Williams College Employee Handbook
Discrimination Grievance Procedures
Williams College does not permit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, race, color, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, religion, creed, age, or disability. Any member of the College community who on any of these grounds feels discriminated against by another member of the community should take action. Should the matter involve a faculty appointment renewal decision, the range of appropriate action and the type of further redress open to the complainant are those described in the Faculty Handbook. In all other cases, the complainant should use the following Discrimination/Harassment Grievance Procedures.
The complainant should report the incident as soon as possible and preferably within a month of its occurrence, since prolonged delay may complicate the presentation of evidence in the grievance procedures. Complainants have, however, up to two years to report alleged discriminatory behavior, and even this period may be extended with the approval of the appropriate executive officer. The procedures governing discrimination have four components - advising, informal grievance, formal grievance, and appeal - each of which is described below. Complainants are free to withdraw or proceed at any stage of the process. The College will treat the identity of the parties and the substance of the claims as confidential throughout, except as is reasonably necessary to carrying out the procedures and to ensuring the safety of everyone at the College. College policy explicitly prohibits retaliation, academic or otherwise, against employees or students for bringing complaints of discriminatory behavior.
I. Advising Procedure
Whenever someone has experienced an incident that could be a form of discrimination, talking about the incident soon thereafter with a trusted advisor or friend can be helpful. Members of the College community such as health staff and counselors, assistant and associate deans, personnel officers, chaplains, and the Affirmative Action Officer are available for consultation. Among them are a number of people who have training in sexual harassment counseling. This group includes also two faculty, two staff, and two student advisors appointed yearly by the President, who invites nominations from the community. The names of the College advisors are listed in the Student Handbook; Williams College Bulletin, Catalog edition; the Williams Directory; and the pamphlet on sexual discrimination, "Sexual Harassment." Their names are also published semi-annually in the Daily Advisor, and Daily Messages.
A student, faculty, or staff member who seeks advice on matters related to discrimination is free to consult with any of the College's advisors. Depending on the wishes of the advisee, the advisor's role may include any of the following informational or supportive activities: listening to and discussing the incident with the advisee; helping the advisee decide whether to try to resolve the situation on her or his own; helping the advisee understand the College's discrimination grievance procedures. The advisee may choose at any point not to pursue the matter any further; and the College is not required to take any further action during the advising phase, except when in its judgment the circumstances present a danger to the individual or to others. Advising activities of this kind are not part of the actual discrimination grievance procedures, which require that a complaint be officially filed, as described in the Informal Procedure below. Only complaints that do proceed to the informal stage are certain to come to the attention of the appropriate authorities. The advisor keeps no record of the consultation. A person who feels discriminated against may proceed directly to the informal grievance procedure, whether or not he or she has consulted an advisor.
Should the advisee decide to proceed, the advisor's role may also include accompanying the advisee (now the complainant) through any subsequent College discrimination grievance procedures, should he or she want the advisor present. The respondent may also consult with any of the College advisors, except the one chosen by the complainant. The advisor's role continues to be that of a facilitator who provides information and support. The complainant may bring a draft of the statement of allegations (see Informal Grievance Procedure) to the advisor to consult about how to express clearly what he or she wishes to say. The respondent, should he or she proceed to the appeal stage, may similarly consult with a College advisor about the statement of reasons for the appeal. The advisor may discuss procedural matters with the executive officers involved in the case, but may not investigate, or attempt to mediate or resolve the complaint. Like all other participants, the advisor is expected to respect the confidentiality of the proceedings.
II. Informal Grievance Procedure
A person who is considering filing a complaint regarding discriminatory behavior should meet as soon as possible with the appropriate administrator (i.e., either the pertinent executive officer or affiliated staff). The administrator will, if so requested, help the person decide whether the allegation falls within the scope of these grievance procedures, answer any questions regarding the procedures themselves, or provide any information that might help the person decide whether to file a complaint and thereby initiate an investigation.
