Policy and Procedures on Sexual Harassment
8. Mediation and Complaint Processes
8.1 Mediation and complaint investigation processes are available to students and staff members through informal resolution or the Sexual Harassment Investigation Panel (SHIP) which will be appointed by the President.
Ignoring sexual harassment does not make it go away, but may make it worse because the harasser may misinterpret no response as approval of the behaviour. If any staff member or student believes that he/she is a victim of sexual harassment, he/she should act promptly and may first try to seek an informal resolution. Informal resolution might include talking directly with the complainee or seeking an advocate such as one’s supervisor, counsellor, hostel warden, or any other supervisory personnel with whom one feels comfortable. The advocate may provide advice and support to the complainant as well as serve as informal mediator between the complainant and the complainee. Under normal circumstances, attempts at informal resolution do not require the filing of a written complaint.
The University encourages the use of the informal resolution and/or mediation process as the initial step to resolve complaints relating to sexual harassment. If informal means fail to resolve the case or any parties involved in the case decide to stop the informal resolution, the complainant may pursue the case through mediation or formal investigation conducted by the SHIP. Any formal written complaint should be made to the President either directly or through the Office of the President. If the President is involved in the alleged case of sexual harassment, the complainant shall report the case to the Chairman of the Council. Notwithstanding that the University would normally not consider anonymous complaints, anonymous sexual harassment complaint filed in confidence would be considered, and the President shall, in consultation with an ad hoc panel, decide where there is evidence that justifies further inquiry into the anonymous complaint. However, students and staff members are encouraged to come forward if he/she wishes to file a sexual harassment complaint as anonymous allegation will be more difficult for the University to follow up simply because it will not be able to obtain further information from the complainant and to make a proper assessment.
The SHIP will be designated to carry out the responsibilities as detailed in Annex 1 and to report to the President. For each allegation/complaint, the SHIP will conduct mediation and/or investigation. If it can be demonstrated prima facie that the conduct of a student or employee of the University warrants disciplinary investigations, formal disciplinary procedures may be invoked.
If, at any stage of the mediation/investigation process, any parties involved in the allegation/complaint report the case to the EOC, the law enforcement agency or institutes any legal proceedings in connection with the allegation/complaint, the SHIP may stay further mediation/investigation until after the conclusion of criminal or civil proceedings.
If the allegation/complaint of sexual harassment appears to constitute a criminal offence, such as indecent assault, distribute and display indecent and obscene articles, the case should be referred to the law enforcement agency, in which the SHIP may stay further mediation/investigation until after the conclusion of criminal or civil proceedings.
During the mediation and complaint process, necessary arrangement/support would be provided to the complainant or the complainee if deemed appropriate, e.g. assistance to be provided to the complainant for the preparation of the written complaint, appropriate measures to deal with the situation that if no direct contact between the complainant or the complainee is deemed necessary, etc.
8.2 Mediation Process
The SHIP will offer to facilitate mediation of the dispute upon the request of any person involved or alleged to be involved in the dispute.
The mediation process will normally take no more than sixty (60) days.
In the course of mediation, the complainant may elect to bypass mediation and proceed directly with the filing of a written complaint.
8.3 Complaint Investigation Process
Upon receipt of a signed complaint from any staff member or student of the University or referral from Head of Departments/Head of Units, the SHIP will conduct a full and impartial investigation only if the complaint is filed by a staff member/student of the University who (a) has been sexually harassed by another staff member or student of the University; or (b) has witnessed an act of sexual harassment committed by another staff member or student of the University. Nevertheless, if the President deemed an anonymous sexual harassment complaint filed in confidence justifies further inquiry, the SHIP will also conduct an investigation. At least three staff members of different genders and preferably of different ranks shall be appointed on a roster basis with one Panelist appointed as the Convenor to investigate a complaint. Persons taking part in the informal resolution or mediation should not be appointed as Panelists. Under special circumstances as deemed necessary by the Convenor of the SHIP, a non-staff Council member will join the investigation team to ensure that justice is upheld and seen to be upheld in the process of investigation.
In the course of the investigation, the following standards are observed:
a) The complainee will be provided with a copy of the complaint by the investigation team and an opportunity to respond to the allegation.
b) The complainant and the complainee may request that he/she be accompanied by a family member/staff member/fellow student, and the person accompanying the complainant and the complainee shall not be allowed to address the SHIP at any of its proceedings. The accompanying person shall not be a member of or participate in any discussion with the members of the SHIP or be a party to any report/decision subsequently made by the SHIP in respect thereof.
c) Witnesses and concerned parties will be interviewed individually and in conformance with the privacy requirements of applicable laws. The rule of confidentiality will be observed and the rights of both the complainant and complainee respected.
d) The written complaint and relevant documents, if any, will be considered, and will be provided to the parties concerned.
8.3.2 Report of the SHIP
The SHIP will submit a written report to the President or his/her designated officer. The report shall contain the following information:
a) A statement of the issues under investigation.
b) The positions of the parties as presented.
c) The results of the investigation.
The complainant or the complainee may lodge an appeal against the investigation results conducted by SHIP within fifteen (15) working days of being notified thereof by receipt of the report of the SHIP, in writing to the President, giving in full the grounds of his/her appeal. The appeal will normally be considered only on the basis of procedural irregularities or new evidence/information. The President shall review the case or refer the case to the designated authority for review. The decision of the President or the designated authority in relation to the appeal shall be final within the University. If the President is involved in the alleged case of sexual harassment, the complainant shall lodge an appeal against the investigation results to the Chairman of the Council.
8.3.3 Time Limits4
a) The filing of a written complaint should be made within (i) ninety (90) days from the time of the occurrence which is known or should have been known to the complainant of an act(s) of sexual harassment or action taken as a result of alleged sexual harassment or (ii) thirty (30) days after mediation has been completed, whichever is later.
b) The total time period for the investigation, from the filing of a written complaint to submission of the report and recommended action to the President, will not normally exceed sixty (60) days.
c) The President will within six (6) days after receiving the report decide to accept or reject the recommendations or any part thereof contained in the report and will decide what actions, if any, should be taken. The President may request the SHIP to clarify or provide further information prior to making his/her decision.
d) The filing of an appeal against the investigation results conducted by SHIP within fifteen (15) working days of being notified thereof by receipt of the report of the SHIP, in writing to the President, giving in full the grounds of his/her appeal.
e) The President/the designated authority will issue the final decision on the appeal with thirty (30) days of receipt of the appeal.
f) The time limit set forth herein may be extended if appropriate. If a case of sexual harassment is established, the case will be referred to the Ethics and Discipline Committee (EDC)/Student Disciplinary Committee (SDC) for consideration.
g) The decision of the EDC/SDC will be made within sixty (60) days of receipt of the report.
h) The time limits set forth herein may be extended by the EDC/SDC if appropriate.
A flow chart on handling formal sexual harassment complaints is appended in Annex 2.
4Unless otherwise specified, the number of days referred in this Paper refers to calendar day.