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Statement on Social Media Allegations Regarding Sexual Misconduct Case


James Madison University is aware of social media reports concerning allegations of sexual misconduct against a student employee.  These serious issues are of course among the most difficult facing universities, and all institutions in our society today.  The emotions engendered by these types of allegations are understandable, given their gravity and the impact on all individuals concerned.

JMU is firmly committed to providing a safe learning environment for all of its students and has worked diligently with faculty, staff and students over the past several years to strengthen its resources, training, policies and procedures to deal with these issues in accordance with evolving best practices nationally.  A Title IX task force, the entire senior administration, multiple student organizations, and hundreds of individuals across the entire institution have provided leadership and countless hours of time to these issues and will continue to do so, as we know that we still have much work to do on this front.  We view sexual misconduct as a serious public health and safety challenge, the approach to which demands the continuing involvement and participation of every member of our community.

The case being discussed on social media was handled appropriately by the university. When a complaint of sexual misconduct is brought against a student, the university’s Title IX office gathers information and refers the information to the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices (OSARP) for a hearing and determination on the facts.  A panel of faculty and staff members who are specially trained to hear sexual misconduct cases considers evidence, hears from the parties, and the panel makes a finding based on all the facts and evidence.  When the panel decides that the preponderance of the evidence shows the accused student is responsible for a policy violation, sanctions may be imposed. When the panel decides that evidence does not show a policy violation, no sanctions are imposed. Either finding (violation or no violation) can be appealed to a different panel of trained individuals, which can uphold or reverse the original finding. This is the procedure used in each complaint that alleges a violation of the university’s sexual misconduct policy filed against a student. The university is not able to discuss other details of this (or any other) particular case on social media or any other public forum, given federal privacy law that protects all of our students, but the parties are not bound by the same privacy obligations.

Sexual misconduct complaints are often complicated and can be difficult to decide.  JMU staff employ best practices and adhere to all applicable state and federal laws and guidance as they relate to sexual misconduct cases.  The university has obligations to protect its students against discrimination and harassment, and also to provide due process to all individuals involved in such a case. 

As an institution of higher education (and as we teach our students), the university must base its decisions on the presentation of facts and evidence in accordance with policies and procedures that protect the interest of all parties concerned. We would fail in our responsibilities should we base any actions on social media conversations after fair and legally appropriate procedures have been followed and a determination has been reached. 

Going forward, the university is committed to redoubling its efforts to improve every aspect of its comprehensive approach to these issues.  As the new academic year begins, we will be working with every segment of our university community to examine and strengthen our prevention efforts, programs, policies, and training.  The institution—and all members of our community—have a responsibility to work together on these issues, and together we believe that we can and will make progress on one of the most important issues of our time.

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Published: Sunday, July 8, 2018

Last Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2020

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