If the person then chooses to file a complaint, he or she will send to his or her executive officer a written statement of allegations. The complainant's executive officer will provide the complainant with a written set of guidelines indicating the kinds of information that the statement should contain. The respondent's executive officer will be responsible for giving the respondent a copy of the statement of allegations and for answering any questions regarding the procedures themselves. The complainant's executive officer and the executive officer of the person charged with the offense will oversee the entire informal stage. In doing so they may need to confer with and delegate responsibilities to members of their staffs. They will also inform the Affirmative Action Officer that a complaint has been filed. In conducting the investigation, the respondent's executive officer should consult his or her file of complaints of discrimination to determine whether it contains any information about the respondent that is relevant to a judgment concerning the present case or to the terms of its resolution.
After the investigation has been concluded the executive officers will reach a finding and report it to both the complainant and the respondent. If the finding indicates that the respondent did not violate the College's policy, or that the evidence is inconclusive, the complainant may, if dissatisfied with the finding, instruct his or her executive officer to begin formal grievance proceedings. If the complainant chooses not to request formal proceedings, the case is dismissed. If, on the other hand, it is the judgment of the executive officers that the respondent committed the act(s) alleged by the complainant and thereby violated College policy, they will seek an informal resolution of the complaint. They will also, if the respondent is a faculty or staff member, confer with his or her department supervisor. The complainant's executive officer will keep the complainant informed of any progress made in resolving the grievance, reporting to the complainant within one month of the filing of the complaint. This period may be extended beyond one month if the complainant and his or her executive officer agree that an extension is needed.
To be successful, the terms of the resolution proposed by the executive officers must be acceptable to both the complainant and the respondent. The executive officers will put those terms in writing, giving a copy to the complainant and another to the respondent. Each party will have one week to indicate his or her acceptance of the terms as constituting a satisfactory resolution of the grievance by returning a signed copy to the executive officers. Upon receipt of both signed copies, the respondent's executive officer will place them in his or her file of complaints of discrimination and take such actions as are called for in the resolution.
The executive officers' attempt at an informal resolution will have failed if either the complainant or the respondent chooses not to accept the terms proposed. If the complainant does not accept them, he or she may, again within a week of receiving the proposed terms in writing, instruct the complainant's executive officer to begin formal grievance proceedings, and the grievance committee will hear the case following the regulations stipulated below (see Formal Grievance Procedure). In cases where the respondent is a faculty member and the finding is extremely serious, the complainant may waive his or her right to have the case heard before a formal grievance committee to enable the executive officers, if they so recommend, to initiate proceedings for the imposition of a major sanction (dismissal or suspension), as described in the Faculty Handbook. Should the complainant choose to withdraw the complaint, the executive officers may, depending on their findings, decide nevertheless to impose sanctions on the respondent. If the executive officers so decide, and the respondent believes that their findings are unwarranted or their proposed sanctions unjust, he or she may appeal the executive officers' decision as specified in the Appeal Procedure below.
III. Formal Grievance Procedure
The committee that hears cases of alleged discrimination is the Discipline Committee when both parties are students. The formal mechanism for hearing all other allegations of discriminatory behavior, except those involving faculty appointment renewal decisions (which are handled by the Committee on Appointments and Promotions and by the faculty Steering Committee), is a Grievance Committee constituted for each particular case. This committee is drawn from a Standing Panel of thirty-three people, whose members stand ready to serve in this capacity. The membership of the Standing Panel is constituted as follows:
- One minority faculty member and one minority staff member appointed by the President.
- The six faculty members elected by the faculty to serve on the panel of six.
- Those staff members who are appointed annually to two similar panels by the Provost and the Vice President for Finance & Administration and Treasurer, each of which also has six members.
- Six students, appointed by the College Council, two of whom shall be the minority representatives to the College Council.
The President shall also appoint, one faculty member and one staff member, who will stand ready to chair the Grievance Committee constituted to hear a particular case. The chair will vote only to break a tie.
