Framework for Informal Resolution

AHU has framed a process for IR that includes:

  1. A response based on supportive measures; and/or
  2. A response based on a Respondent accepting responsibility; and/or
  3. A response based on alternative resolution, which could include various approaches and facilitation of dialogue.

Alternative resolution approaches like mediation, restorative practices, transformative justice, etc., are likely to be used more and more often by colleges and universities. AHU does not endorse these approaches as better or worse than other formal or informal approaches.

AHU believes that if they are to be used in, and are effective for, sex offenses, they need to be designed and executed carefully and thoughtfully and be facilitated by well-trained administrators who take the necessary time to prepare and lay a foundation for success. Although no approach is a panacea, the framework below can help to lay that foundation, regardless of which approach(es) are used.

Here are the principles to be considered for supporting various approaches to informal resolution:

  • IR can be applied in any sex/gender-based interpersonal conflict but may not be appropriate or advisable in cases involving violent incidents (sexual violence, stalking, domestic and dating violence, severe sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, etc.)
  • Situations involving dangerous patterns or significant ongoing threat to the community should not be resolved by IR.
  • The determination of whether to permit an IR-based resolution is entirely at the discretion of the Title IX Coordinator (TIXC) and in line with the requirements for IR laid out in the Title IX regulations.
  • Any party can end IR early-, mid-, or late-process for any reason or no reason.
  • IR can be attempted before and in lieu of formal resolution as a diversion-based resolution (although a formal complaint must be filed if you are within Section 106.30, per OCR).
  • Alternative approaches can inform formal resolution, as in a formal resolution model infused with restorative practices.
  • IR could be deployed after formal resolution, as an adjunct healing/catharsis opportunity (that could potentially mitigate sanctions or be a form of sanction).
  • Alternate Resolution approaches to IR must be facilitated by the AdventHealth University or a third-party. There may be value in creating clearly agreed-upon ground rules, which the parties must sign in advance and agree to abide by, otherwise the informal resolution process will be deemed to have failed.
  • Technology-facilitated IR can be made available, should the parties not be able or willing to meet in person.
  • If IR fails, a formal resolution can take place thereafter. No evidence elicited within the “safe space” of the IR facilitation is later admissible in the formal resolution unless all parties consent.
  • With cases involving violence, the preferred alternative approach typically involves a minimal number of essential parties and is not a wide restorative circle approach in order to ensure confidentiality.
  • Some approaches require a reasonable gesture toward accountability (this could be more than an acknowledgement of harm) and some acceptance, or at least recognition, by the Respondent that catharsis is of value and likely the primary goal of the Complainant. A full admission by the Respondent is not a prerequisite. This willingness needs to be vetted carefully in advance by the TIXC before determining that an incident is amenable/appropriate for resolution by IR.
  • IR can result in an accord or agreement between the parties (Complainant, Respondent, AdventHealth University), which is summarized in writing by and enforced by AdventHealth University. This can be a primary goal of the process.
  • IR can result in the voluntary imposition of safety measures, remedies, and/or agreed-upon resolutions by the parties, that are enforceable by AdventHealth University. These can be part of the accord/agreement.
  • As a secondary goal, IR can result in the voluntary acceptance of “sanctions,” meaning that a Respondent could agree to withdraw, self-suspend (by taking a leave of absence), or undertake other restrictions/transfers/online course options that would help to ensure the safety/educational access of the Complainant, in lieu of formal sanctions that would create a formal record for the Respondent. These are enforceable by AdventHealth University as part of the accord/agreement, as may be terms of mutual release, non-disparagement, and/or non-disclosure.
  • Although a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) could result from IR, it would have to be mutually agreed-upon by the parties in an environment of non-coercion verified by the TIXC.
  • Institutions must develop clear rules for managing/facilitating the conference/meeting/dialogue of alternative resolution approaches, to ensure they are civil, age-appropriate, culturally-competent, reflective of power imbalances, and maximize the potential for the resolution process to result in catharsis, restoration, remedy, etc., for the harmed party(ies).

ATIXA 2020 Interim Model Sexual Harassment Policy
Use and adaptation of this model with citation to ATIXA is permitted though a limited license
to AdventHealth University
All other rights reserved.
©2020.ATIXA