protect the privacy of its students and staff to the extent possible.  Prior to the hearing, both parties may be allowed to review and make notes (not photocopy) the contents of the disciplinary case file that will be in evidence at the hearing, but the University may redact portions of the file that contain information that should be kept confidential to protect witnesses, students or others, in the sole discretion of the University.

Trinity will appoint an independent hearing panel from among the professional personnel of the university who have received Title IX training.  The panel will be constituted appropriately for the academic level and unit of the complainant, with care in the selection to avoid conflicts of interest, e.g., the academic advisor or departmental supervisor of the respondent would not be a panel member.  One member of the panel will chair the proceeding.  The hearing may not be recorded.

Rules of evidence will not apply in the hearing, nor may parties be represented by attorneys; this is not a legal proceeding.  Each party may have a support person with them in the hearing, but that person may not speak during the proceedings.  Each party may make a statement, and call witnesses, although character witnesses will not be heard.  Any student who provides false information during the hearing may be charged with a violation of the student code of conduct.  Any staff member who provides false information during the hearing will incur penalties within the context of Trinity’s personnel policies.

A respondent who fails to appear at a scheduled hearing may be adjudicated in absentia.  In such cases, decisions will be based solely on witness testimony and other written information presented during the proceeding.  In order to find against a respondent, the panel must decide that the preponderance of the evidence indicates that that the respondent was responsible of the misconduct as charged.

Preponderance of evidence means that a greater weight of evidence has been demonstrated in order to decide in favor of one side or the other.  This decision is based on the quality or likely accuracy of the evidence presented, not on the amount.

The outcome of the disciplinary proceeding and the sanctions imposed, if any, shall be conveyed to the complainant and respondent in writing.

If the respondent is found guilty, the hearing panel is empowered to impose the sanctions described in the penalties section of this policy, below.  In order to ensure the most appropriate application of the penalty and its enforcement, and before making a final decision on the penalty, the hearing panel should consult with the senior staff member named in the sections below depending upon the status of the respondent, and the hearing panel and the senior staff member should agree upon the protocols for administration of the penalty.

F.  Disciplinary Proceedings and Penalties When Respondent Admits Responsibility

As stated in Section D, above, if the respondent admits responsibility after the initial investigation, before empaneling a hearing, then the case moves immediately to the disciplinary proceeding and penalty phase described below.

If the respondent denies responsibility but is subsequently found guilty in the hearing process described in Section E, above, the hearing panel may impose the penalties described below after appropriate consultation with the designated senior staff manager who will carry out the actual administration of the penalty.

Disciplinary proceedings and penalties occur as follows:

1.  If the Respondent is a Student

The Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Student Services, or their designees, will review the case file.  They may meet with the parties separately should any additional discussion be necessary, depending on the nature of the case.  Once they have reviewed the case, they will determine the appropriate penalty and issue notice of the penalty to the respondent in writing.   They also have the authority to consult with other professionals on Trinity’s staff, e.g., Health Services, Legal Services, Academic Advisors, Residence Life Staff, Athletics Staff, in order to develop any necessary follow-up plans for both the respondent and complainant.

Depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, the Vice President and Dean may impose one or more of the following penalties:

a) Expulsion with no opportunity to return to Trinity;

b) Expulsion with readmission consideration after a period of time;

c) Suspension for a stated period of time, with or without conditions;

d) Removal from campus housing, temporarily or permanently;

e) Orders of “no contact” between complainant and respondent;

f) Mandatory educational programs;

g) Community service;

h) Such other penalties as may be appropriate for the case.

Penalties of expulsion or suspension take place immediately.  Students will receive “W” grades for courses in progress.  No refunds will issue.

Respondent may appeal a dismissal penalty to the president of the university whose decision in the matter is final.  However, the dismissal is immediate even while the president considers the case.  Should the president overturn the dismissal, it will be the respondent’s obligation to make up class time and assignments missed during the dismissal period.

2.  If the Respondent is an Employee

The Director of Human Resources and one additional member of the senior staff (not an immediate supervisor of the respondent) will review the case file and will meet with the parties should discussion be necessary.  Following review, the following penalties may be imposed depending upon the circumstances of the case:

a) Immediate termination from employment;

b) Suspension without pay from employment for a stated period of time;

c) Probation with conditions;

d) Mandatory educational programs;

e) Such other penalties as may be appropriate.

3.  If the Respondent is a Vendor, Trinity Center Member, Guest or Visitor

The Vice President for Administration and Director of Public Safety will review the case file and take one or several of these actions:

a) In the case of a vendor employee, request for immediate separation from the Trinity contract

b) Report to the vendor supervisor with a request for disciplinary action and educational program participation should the vendor employee remain at Trinity;

c) In the case of a visitor, guest, Trinity Center member or other person, immediate removal from campus and a barring notice;

d) Such other actions as may be warranted given the facts and circumstances of the individual case.

Additional Information:

For more information about your rights under Title IX, contact:

U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education Bldg
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-1100 Telephone: 800-421-3481
FAX: 202-453-6012; TDD: 800-877-8339
Email: OCR@ed.gov

To contact the Metropolitan Police Department directly, dial 911 from any telephone or visit the 5th District located at:

Fifth District Station
1805 Bladensburg Road, NE
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 698-0150
Fax: (202) 727-8453