The grievance committee appointed by the President to hear a particular case shall be constituted from the membership of the Standing Panel as follows. If one of the parties is a student and the other faculty or staff, the committee shall have seven members, three from the same College category (student, faculty, staff) as the complainant, three from that of the respondent, and a chair. If one of the parties is a member of the faculty and the other a member of the staff, the committee shall likewise have seven members: a chair, three faculty members, and three staff members, at least one of whom shall be from the same job category as the staff member who is a party to the case. If both parties are faculty, the committee shall have five members, four from the Faculty Review Committee and a chair. If both parties are staff, the committee shall similarly have five members, a chair, and four members appointed by the Vice President for Finance & Administration and Treasurer. At least one of those members shall be from the same job category as each of the parties involved. When the case involves faculty, both non-tenured and tenured faculty shall be included in the membership of the grievance committee. The faculty chair of the Standing Panel will preside in all cases involving faculty, and the staff chair in all cases involving staff, unless the case involves faculty and staff, when the chair shall be from the same College category as that of the complainant. The President shall strive to represent the diversity of the Williams community in appointing a committee to hear a particular case. Depending on the nature of the allegation, the President shall also strive to assure representation of the relevant groups protected by the College's non-discrimination statement. If unable to convene a committee with appropriate representation from among the members of the Standing Panel, the President may appoint up to two members not on the Standing Panel.
At or before the first meeting of the grievance committee constituted to hear a particular case, the chair, or any member of the committee may, at his or her own initiative, excuse himself or herself from the case because of potential bias or conflict of interest. If the chair asks to be excused, the President appoints for that case a chair pro tempore. Either party to the case may request members of the committee to withdraw from hearing a case on grounds of potential bias or conflict of interest. Should disagreement arise about a request for the disqualification of a particular member, the other members of the committee shall resolve the matter by majority vote. In the event that a member withdraws or is disqualified, the President shall appoint a replacement.
The grievance committee will conduct its hearings in private, keeping its proceedings, findings, and recommendations strictly confidential. A member of the grievance committee shall be designated by its chair to maintain minutes of its proceedings. Neither party to the case may mechanically record or stenographically transcribe the hearings. All decisions of the committee shall be made by majority vote, with the chair voting only to break a tie.
The committee will proceed as follows in order to protect the rights of both parties to the case and to assure the fairness of the College's procedures:
- The respondent will receive a copy of the complainant's statement of allegations in advance of the first meeting of the committee, if he or she has not already received one.
- Both parties will receive sufficient notice of the time and place of the hearing to allow for preparation of the case.
- Both parties have the right to be present when the case is heard.
- Both parties have the right to present evidence and to call a reasonable number of witnesses. Witnesses may be present only when they are actually testifying or being questioned.
- Both parties have the right to question all witnesses.
- The only sexual history that is admissible as evidence is that which exists between the two parties, and then only if the case involves sexual discrimination.
- The grievance committee may request the executive officer of the respondent to testify whether the file of complaints of discrimination that he or she maintains contains information concerning the respondent that is relevant to a judgment concerning the present case or to its disposition.
- Each party has the right to an advisor of his or her choice from the student body, faculty or staff of the College, who may help with the preparation of the case, who may be present when the case is heard, and who may confer with the advisee during the hearing. The advisor, however, may not address the grievance committee or question witnesses. The advisor may, but need not, be chosen from among the College advisors (see Advising Procedure). Neither party may be represented at the hearing by legal counsel.
The committee makes a finding as to whether or not the act alleged in the complaint, should it have taken place, would be a violation of the College's policies against discrimination. If so, the committee also makes a finding as to whether the accused faculty or staff person actually committed the alleged act. The committee then reports its finding(s) and a summary of the reasons for its judgments in a written statement sent to the complainant, the respondent, and their executive officers no later than two weeks after the hearings conclude. In the event that both of the findings are affirmative, the committee also sends to the executive officers a recommendation of appropriate courses of action to remedy the harm done to the complainant and to protect other members of the College community, including a recommendation, if necessary, of any disciplinary action to be taken against the respondent. When the committee's decisions are not unanimous, the report shall record both majority and minority opinions. The report shall be signed by all members of the committee.
If the complaint of discrimination involves grading, the grievance committee shall, at its discretion, call upon appropriate members of the Williams faculty for advice and shall have access to any information, including student records, it deems necessary. The laws governing access to individually identifiable student records require, however, that such information come to the committee through an officer of the College, i.e., the Dean of the College. If the committee judges an assigned grade to be the result of discrimination, the committee will recommend to the executive officers either a revised grade or a procedure for assigning a new grade. Nothing in these procedures shall infringe upon an instructor's responsibility for his or her own grading so long as that grading does not violate the College's non-discrimination policy.
The executive officers shall consider the grievance committee's finding(s), report, and recommendations (if any). The executive officers shall also consider any information about the respondent in the file of complaints of discrimination, to which the executive officer of the respondent has access, that is relevant to a judgment concerning the present case or to its disposition. If the executive officers reach conclusions that differ from those of the grievance committee, they will state their reasons for having done so, in writing, to the committee, providing the committee with an opportunity to reply before taking action. If, after considering the grievance committee's reply, the executive officers conclude that the respondent did not violate the College's non-discrimination policy, or that the evidence is not sufficient to substantiate the allegation, the case shall be dismissed. If they conclude that a violation has occurred, they will, normally within a period of one month after receiving the committee's report, submit a written statement of their finding(s), and of the actions they plan to take, to the committee, the complainant, the respondent, and the respondent's department supervisor.
The complainant will have exhausted the College's discrimination grievance procedures at the close of the formal stage. The respondent has the right to appeal the executive officers' proposed disposition of the case, unless the executive officers have instituted proceedings to suspend or dismiss a faculty member, as the Appeal Procedure below explains. If the respondent chooses not to appeal, the executive officers shall then act to remedy the harm done to the complainant, to protect the College community, and to take appropriate disciplinary action against the respondent. Copies of the executive officers' written reports will be placed in the file of complaints of discrimination maintained by the respondent's executive officer.
IV. Appeal Procedure
The formal grievance procedure constitutes the complainant's appeal. The respondent may appeal the executive officers' disposition of the case in the manner described below, unless the executive officers have initiated proceedings for the dismissal or suspension of a faculty member, in which case the matter shall be referred to the President and the Committee on Appointments and Promotions in accordance with the procedure governing the imposition of a major sanction, as described in the Faculty Handbook. This procedure includes an appeal option of its own. In all other cases, a respondent who is dissatisfied with the executive officers' finding of discriminatory behavior and/or the actions they have proposed may appeal at one of two points: at the conclusion of the informal proceedings, if the complainant has withdrawn; or at the conclusion of the formal proceedings, if the complainant has taken the case to a grievance committee. Should the respondent (hereafter the appellant) choose to appeal, he or she must submit a written statement explaining the reasons for the appeal within one month of receiving the executive officers' statement of the findings and the action proposed. The complainant is no longer party to the case but may be called upon as a witness.
When the appellant is a student, and the complainant who had filed the charge of discriminatory behavior is a member of the faculty or staff, the statement explaining the reasons for the appeal should be sent to the President, whose resolution of the case shall be final. When the appellant is a staff member, the statement of the reasons for the appeal should in all cases be sent to the President, whose resolution of the case shall again be final. The President shall report his or her decision(s), in writing, to the appellant and to the executive officers involved in the case. If during the formal stage the case had been brought before a grievance committee, the President shall send to the grievance committee and to the original complainant the statement of reasons for the appeal and report to the committee his or her findings and final resolution of the case. The executive officer of the appellant shall place the statement of reasons for the appeal and the President's report to the appellant and the executive officers in the file of complaints of discrimination he or she maintains, providing a full record of the final disposition of the case.
When the appellant is a member of the faculty, he or she should send the statement explaining the reasons for the appeal to a faculty hearing committee, which shall be constituted and conduct its business according to the procedures described in the Faculty Handbook. Upon the conclusion of those procedures, however, the following reporting mechanisms shall be added to those stipulated. In cases that had come before a grievance committee at the formal stage, the hearing committee and, where applicable, the President, shall report to the grievance committee and the original complainant the following: the statement of reasons for the appeal; the hearing committee's findings and its recommendation, if any, to the President; the final resolution of the case. In all cases, the Dean of the Faculty shall place in his or her file of complaints of discrimination the statement of reasons for the appeal and the report(s) to the faculty member from the hearing committee and, where applicable, the President, providing a full record of the final disposition of the case.
V. Reporting and Further Action
If at any point during the discrimination grievance procedures, the respondent's behavior threatens immediate harm to other members of the community, he or she may be temporarily suspended, without prejudice. The need for and the conditions of the temporary suspension shall be decided by the President in consultation with the Dean of the College, if the respondent is a student; with the Vice President for Finance & Administration and Treasurer, if the respondent is a member of staff; and with the Committee on Appointments and Promotions, if the respondent is a member of the faculty. Ordinarily, the suspension for faculty or staff will be with pay.
In the event that a criminal case is brought in which the factual issue is the same as that currently within the College's internal procedures, the internal procedures may be temporarily suspended upon the request of the respondent.
At the beginning of each academic year, the executive officers who play a role in the discrimination grievance procedures, shall report to the College community the number of cases heard in the prior year and which of those cases, if any, came before a grievance committee. They shall specify any findings of discriminatory behavior, the resolution of the cases, and the disciplinary actions, if any, that were taken. They shall do so, however, in a way that protects the privacy of the parties involved in the case.
A Summary of the Sequence of Events and Options in the Discrimination Grievance Prodedures
The person who believes he or she may have been subjected to discriminatory behavior may but need not discuss the incident(s) with a College advisor. College advisors are also available to persons against whom a complaint has been filed.
- The person who believes he or she may have been subjected to discriminatory behavior may discuss the incident(s) with the appropriate administrator.
- The person may but need not file a complaint at the informal stage.
- To file a complaint the person submits a statement of allegations to his or her executive officer. The executive officers will then conduct an investigation and reach a finding. If they find the complaint unwarranted, the complainant may but need not request formal grievance proceedings. If the respondent is judged to have violated College policy, the executive officers attempt a resolution. Either party may refuse to accept the terms proposed.
- If both parties accept the terms, the resolution is successful and the case is settled. If the resolution fails, the complainant may ask for formal grievance proceedings or withdraw the complaint.
- If the complainant withdraws, the executive officers may decide to take action against the respondent on their own. The respondent may appeal the executive officers' decision.
- The grievance committee conducts a hearing and reaches a finding, reporting its finding and its recommendations to the executive officers, the complainant, and the respondent.
- The executive officers reach their own finding. If it differs from the committee's, they so inform the committee and provide it with an opportunity to reply.
- If the executive officers then find the respondent not to have violated the College's anti-discrimination policy, or if they find the evidence insufficient, the case is dismissed.
- If, on the other hand, the executive officers find that the respondent violated the College's policy, they will report their finding and the actions they propose to take to the committee, the complainant, and the respondent. The respondent may appeal their finding and their proposed actions.
- The formal grievance proceedings constitute the complainant's appeal.
- The respondent may appeal at the conclusion of the informal proceedings if the complainant has withdrawn and the executive officers have proposed disciplinary action; or at the end of the formal grievance proceedings if the complainant has taken the complaint to a grievance committee.
- If the respondent is a student or staff member, the appeal will be heard by the President. If the respondent is a faculty member, the appeal will be heard by a faculty hearing committee.
Guidelines for Preparing a Written Statement of Allegations for Complaints of Discriminatory Behavior
- The statement should explain your past or present relationship(s), if any, to the respondent. Is or was the respondent your teacher? your student? a fellow student? a tenured member of your department? your supervisor? your employee? a co-worker? other?
- The statement should describe the incident or incidents that led you to believe that you had been the object of discriminatory behavior. You should be as specific as you can be about the time and date of the alleged incident(s) and, in general, about the details of the incident(s).
- The statement should also say why you think the behavior constitutes a violation of the College's anti-discrimination policy. If the behavior changed your educational or working environment in ways that interfered with your ability to receive an education or to do your job, you should explain the nature of the interference.
- You should state whether you at any time spoke with the respondent about the incident, or about his or her behavior, and if so, what was said on the occasion.
- You should indicate any evidence you possess that might support your allegations, such as communications from the respondent, or the names of people who witnessed the behavior, or with whom you spoke about the incident shortly after it occurred.
- You may bring a draft of the statement of the allegations to a College advisor (see Advising Procedure) should you wish to consult with the advisor about how to express clearly what you wish to say.
Regulations Governing the Use of the Executive Officer's File of Prior Complaints Brought Against the Respondent
If a complaint of discriminatory behavior has been lodged against the respondent in the past, the following rules govern the use of the record of the prior case in the case under consideration:
- The executive officers may use information from the record in conducting the investigation. Nothing from the record, however, may be used as evidence in support of a finding as to whether the respondent in fact committed the act(s) currently being alleged. That determination must be based solely on the established facts of the case under consideration.
- If the respondent is found to have committed the alleged act(s), and is judged to have violated the College's anti-discrimination policy, a prior finding of discriminatory behavior, a prior warning, or prior instructions about what constitutes discriminatory behavior, may be used in determining the appropriate penalties or sanctions.
Advisory Conversations and the College's Non-Discrimination Policy
The following guidelines are for persons who have advising functions related to the College's Non-Discrimination Policy. As with all parts of the advising procedure, they are not part of the actual discrimination grievance procedures, which require that a complaint be officially filed. An "advisory conversation" is merely one of the options that College-designated advisors or other persons whose positions carry advising functions, such as chairs or managers of departments or programs, might want to describe to an advisee whose situation resembles the following:
The advisee does not wish to file a complaint but does want the person whose behavior is at issue to be advised that he or she should be careful to avoid actions that could very well be innocent but could be misinterpreted.
An advisory conversation might be appropriate, in other words, when the advisee perceives the conduct to be ambiguous or innocent but nonetheless finds it dislocating. The guidelines are as follows:
Guidelines for Advisory Conversation
The advisee requests the conversation and the executive officer makes the decision as to whether an advisory conversation shall take place. The advisee, before deciding to recommend such a conversation, should be made aware of the following. His or her name will need to be made known to the executive officer. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the executive officer might also need to talk to the advisee, and the advisee's identity might need to be made known to the person whose behavior is at issue.
If the advisee wishes the conversation to take place, either the advisor and/or the advisee should discuss the matter with the executive officer of the person whose behavior is at issue. If the executive officer decides that an advisory conversation would be useful, the executive officer may choose to conduct it, or may delegate the responsibility to a member of his or her staff, or to another member of the faculty or staff, depending on who is likely to be the most appropriate and effective person. If the responsibility is delegated, the executive officer shall discuss what is to be said with the person who conducts the conversation and shall receive the notice of its having taken place.
The executive officer or the delegated person shall inform the advisee that the conversation has taken place. Nothing else shall be conveyed to the advisee without the explicit permission of the person whose behavior is at issue. No record shall be kept of the conversation, unless the person whose behavior is at issue requests one, in which case he or she shall be given a copy. Such a record would have no "probative value" (i.e., it would provide no "proof" or "evidence" of discriminatory behavior concerning either the present situation or any future allegations of discriminatory behavior, should such be made.)
Both the conversation, and the written record, if there is any, must make clear the following:
- That no charges of discriminatory behavior have been filed nor are any such allegations currently being made.
- That the case has not been investigated.
- That the behavior at issue may be entirely innocent.
- That the sole purpose of the conversation is to discuss for the sake of all concerned, the need to be careful about the impressions that even well-intentioned comments or contacts with students, faculty, or staff can have.
Office of the Assistant to the President